Friday, June 20, 2008

Kelly-Goss: Barefooting

Kelly-Goss: Barefooting

By Robert Kelly-Goss
Albemarle Life Editor
Wednesday, May 28, 2008

(Robert has a weekly column in the Daily Follow the above link to read more of his stories)


It's warm out. There's a breeze blowing. You're wearing shorts. You should be barefoot.

No? Some people find the lack of shoes distasteful and perhaps socially unacceptable. Not me.

Barefoot. Sans shoes. You know, you feel the warmth of the ground beneath your feet; you absorb the cool, green carpet of a lawn or relax as you sift warm sand between your toes.

Barefoot is a state of mind for me. It's the time of year when I can breathe free.

When I was growing up my heroes were two of the great barefooters of all time, Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. I can't count how many times I saw films based upon Mark Twain's books, or the fights in the school library over who got to check out the next available copies.

Tom and Huck were barefoot and so was I. I could lose my shoes in a heartbeat, the only restrictions were those pesky "no shoes, no shirt, no service signs." Of course I discovered flip-flops, but it's not the same.

Being a native of Arkansas, going without shoes presents its own problems; Arkansans being known as barefoot hillbillies and all that. I recall a woman who worked for my grandfather chastising me each summer for slipping off my shoes, or not wearing socks.

"You're no redneck," she'd say in her Arkansas drawl, wagging a finger in my face.

I'd smile, wiggle my toes and head out to the steaming hot pavement. I took pride in walking the blazing hot asphalt surfaces, the soles of my feet sizzling, but never letting on that I minded.

I suppose I had always understood that going barefoot was symbolic of the sort of freedom that seems to come with summer and childhood and the likes of Tom Sawyer. I suppose it was a freedom from "proper society." That was the kind of thing my mother presented me with.

I couldn't stand the conventions of my mother's world and barefoot was, well, a bit too much for my proper mother.

When I met my wife, spring was blossoming and she was barefoot. It was one of those little things about her that stood out.

I can like a woman who goes barefoot, I thought to myself.

Barefooting appears to be a genetic trait as well. My kids can barely keep up with their shoes and frankly that's OK. They can handle the ground beneath their feet.

I took them on a two mile walk with our dog the other day. We were all barefoot, which is a good thing because I really don't like carrying all those shoes when their feet get too hot.

Now that it's warm we do well to keep a pair of sandles in the car for each of them, just in case. Other than that, their feet are brown and at the end of the day they are stained and dirty and wonderfully well used appendages.

Barefooting on a warm, Southern day should be obligatory. Heck, wearing socks when shoes are required should be banned.

There's just something about letting the dogs out after a long winter that is satisfying. Yep, I'm even writing this column barefoot.