It looks like another venerable tradition is dying. I speak, of course, of the tradition of tying sneakers together by their laces and then throwing them over telephone wires. Back in the day, you'd see great tangles of them -- twenty, forty pairs or more -- looking like the nest of some enormous child-eating bird. There were some great ones in the Winooski, Vermont, of my childhood. But the very best I ever saw was here in Roxborough, outside the entrance to the play yard behind Levering Elementary back when Sean went there. How large was it? A hundred pairs? Too large to count, at any rate.
The funny thing was that nobody seemed to know for sure how they got there. There were two schools of thought on the issue. One was that when kids got new sneakers, they'd throw their old ones over the telephone wires. Which is at least partly true . . . I know I did, once. The other theory was that bullies ripped the shoes off smaller kids and threw them up where they couldn't be retrieved simply to be cruel. I never saw that happen, but it seems plausible as well.
Some people reading this are going to suggest a third possibility, that I'm making the whole thing up. I know this because that's how people react to almost anything I say. There's something inherently untrustworthy about me, I suppose, or maybe a better word for it would be implausible. For years, Marianne refused to believe in Hoppity Hooper, simply because I described the show so enthusiastically. Gregory Feeley refused to believe in Bean Day, Clothesline Night, Gate Night (aka Bicycle Night), Pumpkin Night or Cabbage Night (though I believe he grudgingly admitted to the existence of Halloween) simply because I vouched for them. And whenever Gardner Dozois and I got to reminiscing about The Banana Man, entire roomfuls of people would start hooting in disbelief.
Nevertheless, I'm telling the truth. The Levering Elementary tangle was eventually deemed a potential hazard by the school and the telephone people came with a cherry-picker to cut it away. I kept expecting a new one to grow in its place, but it never did. The other day I went by there and found a single pair of sneakers twisting slowly in the wind, lonely and forlorn.
As is the pair, above, to be found on Leverington Avenue a couple of houses down from my own.
A quick question . . .
I've experienced enough shocked disbelief in my life to have learned that in most places kids don't throw sneakers over telephone wires and never did. Still, I've lived in two such locales. It can't be all that rare. Does anybody else know of anyplace where this is or was a commonplace?
And because nobody trusts me . . .
Here's proof that Hoppity Hooper, a frog, his uncle Waldo Wigglesworth, a fox, and Filmore, the strongest bear in Captivity, Wisconsin, really did exist. In the imagination of Jay Ward if nowhere else. This is a segment of one of the very best episodes, The Traffic Zone.
And also, the immortal Banana Man! Who, as it turns out, wasn't the real Banana Man at all but, instead, was actually . . . but, heck, why bother to tell you that story when you're not going to believe a word I tell you?