To the small boy from the ranching family, they were a sign of oppression.
And their absence?
Maybe I should explain . . .
During the 1930s, in Glenwood, Alberta, there were many families who did without.
Oh, they had food to eat and a roof over their heads, but there were things they simply did not have.
Things like shoes.
Their absence was a sure sign of the family’s poverty.
But to six-year old Mark (my Dad) those boys who got to come to school shoeless were free.
He dreamed of enjoying the same freedom.
Daily, he begged his mother to let him walk to school unhampered by his sturdy, leather shoes and hand-knitted socks.
And daily, she told him he would be wearing said shoes and socks.
And Moms always win.
One warm, spring day, he got a brilliant idea. He would circumvent his local law enforcement.
A block from home, he sat down and pulled off the hated footwear with accompanying woolen socks.
And left them in a heap beside a post.
While he was at it, he decided to lose the equally oppressive jacket and cap.
Hanging the latter on the same post.
Happily, he skipped off barefoot and unfettered to school.
Later, after a day spent luxuriating in his freedom, he returned to the post.
Only to find it bare and rather shoeless.
Frantic, he looked around.
Nary a jacket, cap, shoe or sock in sight.
In a panic, he ran home, creating scenarios in his head to explain their absence.
But when he stepped inside the front door he discovered, to his relief, that all of his accoutrements were there. Shoes and socks neatly sitting where they should be and jacket and cap on their hook by the door.
All had been returned earlier by a helpful neighbour who had seen and recognized.
Relieved, he turned.
To see his mother, arms folded, standing beside him.
Dad learned that freedom comes at a cost.
And that children simply don’t see things the way adults do.