Three ShoesPosted on: February 27, 2010
The property to the south of my 240 acres belonged to a regional logging company. The access road ran right along the edge of the property line until it came to the creek, then it veered northerly and fully onto my property and thru it. Logging land was often held in a CFR state, Commercial Forest Registered, which offered a greatly reduced tax rate. For the owners of those thousands and thousands of acres, it was a financial relief, but the trade off was it was open to public enjoyment. The rules were simple: one could use the land for recreational purposes, (hunting, hiking, skiing, etc.) but it had to be used and accessed without motorized vehicles. This part of the rule was often overlooked, and difficult to enforce.
Many old logging roads intersected this ‘main’ road, and made for wonderful exploration. One such road was just before the bridge at the creek. Next to this road, we had noticed a very peculiar thing: a short clothesline, strung between two trees, with three shoes tied by their laces. The shoes were old, different sizes, different types and expectedly very weather worn. There was no obvious sign why there should be this apparition next to the clearing, it just was there. Throughout the years, we gave names to locations, so we could reference them to each other. This spot became simply “Three Shoes”.
One Fall as I was coming home from a trip to town, I spotted a camp set up at Three Shoes: a tent, a camper, a fire pit and a stack of fire wood, but no occupants. Arriving back at home, I told Pete about what I had seen at Three Shoes, and as it was bear hunting season, he surmised they must be hunters. We did not allow hunting on our property by outsiders. Pete would hunt and take one deer a season, that was it. We wanted our property left alone, so when I bought it, I removed it from CFR and we paid full taxes on it. These hunters concerned me.
My next trip past the camp, there were four scruffy looking guys sitting around the campfire, drinking beer. I’m not one easily intimidated, so I stopped the car, and walked right to the edge of the road and introduced myself… as the owner of the property on the other side of the road. One of them stood up and said hello so I asked if they were hunting bear, and they said yes. I asked where their bait pile was, since I frequently walked my property, I wanted to be sure to stay away from it. They all started talking at once, declaring they wouldn’t bait anywhere near their own camp, where the pile was (far enough I needn’t worry), and how sorry they were that I was concerned, that they’d been coming there for many years and didn’t know anyone lived nearby. They were very nice, very polite. Scruffy looking only because of camping. When I mentioned we hadn’t noticed any activity at Three Shoes before, they all started laughing. Then I got the story:
One year, many seasons ago, one of them had brought only one pair of boots to camp. It was a wet, rainy week for them, and boots were soaked. Not having a spare pair to change into, the fellow had propped his boots up by the fire… a bit too close, and burnt the soles. The others weren’t about to let him forget his faux-pas, so from then on, whenever any of them found a shoe, by the side of the road or in the trash, they brought it up for him.. Just in case he needed extra shoes… and they hung them on the line so they were always there and always a reminder. They found it exceedingly amusing that we named that spot in honor of their friendly chiding.
A few days later, they were gone, and I then understood why we didn’t know there was a camp site there. The visitors had cleaned the area so well, putting everything possible back they way it was, it was like they’d never been there. I decided they would be welcomed back any time. That was not to be though. The last evening we did stop to visit and they acknowledged that they felt they were getting too old for such rustic activity. Future hunting camps would be at a motel in town.