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More Than 200 Shoes, Boots Roost in Southern Indiana ‘Shoe Tree’

January 2, 1992 GMT

MILLTOWN, Ind. (AP) _ Around here, people put shoe trees in their new shoes, and their old shoes in the Shoe Tree.

For more than 25 years, people have been throwing shoes into a 40-foot oak tree six miles south of this southern Indiana town. More than 200 sneakers, hunting boots, bedroom slippers and loafers now dangle from the tree. Some that missed lie nearby on the ground.

″It is the dumbest thing,″ said Maxine Archibald, whose brother, Kenneth McFelea, owns the farm that contains the tree. ″It is matted with old shoes.″

Most of the shoes are tied together with shoe laces, leather strips or chains. Some have names and dates painted on their soles.

The shoe tree used to be much larger ″until a tornado this last year took some of the limbs and the shoes away,″ Ms. Archibald said Thursday.

No one knows for sure why the shoes were first thrown into the tree. A popular theory says the tradition was started by boys playing in a nearby creek.

And it’s not a charity thing, although a good pair heaved into the tree doesn’t stay there long. But most of the shoes that roost there are definite discards.

″I’ve heard people say, ’Oh, goody. My shoes are about worn out. Let’s throw them into the Shoe Tree,‴ Ms. Archibald said.