My Left Shoe

How does somebody lose a shoe and not notice?  The sensational difference between the padded or bare foot is hard to miss.  I understand blistered feet preferring to be free from the offending shoes and one accidentally dropped on route.  But wouldn’t it make a kerplunk sound prompting a pick up?  Or, maybe in a fit of frustration, the shoe is flung off, never to return with its partner discarded some 6 blocks away, puzzling another person passing by.

On more than one occasion when walking down a city street, I’ve spotted a single shoe leaving me to wonder, Where’s the other one?  Perhaps the shoe owner is too drunk to notice a missing item of footwear?

In cities, I’ve seen pairs of sneakers laced together and thrown over telephone and electric wires creating an odd decorative effect known as “Shoefetti” and it is not unique to cities as trees in the countryside might play host to the tossed shoes.  But, why?  There is the criminal element theory that dangling shoes maybe highlighting drug dens or gang-related murders.  Conversely (unavoidable pun) the knotted and flung footwear might signify the end of school, the death of a loved-one, an upcoming marriage, or to ward off ghosts!  It’s easy to imagine a bully or practical joker taking someone’s shoes, tying together the laces and giving them a good fling out of reach over a cable crossing the street.  In the end, only the person who knotted the laces together and threw the pair to hang on a wire really knows the reason.

And now, I have another wonder to report:  We recently found a single shoe, a hiking boot to be precise, balanced on the stone where lost and found items such as dog collars, glasses, keys, and water bottles are placed.  On this occasion, we both thought: “Who loses a shoe out here and doesn’t notice?”  Footwear in Dartmoor is essential for the land in some places is hard and unforgiving, or overly forgiving with soggy bogs.  I’m certain that if there ever were a prison break from Dartmoor Prison, the escapees would not get far in their prison issued sneakers!

Like the growing list of birds we’ve spotted, we can add this boot to the many things we’ve found since moving here:  A Union Flag and old Camp Coffee glass containers.  Ropes and strings are everywhere and recently the chickens were pecking at a belt buckle buried in the ground.  Daily there are new bits of glass, shards of pottery, and broken slate working their way out from their burial ground like a splinter from under the skin.  When we were putting the vegetable beds in, we found an assortment of plastic objects, including a Storm Trooper helmet and a Palm Tree from some unknown tropical island.  In an afternoon of clearing out one small outbuilding, I uncovered nearly a dozen horseshoes.  A ceramic figurine and a single dice were nestled next to one another in the field.

Found Items

Found Items

Found Items

Found Items

Found Items

Found Items

Found Items

Found Items

Found Items

When the roofers started removing the old slates at the beginning of their epic job, they found a horse-whip and a ring in the rafters.   What riches for rumination!  I’ve spent many an hour since on walks with Sam trying to determine exactly why these two items were consecrated into our roof.

Found Items

Found Items

Sadly, it is routine to pick up the found garbage left behind by visitors to the Park.  The biggest offender is the poo-bag, hung onto the stock proof fences (Poofetti?).  Livestock are roaming all over the place, pooping as they go, so dogs don’t cause a noticeable problem.  Just kick that poo off the footpath and let nature’s elements facilitate its decomposition.  Why pick it up, put it in a bag, and then leave it on the fence for someone else (Roger or me it seems) to remove?  Another good reason to be wearing shoes in Dartmoor:  There’s no end to the stuff that you can step on!

In December, while I was slowly chipping away at the old plaster rendering on the walls in the porch, someone knocked on the door.  With my safety glasses firmly on my face, my hair and clothing covered with dust and paint/plaster/concrete dust, I answered the door.  Standing outside in the light rain was a young man who announced that his father had just fallen and may have broken his leg.  So, I grabbed a blanket and a thermos of sweet tea, Roger called emergency services, and off we headed to help this man’s father.

The ground was very wet and not easily negotiated that day, even with the best of hiking boots.  When the ambulance team arrived, it was clear that it was not safe to carry the man to our track.  An hour later, with the darkness and heavy rains moving in, a helicopter landed to airlift the man to Exeter.

A week ago, I received this note confirming that all lost items do have stories:

I am the chap who broke his leg on Dartmoor and whose two sons came to your cottage to call the emergency services. And you are the person who so kindly came to see me with a pristine clean blanket and then came back again with a fleece and a thermos of warm sweet tea. The blanket, fleece and especially the tea were marvellous as I was beginning to feel VERY cold lying on that wet cold ground, and they did wonders for me.

I was taken to the Exeter hospital and they operated the next day….and fitted a steel ‘nail’ or pin from the knee to the ankle which is secured each end by two bolts….For the first couple of weeks after I came home, even with a cocktail of four different painkillers including liquid morphine, the pain was extreme and trying to find a position to sleep in was very difficult. However, I seem to be on the mend and now walk around the house, or half hobble around the house without my crutches…

So, a broken leg eh! I have been an outdoor man for many years and have done some amazing wilderness treks in Alaska…Colorado and also in S. E. Asia, but this is the first time I have ever had to be rescued by any emergency services. In a way it is quite humbling, but those guys who turned up were all superb as were the helicopter crew with a good dash of humour thrown in which helped also.

So, Catherine, thank you so very much for everything – I owe you a cleaning bill for the blanket and fleece which were no doubt draped in Dartmoor mud. When I get really mobile again I will drop by your place one day and settle up with you for that.

All best wishes and regards for a Happy and Healthy New Year for you and your husband.

I wrote back:

…  What a nasty injury you sustained.  Now, you’ll be able to set off metal detectors at all of the airports when you go off on your travels.  Both Roger and I are happy and relieved to hear that you are on the mend.

Please don’t worry about the blanket or the fleece.  Both are machine washable, have been machine washed, and show no evidence of ever helping you in your temporary immobile state of that day.  You must, however, stop by when you are out this way and recovered again as we have….wait for it…..your boot!  ….

My note was next followed up with:

You know, I have a superb pair of hiking boots in our garage and the old ones I wore that day were almost certainly a contributory factor for my having slipped. Those old worn out boots were in the back of the car just in case I ended up somewhere, which was wet and muddy, and I needed to change out of good shoes – in fact I was on the point of throwing them out as their soles were worn through. That day, we did not intend to go off any good paths on Dartmoor but when we went to Princetown to visit the information centre, we decided to try to get a look at Whistman’s Wood and I changed into those old worn boots at the quarry car park there- the rest as they say, is history.

Please throw it away, that is what I asked the hospital to do with the other one….

And before the other shoe dropped, I quickly wrote the only, albeit it obvious, response available:

It is hard to resist, and so I shall not:  We’ve given your footwear the boot!

Cheers, Catherine

The discovered shoe.

The discovered shoe.



18 comments on “My Left Shoe

  1. Julia Hough says:

    What a moving story! I love the letter exchange. Also love seeing photos of various things you have found.

  2. Thanks Julia. And we keep finding more and more things! Since posting, I unearthed another two horse shoes and a bit of rubber tubing which contains electric wiring….we have an electrician coming out to tell us if it is live or not. Yikes!

  3. Susanne says:

    Love your collections! That ring is amazing. Love to you and Roger – miss you!

    • The ring is definitely cool. It’s got markings on the inside and I had someone look at it. Without tracing the markings, all I know is it is hand made, sterling silver, and the stone is something that I can’t remember. So, it is unique.

  4. Jim says:

    That is a long way to tip a rarry.

  5. jennyv123 says:

    What a fab tale. Am loving your blog Catherine 🙂 !!! xxx

    Shoes always tell a story. They literally have the imprint of a person’s history on them. I love them for this and not just as Imelda Marcos did. I saw an exhibit once at a gallery where someone had been moved by the mounds of shoes collected by the Nazis at concentration camps. This person had made a series of ceramic childrens shoes. i am not sure of the story behind the shoes in the exhibit, but worn, and battered, they held a narrative that was unknown but you could imagine a history for them from the stretched and marked leather and the tattered soles.Not sure why this sticks in my mind! I was also moved by stories of the genocide museum in Rwanda where peoples shoes and other possessions are exhibited as a memorial. People seem so vulnerable without shoes dont they?

    On a happier note, I can remember rummaging through my grandparents sheds and finding old shoes from the 40’s or 50’s tucked away in drawers, ready to be mended but never fixed or not thrown away because of some attachment to the owner. I used to imagine the events, parties that these shoes had been worn to. Such a dreamer!

    Odd shoes though….I too always wonder about abandoned shoes that I have seen on roads and pavements. Do they fall off the back of bikes or out of semi opened car boots?
    We somehow managed to move with odd shoes too. I have an orange converse of SImon’s which somehow has become separated from its partner. I clearly remember chucking the other out when we moved. The other, was carefully packed and shipped to Canada. So I am going to keep the odd shoe…..

    Anyway, its minus 10 outside and I am tucked cosily indoors, feet snug in my orange felted wool slippers. Sooooooo stylish 🙂 xxx

    much love to you both Jenny xx

    • Absolutely….shoes do tell stories. Have you been to the shoe museum in Toronto yet? A must see! And you reminded me of the shoe display at the Holocaust museum in Washington D.C. Not as cold here, today, but I too have my feet snug in some brown fuzzy slippers, propped up on a foot stool by the fire. C xx

  6. Dana Crowe says:

    Maybe there was a one-legged hiker. Or maybe a bear ate a hiker’s foot. Or maybe someone was too poor to buy two shoes. So they bought only one. Or maybe some guys wife stuck her foot up his ass, and when she finally got it out she didn’t want to wear anymore. Or maybe you are losing your mind out there on the trail!

    Should I go on? ( I think I know the answer)

  7. Dana Crowe says:

    That is an amazing story. I love it.

    Sent from my iPhone

  8. Anne says:

    I love your story. Wanted to let you know however, that many lost single shoes could belong to 15-yr-old boys. Tyler came home from a marching band competition with one shoe on. Doesn’t know what happened to the other! Miss you.

  9. Gwen says:

    Love this one! We also find many things out in Joshua Tree and so we have “The Desert Museum” at our house out there. The boys love adding to it and from time to time dragging it all out piece by piece and remembering when/where we found it. Like you, we also puzzle over the back stories of our museum pieces.

  10. Sue says:

    Let’s hope your next find is ambergris…

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