Wednesday, August 27, 2008 -- Not far from Three Lakes, MI
What do Yoopers (those friendly people from the U.P.) around here do for entertainment? It's almost an hour drive east to the movies, theaters, and museums of the Marquette Metroplex... your best bet if high-culture is what you're looking for. In any other direction you'd have to drive for days to find anything similar. But here in the Three Lakes area people are lower-maintenance, have more basic needs, and certainly don't have to travel far to have a good time.
Besides the normal outdoorsy activities... fishing, hunting, making wood, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, snowplowing, and removing hundreds of inches of heavy winter snowfall from roofs before they collapse... besides all these fun activities, we stumbled upon another that demonstrates the creativity of people when they have a lot of time on their hands and too many shoes in their closets.
Just up the road from Camp Soldner is a large tree that canopies over Petticoat Road. What looks like a normal tree, indistinguishable from thousands of other trees when you first see it from a distance, begins to change as you get closer... at first you don't understand what you're seeing... what's that hanging from the branches?... what? It's pairs of shoes! Wow. Literally hundreds of pairs of shoes. Kids shoes, adult shoes, running shoes, boots... you name it, it's up there.
But now the story takes a strange twist. No one I've talked to around here will admit to anything more than acknowledging the existence of the Shoe Tree. Locals get strangely quiet, pensive... look away, and change the subject when the tree is brought up. Some won't respond at all and just walk away. I'm sure they know something and can't tell me, as an outsider, about it. It's a local secret.
But I'm forming a mental picture of a secret society, of secret meetings at midnight, dozens of cars slowly making their way quietly down the road and parking in the gravel pit across from the Shoe Tree... headlights on -- illuminating the tree while the members of the secret Shoe Tree Society form a circle and begin a ritualistic dance under it's powerful branches to a slow, low, quiet drum-beat... each person slowly waving their sacrificial shoes as their offering to the Shoe Tree gods. As the ritual rises to a climax, the drumbeat increasing in speed and intensity, the tied-together sacrificial shoes are flung -- hurled -- into the branches of the awaiting Shoe Tree... and the ceremony is done. The gods have been satisfied again... at least for a while.
Until someone actually opens up and gives me the real scoop on this thing, I'm going to let my mind devise it's own answers.