My husband and I walk or ride our bikes on the local river levee pretty often. It can be a bit long and tedious, especially when walking, but we have plenty of time to observe the fields of farming on one side and the grass and trees on the river side. I rode my bike on the levee trail by myself yesterday. We hadn’t been there in the last couple of weeks, so hadn’t noticed the corn field changing from it’s pure green stalks to the dying, yellowing stalks. Which also meant I was surprised to see the last of it being harvested by a corn picker yesterday. I stopped and took a picture so I could show my husband that one source of conversation was disappearing.
As I paused to capture this image, another image came back to me. It was of the fields of corn from my childhood, and how that impacted my life. And it did, because my Mom had a rule for her children, well, at least for me, that we couldn’t go barefoot until the ground was warm enough for the corn to be in it, to be planted in the Spring. And shoes had to go back on when the corn came out of the fields in the Fall.
This was a big rule in my childhood and not one I liked. I was always ready to be barefoot long before that corn was ready to be planted. I think it ended up with several conversations about my lack of footwear at the verge of bursting out of the house.
When I was around 10 years old I was at the local grocery store with my mom, when she stopped to chat with a lady I didn’t recognize. Evidently it had been several years since we had seen her, and my mom told me she used to babysit us when I was young. I didn’t recall ever having a babysitter (can you imagine volunteering to watch nine children?), but when Mom told her which one I was, she asked Mom if she could keep shoes on me yet. That’s when I knew I was known for being barefoot.
It was tricky terrain to be barefoot on our farm. Mom had her lawn and decorative flowers on three side of the house, and the fourth side was the scruffy side with a swing set of sorts, the water pump, and real close to the chicken house. All four sides were sticker-free territory. And of course the beaten down dirt in the front of the house where the cars were parked and joined the driveway. Sometimes that area had fresh rock, which was a slow trek barefooted, but manageable. Sometimes it was mired in mud, but that was fun barefoot.
Beyond that perimeter though, was free game for Texas sandburrs, and stickers or several varieties. I would still venture out in those area’s barefooted. I guess shoes were just too time consuming or confining. Or both. I had tough feet as a result, but not tough enough to keep the stickers out. We sometimes had thongs (they call them flip-flops now), but some thongs were so thin the stickers still poked through. Their usefulness on a farm was limited, at best.
One summer day when I was around 12 years old I decided I wanted to go down to the woods barefoot. I loved the woods, and recalled some soft grass there and no stickers. I convinced my brother Neil to go to the woods with me, for as much as I loved it, I was scared to go by myself. Neil, being sensible, wore shoes. Which turned out to be a great idea as I had not factored in the cow pasture that had to be traversed in order to get to the woods. It had many patches of stickers, with really no way around them. After finding myself holding onto Neil’s shoulder to extricate stickers from my feet for the umpteenth time, I finally admitted defeat and turned around for the painful journey back to the yard with no stickers.
When I was around 6 or 7 years old, I remember I saw the pristinely white, shiny snow outside and decided I would walk barefoot in that lovely fluff. I didn’t get very far when I realized that snow was indeed, very cold on bare feet. And that perhaps there was some wisdom in wearing shoes after the corn was harvested.
I don’t go barefoot outside so much any more. A few months ago I saw a chiropractor for some hip issues. She assigned some exercises to strengthen my hips, and my overall stance as well. Besides the exercises she recommended I walk outside barefoot to get the feedback from my feet to my brain about what I was standing on. It’s called proprioception. I was so shocked I had actually gotten to the place where I had to be told to go barefoot! But delighted to hear of its benefits.
Years ago I had also heard of going outside barefoot and just feeling what you were standing on, to just experience that for a moment, to help feel grounded. I liked that recommendation, and it takes me back to the many surfaces I walked, skipped, shuffled on as a child.
I am still going to push the edges of Mom’s rule. The corn may be picked, but I think it’s still warm enough to go barefoot. Today anyway.