Your feet’s too big
Folks in The Valley pointed fingers at her feet. It began years ago when she was birthed on a winter night, lit by a full moon. Upon opening her blue eyes, her view was filled with the sight of her feet, not that there was a chance in hell that she would NOT notice them.
These feets were BIG.
The gasping crowd gathered ’round her black walnut cradle and didn’t take note of the moon, the fullest ever seen in the heavens. Her feet stole the show …. feet of extraordinary length, longer than the longest ever anywhere. It’s said that the record from heel to toe is 12 inches (a foot, if you will); but her feet, even though the feet of a mere baby, measured in at 25 inches, or so it was duly recorded by Dr. Graham C. Ritz, a specialist who rode through the night to assist with the difficult delivery. Fortunately, the babe was born “feet first.” Had she not, who knows what would have happened.
The exhausted mother, Pearl, immediately roused herself and began knitting booties galore. Pleak’s Shoe Shoppe near the Valley square put in an order (to Omaha, home of Warren Buffet) for hundreds of pair of slippers fashioned in graduated sizes. The local KnitWit forthwith requested Burlington train cars full of skeins of pink wool from the finest herds thereabout, and soon the click-click of knitting needles echoed throughout the Valley, intermingled with the frantic bleats of shorn sheep. People began humming strange tunes when the church bells clanged news of the birth. Suddenly, CDs about feet were selling like hotcakes.
The proud father, Abraham Axe, a carpenter of solid repute, began building an addition to the Axe family tri-level located down in the Valley near Boggy Bottoms, but not so near as to be shameful. Of course, it consisted of a room large enough to accommodate his child blessed with fantastic feet, and feet as we all know, grow, grow and grow. When that was completed, Abraham busied himself with detailed plans for special skis, skates (both roller and blade), pogo sticks and all manner of goods to ease the load for a most unusual daughter. Actually, he had secretly hoped for a boy, but well, now that the town had approved of a girls’ basketball team (The Valley Bucks), he raced out to hire a harness maker to fashion a fine pair of basketball shoes. The word spread to sheep herders everywhere to save their finest hides for future shoes, though Lord knows, no one knew quite what the size would be when the feet stopped growing. Sheep were trucked in from Australia and New Zealand just in case the Valley supply ran short.
Despite predictions of disaster, her childhood years were quite marvelous, for with feet like hers, she was always first across the line in foot-races and first to reach wherever it was she was walking. Playmates sometimes complained that she had an unfair advantage during Kick-The-Can, but they forgave her when she gave them free rides on her feet (by now, veritable sleds) when everyone gathered at King’s Hill in the winter’s blast. FootLong was no fool, so she avoided really dangerous pastimes, like hanging ten on the wicked Jungle Gym behind the school. And it must be said that she bombed big time at attempts to ace hopscotch. It didn’t matter how big the square were drawn with chalk, her feet never seemed to fit within the boundaries. But that was a small matter.
By age 13, she had joined the Valley Girls track team (record setting in the 100 yard dash in three seconds flat) and signed up for ballet lessons at the Rustwell School of Dance, where all young ladies were expected to learn the intricacies of (at the very least) ballroom dancing, the Mashed Potato and the Funky Chicken. Tap dancing was out of the question for FootLong, but she was amazing en pointe in the ballet recitals and earned huzzahs when she stood on her head, disguised as a long-limbed elm, in the annual arboretum pageant, “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen: The Saga of Dutch Elm Disease.”
You might imagine FootLong to be tall, but truth tell she was petite at 5-foot-2 with eyes of blue. Her wavy red hair came down to there.
It’s just that her feets were too big. Not for everything; just for some things. For example, it was unlikely that she’d ever be chosen to play Cinderella in the movies.
At age 17, she was inducted into the Valley Hall ‘O Fame. By then, folks had long since ceased pointing at her feet and things had, more or less, settled down to the point where she was more concerned by the possibility of a zit on her nose than the size of her feet, even though the size was now around 38 inches in length and growing. During her senior year in high school (VHS), she even had an inch or two to spare in her orange-and-white #16 basketball shoes, plus she was the absolute hot shot of her team. Hers were the feet that always reached the scoring zone before all others. Up, up, up she vaulted, aloft in her Valley Bucks shoes. In went the ball, clean as a whistle and don’t you know the crowd chanted, “2- 4-6-8, Who do we appreciate …. FootLong, FootLong, FootLong.”
Abraham and Pearl attended each and every game and often ran onto the floor if they had a bone to pick with the referee who screamed “foul!” when FootLong accidentally on purpose tripped up half of the opposing team. Nobody’s perfect.
Soon a special hotdog was invented in her honor. Hawked at both basketball games and football games, it brought fame and fortune to the Valley merchants who dreamt up all-manner of spin-offs: FootLong Corn Dawgs, FootLong Ice Cream Bars, FootLong Pizzas (shaped like her feet), and just recently, orange and white-painted plaster casts of her feet, signed, sealed and delivered with a visit to online footlongfeet.com. People Magazine gave her a cover story. Rush Limbaugh poked fun at her and claimed that his mouth was way bigger than her feet. She was invited to tour Des Moines as a guest of the All American Podiatry Club. The Valley VFW bar developed a cocktail in her honor called, The FootLong Gone. Served in a glass slipper, 100-inches long, the recipe, if I recall, is this:
FootLong Gone (The FLG)
Chill glass slipper thoroughly. Fill with shaved ice. Using a gallon shaker (the type with an electric motor) activate one quart of I’ll Be Damned BlackJack Whiskey with one pound of powdered sugar, the juice of six kiwis, 12 cukes, a crate of California oranges, the mash of six really ripe bananas and a pint of creamed yellow corn. Keep activating until contents froth and foam. Pour over shaved ice in glass slipper. Serve with a plate of curly fries and two straws.
As the years rolled by, FootLong’s feet stopped growing at 70 inches, a Ripley record. Fame came to the Valley, even more so when she opened Café FootLong, The FootLong Shoe Store (“Nothing Smaller Than Size 25!” was the motto) and later her wealth built the FootLong Rest Haven High on King’s Hill, where long ago she gave free rides on her sled-like feet which some churlishly chided were too big. A carved granite arch, inscribed with “Her Heart Was As Big As Her Feets,” welcomed guests and residents one and all.
When death scored the final shot, FootLong was 100 years young. She lay in repose in the town square, a smile on her face, her orange-and-white basketball shoes displayed on a nearby marble pedestal. A small string ensemble played her favorite tune, “Your Feet’s Too Big,” and soprano Frankie Pfefferhaus sang, “Dancing in the Dark.” A secret admirer sent 70 pure white roses, one to commemorate each inch of her fabulous feet.
How fortunate am I to have in my collection one of her basketball shoes from the Valley Junque Shoppe & Auction Barne, out on Hwy. 71. It’s even autographed. Stop by and see it sometime. In the meantime, here’s a photo of the shoe. I’ve placed it alongside one of my precious dancing slippers. Just so you know.