Perkins’ Shoe Tree

“What’s that on that utility pole? It looks like someone has nailed shoes all over it.”

Ernie Chiles and I were rocketing along on State Hwy P just north of Perkins after leaving the Painton Airport when something odd caught my eye.

Indeed, there WERE shoes nailed to the pole.

Shoes on fence posts

I’ve seen shoes on top of fence posts. These were spotted on old U.S. 27 south of Lake Okeechobee in Florida on a bike ride in 2006. Farmers have told me that covering the tops of wooden posts keeps them from rotting out.

Shoes plus nails plus pole

It’s pretty common to see sneakers with their laces knotted together thrown over power lines. I just hadn’t seen any NAILED to a utility pole before.

Wife Lila’s aunt and uncle, Ray and Rose Mary Seyer, and Mother and I went on an all-day jaunt through what used to be swampland between Dutchtown and Advance. Perkins was on our way, so I told everybody to keep their eyes open for what I called The Shoe Tree (OK, it’s a pole, but grant me some literary license).

Every kind of shoe

Just before Perkins, there it was. Ernie and I hadn’t been hallucinating from our high-altitude flight this weekend.

We’re not talking a couple of shoes, we’re talking about a couple dozen shoes, plus some that had fallen off and empty nails where other shoes had been tacked up. Some of those puppies were up HIGH, too.

There were work boots, kid shoes, womens shoes, even what looked like a pair of ballet slippers.

What’s the story?

We stopped at the first sign of civilization, Perkins Mini Mart. Owner Pamela Bailey said she’d lived in the area more than 30 years and “they’ve been there as long as I can remember.”

A customer came in who said that he didn’t know why people nailed them up. “Maybe the first person did it because he wore his shoes out walking that field, who knows?”

Mother’s going back

Mother said she didn’t see any high-heeled shoes on the pole. “I’m coming back with a pair of my old shoes.” I bet she will, too.

Shoe Tree Map

If you’d like to see The Shoe Tree, it’s on this Google Map. The circled question mark marks the spot. If you see a pair of high-heeled shoes, Mother has been there before you.

View Perkins’ Shoe Tree in a larger map

To get there from Cape, go 74 to Dutchtown, then turn south onto 25. Take it until you come to the first road past Delta. Turn left on Mo Hwy P. The pole will be on your left just before you get to Perkins. (Hint, don’t mistake Randles for Perkins. Perkins comes after Randles.)

9 Replies to “Perkins’ Shoe Tree”

    1. I’ve seen shoes with their laces knotted together and pitched over utility lines before. It always seemed to be a solitary random act of the “I wonder if I can do this” nature.

      In the case of The Shoe Tree in Perkins, you had to have, at least, a shoe, a hammer, a nail and, maybe, a ladder.

      There’s more premeditation involved here than in your average murder.

  1. Small world, Ken! The Seyer’s are also MY wife’s aunt and uncle! Her mom and dad are Lefty(Ray’s brother)and Ida Seyer from Oran.

  2. One story for the first pair of shoes might be a custom from a European country whre the groom nails his wedding shoes on a tree. It was to symbolize or bring a strong marriage. He “planted” his shoes solidly to signify that he would no longer roam to find women. Other people could have just seen the first pair and decided to add to the collection.

    When we were living at Corkscrew Sanctuary in south FL, a pair of shoes was nailed on a tree in the non-public area. Seems the previous biologist was from the country where that was tradition and he had married while working there – thus the shoes. He put them up in the mid 60’s and when we went back to Corkscrew last fall they were still there!!

    I have been told that the tennis shoes tied together and thrown over power lines is associated with skateboarders and gangs. At least that used to be the reason here in Billings, MT.

    1. I wouldn’t rule your theory out.

      Interesting about Corkscrew Swamp. I spent a lot time in Immokalee about 25 years ago, which borders the swamp. I must not have gotten into the area you mentioned.

  3. I always spent my half an hour to read this blog’s articles or reviews all the time along
    with a mug of coffee.

  4. I am from Perkins I know the people that started putting shoes up there. They were talking about their dad wouldn’t replace his old shoes they were worn out so they decided to nail his shoes to the pole where he would have to buy a new pair. But anyways that’s how it started.

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