If you are driving from Roy’s Diner in Amboy towards the Amboy Crater on Route 66 when you get to a bridge (not too far away) look right and you’ll see the Amboy Shoe Tree… or what’s left of it. A Tamarix tree once stood proud and tall in the desert beside this small washout bridge. It was the only tree for miles so naturally, people stopped… and threw their shoes on it before moving along to continue their journey…?!!
This practice sounds really bizarre to me and goes completely against my philosophy of take nothing, leave nothing, and make sure things are in a better state than when you arrived.
In my mind, shoe trees are in the same class as bubble gum walls (Seattle / San Luis Obispo), lock bridges (Dublin / Paris), and throwing money into a body of water for good luck. Some people love them and others hate them but the unfortunate thing about shoe trees is if you try and control them, they spread like wildfire.
They’re often seen on long barren stretches of roadway… mostly in North America where people can afford to throw away their shoes (and where people have shoes with laces). I’m not sure where the practice started… some say this is an Aboriginal tradition: nailing your shoes to a tree for good luck. Generally, the shoes are accompanied by positive messages and poems. Honestly, I grew up in/around Aboriginal areas and never once ever saw a pair of shoes nailed to a tree.
But back to Amboy…
This large Tamarix tree that once stood in Amboy toppled over because of the weight of the shoes… and the shoes scattered… to bushes and sticks and big piles in the middle of the desert… like garbage. But… people still stop… and still put their shoes somewhere in the vicinity of where the tree once stood… I watched one group of people throw their shoes “somewhere” as I pulled up. I’m not sure where they ended up. I kept my flip flops on even though by now the bottom layer had melted from walking on the super-hot roadway in the desert.
Apparently, when the shoe tree died, a bra tree sprang up across the street. I couldn’t seem to find evidence of this bra tree other than seeing underwear scattered along the roadside; I guess that tree must have disappeared too.