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Indiana Shoe Tree
photowhore
soopageek
Having visited shoetrees in such far flung places as Nevada, Oregon, and Minnesota, (not to mention a certain degree of complicity in one being created in Massachusetts) I figured it was high-time I visited one which was virtually in my own backyard: thirty miles west of Louisville, just outside the small town of Milltown, Indiana. I had become aware of the tree through internet research about the phenomena of shoetrees and had gained knowledge of its precise location via the fine folks at Roadside America who published my wintry photos of the Nevada Shoe Tree back in January. I had one day of driving and three days in which to do it. I also happened to be bobtailing to my next pickup, so I decided it was time for a little side-trip.

It had been cloudy all day, threatening rain. Once or twice an hour the sun would peek out from behind the clouds and dazzle the countryside with its brilliance only to retreat again. I kept wishing for the rain to hold-off. I was granted my wish as I approached the turn-off from Route 64 that would take me into town. The sun came out in full-force and refusing to be covered-up any longer. I discovered rather quickly that the directions were inaccurate as I drove from one end of town to the other looking for the particular street. I pulled into a canoe rental place which provided tours on the Blue River and inquired about the location of the tree. The middle aged man behind the counter with the gold teeth gave me some rather simple directions. Turn left at the cafe, go to the top of the hill and turn left again. Follow the road until you come to the crossroads.

I followed his directions and soon found myself on a narrow road winding through the countryside just south of town. The low branches hanging over the road were making high-pitched clanging noises against the tops of the smokestacks as I passed beneath. Along side the road were run-down shacks and dilapidated trailer homes, their yards brimming with rusted farm machinery and parted-out automobiles. The tune to "Dueling Banjos" began playing in my head and I imagined someone asking me to squeal like a pig. Then I thought of Hoosiers, where the kid lived with Dennis Hopper. Yeah, exactly like that.

What seemed like forever was only 3-4 miles riddled with anticipation but finally the crossroads appeared in the distance. I began immediately looking for the shoetree. What I saw was a shoe intersection. I wish there was some way I could've captured what it was like, but a photo from such a distance to take it all in would've been impossible and still have enough detail to appreciate it. It was an intersection of two roads and on each corner were shoetrees.

I went down to the crossroads, fell down on my knees


Ok, so this isn't 100% accurate. There was one primary shoetree, three auxillary shoetrees, and a handfull of other woody vegetation containing shoes as well. Shoes were everywhere. I feel though as if my words aren't doing justice to what I'm trying to convey here, so we shall commence with the photos. The first important thing I want to make clear is the remoteness of the area. Sure the trees in Oregon and Nevada were in the desert, but they were both on major U.S. Highways. Here in Indiana, it's a little closer to civilization but it's not even on a state highway. This is well-off the beaten path which means, aside from the few devotees like me who sojourn here specifically for this reason, this shoe-square has been basically maintained solely (heh) by locals. How remote? Here are four photos, looking down each direction of the crossroads.



I parked on the side of the road and began to take in my surroundings. I was completely surrounded by shoes! Apparently, someone wanted to make sure I didn't miss it, though, just in case.


Standing in front of those words on the asphalt, when you look up in the direction of the arrow, you're treated to the sight of the primary shoe tree.


But you can't tell two things from this photo. For one, you can't appreciate the height of the tree; it's an oak tree well over 100 feet tall. The other thing is that, there's been a fire here, rather recently.


As I was taking pictures a construction contractor in a pick-up truck pulled over.  The contractor had brought his grandson with him to show him the place where shoes grew on trees.  He informed me that the local newspaper reported that it was most likely caused by a lightning strike, but that sounds a little fishy to me.  Not to second-guess the local fire department's testing for accelerants, but what're the odds?  Shoetrees, being their own strange brand of vandalism in-of themselves, are ironically the target of frequent vandalism.  In my research on the subject, many have been burned or chopped-down.  I would hazard to guess that someone set fire to the tree, but as you can see it has survived, with leaves sprouting from the upper branches.  It took its toll, though, charring the trunk and causing some of the lower levels of shoes to crash and burn. It looks as if at least a couple of the lower branches broke in the fire in the above picture. The picutres below coroborate this theory, for it appears that a rather large bonfire fueled by shoes raged at the base.








The fire not-withstanding, it's still a really impressive shoetree with very dense and varied collections of footwear in its branches. I think this is even more impressive that this was achieved in such a tall tree. The branches which remain in the tree are a good 60-70 feet from the ground. That's quite a distance to be slinging some shoes.

















I think my favorite were the ice skates.  That was a nice touch.



I think the enthusiasm for shoe-slingers to get their shoes into the highest branches is the reason for the shoes which have ended up in the vegetation surrounding the primary tree.  Looking at the tree from the following angle, there is a creek which runs behind the tree and some smaller trees line its bank.  If you look closely you can see shoes dangling from the branches.



I walked over the bridge which allowed the road to cross the creek.  It was a pretty creek, shaded with the verdant foliage...  and shoes.







The three auxillary trees were not nearly as impressive, but it contributed to the overall atmosphere which made you feel like you were surrounded by shoetrees every where you turned.  Directly across the streets from the primary tree was the first of these auxillary trees.  In the following photo you can make it out in the background.



It is a much younger tree, with more delicate branches.  Rather than having the dense pockets of shoes like the main tree, its shoes are evenly distrubted among its branches.





On the other side of the crossroads sat the puniest of the auxillary trees, but was interesting because of the super-long rope attached to a pair of boots someone had slung into the tree.



Which made for an interesting vantage point of the main tree for photo opportunities.



The final auxillary tree is a huge sycamore that has the stature and presence to one-day rival the main tree....





....should someone actually succeed in burning it down.



I took 58 photos of the shoe trees at the crossroads.  Feel free to surf over to the permanent gallery and check out all of the photos.  For an indefinite amount of time, you can also download this zip file (26 Mb) which contains the high-resolution photos.  If you really dig this sort of thing, I strongly recommend viewing the high-res photos.  The detail afforded by these gives you a greater appreciation for the area.

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Awesome pix!

I was somewhat disturbed by the sixth photo showing the multiple burnt shoes on the ground. I felt like I was looking at a photograph from the Holocaust or something.

Yeah it was a little disturbing. Especially to someone like me who has become a bit of a fan of the shoetree. It felt like I was seeing the aftermath of some violence which had been perpetrated.

Did you toss a pair of your own, or would that be considered improper?

I have yet to fling a shoe into a tree. I have considered it, but now that mandy_moon has created her own shoe tree in Massachusetts, I figure it'd only be right if I lose my shoe-slinging virginity putting some shoes into her tree. I'm going to have to insist she take me out to it next time I'm there.

Damn.

I'm visiting my shoe tree this week. Now I'm all psyched up to go!

The burned-shoe pictures are especially "powerful", I think.

Powerful and sad. Almost like seeing the photo of that one that was chopped down.

Someone asked me another comment if I had added shoes to the tree. I told them I'm going to lose my virginity in that capacity in Marshfield. When's the last time someone "saved themself" for you ;-).

One of these times when I come visit, we're taking a road trip.



have you already scheduled your dissertation defense? let me know if you need me to be on your committee.

man, i have seen some weird foot fetishes before


is there such a thing as a shoetree fetish? you cats have got it baaaaaad.

i think i definitely have a shoetree fetish... wait, no doubt about it...

Thank you for yet another fascinating Shoe Trees of America post!

Best picture = 2nd of the three creek pictures. I love the focus.

yeah i like that one a lot, too :)

Now I know where I'm going this weekend . . . here in Bloomington (about an hour or so north of Milltown) we only seem to have shoepowerlines. Just not the same.

I really like your photos and writing (found your blog through rural_ruin) . . . hope you don't mind if I add you as a friend!

let me know if you need directions... :)

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