Hush Puppy Shoes
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by Frank Shortt
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The lengths that a young man will go in order to “court” his favorite girl is sometimes
funny, dangerous, and always a “story in itself”. My first serious love was, unfortunately, doomed to failure, but I wasted no time
courting the future in order to pursue this great love affair.
Mill Creek Hollow
was both dark and deep. The only light that ever eventually made its way into the confines of the hollow at night was when the moon
or stars could force their light between the multitudinous trees. When one said, “I couldn't see my hand in front of me”, this was
no doubt spoken of Mill Creek Hollow. In those days, my teenage years, I was both young and like the Hollow, not very bright. Whereas
my greatest delight had been to go to the movie theater at Raven, Va., I had fallen in love. It came suddenly, as those things usually
do to a young man, as I was at a party at the Newberry home. The games we played were post-office, spin the bottle and a host of other
kissing games. I could not begin to tell you today how to play either game, but at the time, they wove their spell on me.
Her lips were sweet as strawberry preserves that mom made from the wild strawberries which I so laboriously picked every summer. Her
kisses lingered with me all the following week causing me to move Heaven and Earth to get back the following Saturday. What could
have kept me away?
The strange thing was, her mother liked me, and her father was very
tolerant of me since he knew that my brother had married one of the Newberry girls. But that wasn't the problem!
The boys of Mill Creek were intolerant of anyone outside their community who took a liking to one of the local girls. If they knew
a stranger was coming their way, they had ways of dissuading that person to change his mind in a hurry. Such was the dilemma that
I faced every night that I went for a visit. I couldn't figure out why they knew I was coming every time. This took up a lot of my
thinking each week prior to the fated visit. You see, I just had to go as I was a glutton for punishment.
One night as I wended my way up the Hollow, It suddenly dawned on me what the problem had been all along. It was the old horsehide
Wolverine brogans that gave me away. While walking up the quiet, country road, noises made by these shoes sounded like an army marching
to war. No wonder they knew I was coming. I might as well have blown a trumpet and cried,
“Here I am, give me your best shot”.
Every dog in the neighborhood sounded the alarm
ahead of me. What a dupe I had been! There was only one way in and one way out. The local boys knew that I
had to pass their way. The rocks and sticks that came whizzing past my head were a grave warning that I wasn't wanted on their turf.
After that I walked as quietly as possible, but I was never quiet enough. I had to find
a way to shut up those dogs! I didn't want to end up with knots on my head or bruises on me just for the sake of seeing a girl. One
day, as I was perusing the merchandise of Horton's store in Raven, my eyes fell upon a box which read, “Hush Puppies”. My heart began
to sing again!! I read further on the shoe box, and found out that these shoes had soles so designed to make the owner practically
noiseless. Boy, was I elated! No more sticks, no more rocks, no more derisive cries in the night. How was I to get $15.98 on such
I had been cutting mine props for the local miners but lately there
had been no orders. I went home with heavy heart trying my best to find a solution to this nagging problem. After visiting the local
mine owner a few times, I actually think he grew tired of me bothering him, he finally agreed to a timber order. That, and doing small
chores around the mine, raised enough money to pay for the precious shoes.
Heading back to June Horton's store the following Saturday, I went immediately to the shoe department, picked out a pair of brown
suedes that I already had my eye on, paid Mr. Horton, and soon replaced the old brogans that had been giving me away. I paced back
and forth in front of the store, checking out the quietness of my new purchase, the clerks probably thinking I had suddenly lost my
mind. If they only knew the joy I experienced in “not hearing a sound”.
of the time I visited the “joy of my life” was spent in total confidence. Believe it or not, the dogs did not bark!! I was able to
stay on the blacktop feeling my way alone without sticks and stones accompanying me. What a relief!! But, this didn't last too long.
Unfortunately, I had taken the tests to join the Air Force, and the call came just as I was really “gettin' somewhere” with my dove.
It was hard to tell her goodbye. She promised to write, as I did, and we parted to seek our personal fortunes.
Taking into account that I loved those shoes, it came as quite a surprise when the sergeant in charge told me,
“Either ship your clothes home or give them to the local Salvation Army!”
I was penniless!!
What could I do but give my most precious possession away?
As it turned out, my little
heartthrob wrote a few non-informational scraps, eventually dwindling off completely. She had begun dating another beau.
I had spent my precious money in vain, the hush puppies were all for naught.