“Best Of…” 1996-d

From: R.L.

Subject: Barefoot Beginnings

Date: Dec. 1996

It has been interesting, reading the stories of “barefoot beginning’s.”  My barefoot beginning seems to have started differently from most.

I spent my first 18 years on a farm way out in the Alabama boonies in the late 1930s, 1940s and early 1950s. In case you’re good at math, I’m older than dirt.

My parents expected me to be barefoot, temperature permitting, and I was with a vengeance. It was not, “put your shoes on,” it was (rarely), “what are you doing with your shoes on?” In fact, just about all the kids went barefoot in the summer, at that time and place. Tough soles were a source of great pride and some competition among the boys. The boy who wore his shoes ALL the time was…well, just a bit odd. Much like the lad who would wear a bathing suit when we went swimming in the local quarry. For those of you who have never lived on a farm, let me say here and now that walking barefoot through the soft, moist freshness of newly plowed earth and swimming naked in the cool, spring fed water of an abandoned rock quarry are life enhancing experiences.

Some “poor” kids went to school barefoot and nobody cared. Alas, I could not ’cause my dad, in addition to having a farm,  was vice principal, science teacher, football and basketball coach at the local HS. In this tiny close-knit community, a man of high standing and great dignity. The shoes (and probably shirts) came off after school and us kids reverted to a society devoid of socioeconomic designation.

In the late ’50s we moved to the city, I joined the USAF and, believe me, Uncle Sam’s Air Force didn’t believe in bare feet…not even in  the shower.

My departure from the military and entrance into college  coincided with the blossoming of the hippie movement and myself became the quintessent flower child…bare feet and all. This was the time when “No shirt, no shoes, no service” signs started to proliferate.

I have happily continued to barefoot  through the 1970s, 1980s, now the 1990s with few hassles and I hope to be footin’ well into the next millennium.

It is encouraging that there seems, at least in this part of the country, to be less hostility to bare feet than there use to be. I encounter very few looks or negative comments now days. I can, however, say with authority that winter has officially arrived. I got my first, “Aren’t your feet cold,” of the season yesterday afternoon.