For many years we couldn't wait until it got warm enough in the spring to
go barefoot. This would usually occur in March and we would go barefoot
for the rest of the spring and summer and into the fall. Somehow, our feet
knew when it was time to doff the shoes and go native for the rest of the
summer. It was a great saving on shoe soles and leather. We exhilarated
each year at being able to shed our shoes and go barefoot, to feel the mud
gush up between our toes and to run and jump as barefoot adventurers.
After a winter of wearing shoes, our feet were tender
and we often had to build up calluses so we could tough it out for the
entire season. In the country, we had a lot of sandburs and they were
wicked to get into. Many a time, I had to stop and gently pull those
sandburs out of my feet. Or I would stub my toe on occasion and have to
cry out in pain until the hurt subsided. Of course, I went everywhere
barefoot. Out in the chicken yard, I would almost always step something
fresh and have to clean that off. Or in the cow lot at milking time, I
might step in something and have to find something to scrape that off.
We would ride the school bus from home to school
barefoot and go all day long at school including recess without shoes. It
was great fun. We ran and played tag and all kinds of games, girls and
boys. We all went barefoot with no discrimination. We always had summer
school so the youngsters could get out in the fall to help with the
harvest. Most of us were farm kids and that is just the way it was.
We would go to town barefoot and those hot sidewalks would seer the
bottoms of the feet. We sometimes had to walk gingerly to avoid the
hottest areas. It was particularly hot hoeing weeds in those sandy fields
on a hot day. The heat would send chills down the spine as the body
attempted to cope with the searing conditions.
At night, we would usually have to wash our feet before
we went to bed so as not to carry any foreign material between the sheets.
That is, unless our feet weren't really very dirty. Which was the case on
We would take a bath once a week whether we needed it
or not. Mom would heat up the water in the tea kettle and pour it into the
largest round washtub. The oldest usually took the first bath, then the
next and the next. Since I was the youngest of 10, I usually had the
dirtiest water by the time it came my turn. I suppose I got clean enough
even in all that dirty water. I seem to be no worse for the wear.
Going barefoot was a right of passage for us in those
days. Our feet knew when it was time first to shed the shoes in the spring
and then to put them back on in the fall. Strange how feet are so smart.
Then, about 1955, going barefoot all of a sudden became passť and everyone
seemed to wear shoes all year round after that. For about 13 years in my
young life, going barefoot was something to look forward to and something
to look back at when the weather got cool. I will never forget all the
good times I had going barefoot. It was a glorious era that passed and now
is but a memory.
Phil Keathley, Class of 1960