All my adult life, I have attempted to rise above my humble beginnings. Take shoes, for example. Now that I have steady work and live in the city, I like to wear nice shoes.
In the boondocks, we didn’t wear shoes unless it was an absolute necessity. Like your feet would freeze if you didn’t, or there was a funeral.
My boyhood friend and idol, Weyman C. Wannamaker Jr., a great American, didn’t wear shoes even on those occasions, but he did wash his feet twice a week whether they needed it or not.
The first time I saw Weyman in a pair of shoes, they were forced upon him. We were in sixth grade, and the teacher organized a field trip to Atlanta to hear a performance by the symphony orchestra. As the bus pulled away from the school, she noticed Weyman was barefooted.
Horrified, she ordered the bus driver to stop at the nearest shoe store, where she bought Weyman a pair of shoes. He protested, but the teacher hit him in the mouth, and Weyman didn’t mention shoes again.
During the performance of the symphony orchestra, however, Weyman’s feet began hurting him, so he took off his shoes and hung his bare feet over the railing of the balcony. Unfortunately, he was between washes.
The entire percussion section and two flute players stopped in the middle of Chopin’s Movement No. 5 to search for what had obviously passed away days earlier.
I always think of Weyman when I pull on a new pair of shoes. Lately, some of the fellows down at the lodge have been giving me the business because I now own a pair of stylish loafers by Gucci, the famous Italian leatherperson.
I prefer to think their boorish, catty remarks stem from ignorance, sprinkled with at least a tad of jealousy.
The other day, I called Weyman C. Wannamaker Jr. back home and told him I am now wearing Guccis. I knew he would be proud.
"You wearing them shoes," he said, "is like putting perfume on a hog."
Lewis Grizzard was a syndicated columnist, who took pride in his Southern roots and often wrote about them. This column is part of a collection of his work.