America’s First Footwear. And bubblegum.
I am a sentimental shopper. I have a tendency to buy things that remind me of things. I also have the quirky habit of naming my things. Meet the Tonkasins. The newest addition to my too-small-of-closet.
I had moccasins once before. When I was 10, my grandma bought me a pair at Fort Pipestone. They were white leather with a beaded Thunderbird on the top of the foot. I loved them.
I am perpetually consumed by watching people walk, especially watching their shoes as they walk. Back then I was still able and often preoccupied watching my own feet move in that crisp, white leather.
Possessing a fully-loaded imagination, I was sure the Native American who shaped and sewed the leather and wove the beading still lived in a teepee and wore a head dress. And because my schoolbooks portrayed a gumdrop and lollipop relationship between white settlers and Native Americans, I didn’t see any reason why all moccasins in the world wouldn’t be made by Native Americans (and all nylon snow boots made by the dumb white settlers). When in reality, my Minnetonka moccasins were made by some white dude’s company with zero authentic Native American roots, whose ideas don’t even come close to predating things like the Battle of Little Big Horn. These moccasins were a brand established essentially as a tourist souvenir for nature wandering Americans following WWII.
Depending on the geography of their territory, Natives wore moccasins so the soft bottom would allow them to feel the earth and leave behind the least possible damage on nature and plant life. Wearing them was like going bare foot.
This was pre-concrete. This was also pre-gum.
In the 15 years that my legs worked I was able to experience the wide array of walking wonders.
- Slivers. Too many. You’d think I made a point of playing only on wood no one ever sanded or varnished. (Later to be dug out by the master sliver digger. The man with the hollow needle and a Flinstone vitamin, my father the construction worker.)
- A nail in my instep. (Actually, just an uneducated karate experiment.)
- Pins and needles. About as much as slivers. (Took me entirely too long to learn not to go barefoot in my mother’s sewing room. Whoever had troubles finding a needle in a haystack obviously never tried using their feet.)
- Stubbing my toe so bad I was sure it fell off.
- Stepping barefoot in dog feces. (Believe it or not, in a dash to save my brother who fell off his bike. Pretty much took a bullet. You’re welcome, Maxwell.)
- Stepping in glass.
- Getting blisters.
- Spraining my ankle.
- And…stepping in gum.
We’re not just talking a chiclet-size goob here. We’re talking a wickedly serious wad of Bubbleyum. Whoever chewed and hocked that hunk definitely did a double. And of course, I was wearing my not-even-a-week-old, pristine, white mocs. I believe soles of nobbed rubber were made only to ensure complete gum stickage.
Most things in life you learn by folly. I learned the only way to get bubblegum off a moccasin is to put it in the freezer next to the bag of peas and pound of hamburger. Even then, you sometimes don’t get it all. What’s left then is to be proactive. Instead of watching your feet, watch the ground your feet are on. Most of all, stop the ugly chain of ill-disposed gum. Trash it or swallow it.
One thing is sure, the Tonkasins won’t be seeing gum wads, large or small. One of the few benefits of never touching ground is never stepping in stuff…bare foot or new-shoed.