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Clyde, Time Was: Going barefoot was a warm-weather must

Time was, you could go barefoot the first of May. With 20 billion shoes a year produced in the world, you wouldn’t think going unshod would be an option.

Unlike captives at the Confederate Prison, who were “shoeless and shirtless,” we seldom allow our aching plantar fasciitis feet to touch dirt.

Yankee feet may never know the joy of bare feet in the Carolina surf and sand, like the “barefoot boy with cheek of tan” in J.G. Whittier’s poem.

Going barefoot does come with its hazards. Splinters from wood floors, thorns from blackberry bushes, cuts from buried, broken bottles. Bee stings  from honey bees, if you can find one left, require a quick ice cube or baking soda paste. Wonder if a yellow jacket knows what pain feels like?

There is nothing more fulfilling than a romp in the backyard, making grass whistles and shooting plantain bullets, and there is nothing more disgusting than stepping in fresh chicken or cat poop, or maybe a stray, slippery, slimy snail trail. Sand spurs could get your attention real fast. Sandals were the alternative, but they were bad to give you blisters on the heel, especially shoes that were not “broke in.”

Anyone who has ever “stumped” or stubbed your toe knows the dangers of a bed post at night and a 90-degree angle, the toe, that is — “the basal portion or vertigal body part remaining after the rest is removed,” by definition.

Those halcyon days of our youth were ruined mostly by the pictures of the sixth-grade health textbook of the man with elephantiasis he got from an “obstruction of lymphatics by filarial worms.” We were petrified by trichomoniasis, “a flagellated protozoan parasite,” or tapeworms that were rumored to come out your nose. We were relieved to see a simple pin worm or ring worm that was treatable.

That never slowed us down from kicking off those hot soles as soon as you could, which sometimes meant carrying them over your shoulder, never knowing where to find them the next morning. Did you look under the bed? Well, where did you leave them? When you had only one pair, you had to look harder or be late or get left. “You would lose your head if it weren’t hooked on.” Wonder if constantly chiding “your shoe is untied” is child abuse?

“Go wash your feet” did not mean wait for bath night, when we saved the hot water for the next shift. “Cleanliness is next to godliness” must have been invented by nuns. Dirt between your toes could be expunged.

Be a maverick like Samuel Maverick, who in 1867 refused to brand his calves and therefore we all get branded with his name.

Go pee in the backyard, if you have to.

Flip flops were invented by Chinese capitalists for something else for you to buy and throw away and buy more. Don’t fall for that — or on them.

So kick off your shoes, kick up your heels, and kick open the storm door to go outside.

Maybe a game of dodgeball or kickball. We all know you can kick better without shoes on. Leave the A/C behind,  take a hike, look up at the blue sky.

“Ye clouds! That for above me float and pause, whose pathless march no mortal may control” (Samuel Taylor Coleridge).

Most of the world’s progress has been made in the last 200 years, according to learned scholars, like Mr. Goldberg, who predicts we will return to tribal thought and customs. Let’s hope that includes running around footloose, God-fearing, fun and games, friendly and fortuitous. Don’t forget to tie your shoes, if you wear any, and keep your feet on the floor.

Clyde is a Salisbury artist.

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