A tree that grows shoes? Find it near Snohomish

From the “What’s Up With That?” readers’ mailbag:

“Outside of Snohomish, there is a large tree on South Machias Road, south of Dubuque Road heading toward Snohomish, with a whole bunch of shoes in it. Please find out what the deal is!” Kathy Nysether wrote in an email.

It was easy enough to find the tree blooming with dozens of pairs of discarded footwear, dangling from branches high and low. Budding like fruit were sneakers, hiking boots, oxfords, boat shoes, heels, cleats.

Yep, a genuine shoe tree.

It’s what RoadsideAmerica.com calls the greatest embodiment of the American Spirit you can find on the highway. “A shoe tree starts with one dreamer, tossing his or her footwear-of-old high into the sky, to catch on an out-of-reach branch,” the site reads. “It usually ends there, unseen and neglected by others. But on rare occasions, that first pair of shoes triggers a shoe tossing cascade.”

That’s what happened here. A shoe deluge.

But whodunnit? Good question, Kathy. I poked around, but nobody knew the origin of the Machias shoe tree, other than to point the finger at high school kids. Do any of you have the scoop? Please call or write me so I can tell Kathy and other Herald readers.

“As far as I know it doesn’t have any special meaning,” said Chris Bahr, owner of Machias Nursery, down the road a bit.

“It’s the funniest dang thing, isn’t it? It’s been a random thing. They just throw shoes up there,” she said. “It’s become old hat.”

Bahr said customers at times ask her about it. “Mainly it’s from new people moving into the area. They say, ‘What’s the deal with the shoes?’?”

Seems shoes do grow on trees. “I drive by it every day,” said Lake Stevens resident Jennie Dwyer, who works in Snohomish. “There are more all the time. More than last year.”

There are some nice shoes heaved up in the branches. I admired a pair of Nikes that looked my size. Man, if only I had a ladder …

Stranger than the urge to swipe a pair of shoes was the urge to fling a pair up there. Crazy! I see why people do it. Next time I head that way I’m bringing a pair to toss.

The Roadside America site shows some shoe trees with themes. There’s a cowboy boot tree in Texas. A telephone pole in New Mexico has high heels nailed to the side. Bicycles were added to an urban shoe tree in Minnesota.

In Michigan there’s a haunted tree. Legend has it that a shoeless young boy who worked in a nearby field during the Depression lost his feet to frostbite. Before he died, he cursed the fact that such a basic necessity as shoes didn’t grow on trees. On the first year of his death, a pair appeared on a branch. Since then, every year more shoes have populated the tree. It’s said the boy’s ghost can be seen each night as the sun sets, watching over his crop of shoes.

Want to see the soles sported by trees in other states? For a list of shoe trees, go to www.road sideamerica.com/story/29064.

Send What’s Up With That? suggestions to Andrea Brown at 425-339-3443; abrown@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @reporterbrown. Read more What’s Up With That? at www.heraldnet.com/whatsup.

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