An Odd Title and An Amazing Book:
The Shoe Tree of Chagrin
by H. Wallace Goddard
Susannah DeClare was the tallest plainswoman traveling the OhioValley. “To the astonishment of townsfolk everywhere, she could reach up and scratch a cloud whenever she felt like it.” She was a shoemaker who traveled the small towns of the valley taking orders from townsfolk and delivering the best work shoes and dancing shoes “across ten counties and beyond.”.
She also carried the news of neighboring towns to the gathered people. “She settled back under a shade tree with a straw in a barrel of cider, and a smoke pipe, her bonnet nearly hidden in the branches, and rambled on till noon about births and deaths and weddings and all she saw from Bath to Novelty and Orange and every post office in between.”
On this particular visit to Chagrin, big city newcomer Reggie Kingsbury scoffed at Susannah’s shoes. She was not famous like Sears and Roebuck. Yet Susannah assured the people that her heralded shoes would be delivered on schedule 6 months hence.
But winter came with a vengeance. “The old cobbler woman could not outrun the years, defeat forgetfulness, or uncover the snow-blank trails, and so she fell far behind.” The people of Chagrin began to wonder if she would arrive on schedule or, as Reggie Kingsbury suggested, would be “warming her toes in a cozy inn somewheres, spendin’ your shoe money by the barrel.”
The day before Christmas a postcard invited the people to venture out Savage Road. Townsfolk made the trek to find dozens of shoes made to order hanging from the branches of a giant silver maple. Susannah had made her last delivery and it was a glorious one.
While folk tales are not usually my favorites, there is magic in the language and illustrations of this book. I think you’ll enjoy it.
J. Patrick Lewis and Chris Sheban (2001) The Shoe Tree of Chagrin. Mankato, MN: Creative Editions.
2001 Meridian Magazine. All Rights Reserved.