Here, I’ll announce something I’ve never admitted publicly: I love going barefooted. It’s how I was raised.
Now, the reason I’ve never made much ado about this is that some people outside of our beloved South already are of a mind that we don’t read or wear shoes. There’s no reason to reinforce such backward, little-minded thinking of people.
But I have a story to tell, and it requires that I own up to the fact that when I’m home, I’m barefooted in summertime and socks only in winter.
Tink, being the slave to cleanliness that he is, hates to see me padding outside in bare feet. “Young lady, where are your shoes?” he will pretend to thunder. “March back inside and put them on.”
Which, of course, I don’t do because, while I come from people who wear shoes anytime they leave the house and read anytime they want, I also hail from the stubbornnest bunch of people God ever breathed life into.
One day, after he had chastised me thrice, I said, “I have always gone barefooted. Should I remind you that the photo of the little, red-dirt-covered, barefoot girl is the logo for your production company? The same picture we saw on the TV screen just last night.”
“You were 3 years old then. You’re old enough to know better and grown enough to do better.”
You would think. But, alas, that is not the case.
Around Tink’s people, those who are civilized and dignified, I do not shrink back from proclaiming my heritage of poor Appalachian folks. But I always wear shoes and join in fully on discussions about smart books and recent newspaper stories.
But last winter, the barefoot country girl I am unwittingly exposed herself.
Spring was just starting to promise a return when we went to Los Angeles and, during that trip, had dinner with Tink’s brother, Mark, and his pretty wife, Chandra. I love my brother-in-law. He and Tink’s sister, Jodie, have pulled me into the family with tremendous gusto and approval. This kind of acceptance, though, can lead you to letting down your guard and getting caught.
Being barefooted, no less.
Over dinner, I was showing Mark photos of several inches of snow on the Rondarosa. I showed him the horses wearing blankets with icicles on their manes; of Dixie Dew, up to her nose, trying to wade through the snow; and a pile of firewood covered in a blanket of white. As I flipped through the photos on my phone, he stopped me.
“What’s that?” He’s a television director so he has an eye for detail, for things others might miss. “Who was walking barefoot in the snow?”
Now, listen, going barefooted outside in the heat of summer or running through a newly plowed garden is one thing, but going barefooted in 5 inches of snow slap-dab reinforces everything all the mean people say about us in the Appalachians.
I cleared my throat. “Uh, yeah.” He started laughing. “I can explain.”
The snow was falling hard and I had to go to the airport in a couple of days, so I decided that I would back the car out of the garage, down our driveway, then drive back up in the tracks to clear it a bit. I was so confident in my ability to do this that I didn’t hesitate to jump in the car in my socked feet.
Confidence in one’s limited skills is the beginning of trouble. I could not get back up the driveway. I was left with no choice but to take off my socks and walk in deep snow. I took a photo to send to Tink who was working in Canada. Which is how my cover got blown. Truly, though, it’s something I should never have attempted to hide.
It’s hard for a country girl from the mountains to quit her raising.
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