Hang 'Em High
With every trade comes it’s own side effects. If you pave for a living, you critique the asphalt of all the roads you travel; if you weld, you see the beads of every metal joint, and if you work on the line— you are always looking up, seeing the crooked poles and the rest of the shit the rest of the world isn’t and expert on until they’re sitting impatiently in the dark…
He drove the same route to the yard every morning for 25 years to an industrial part of Saticoy, California. Though small, only 238 acres, the farm town was tough— bearing a strong hispanic influence and a lot of gang activity. This never bothered “Slip” much since he just went respectfully about his business, expecting everyone to go about their own.
Though he never cared to put much thought into why the shoes were there, or what they might have been symbolic of-- he simply had a genuine admiration for the black pair of “Chucks” that dangled from 20 feet up.
“I want to know what kind of shoelaces those are,” He announced while driving beneath the decorated phone line. “Those have been hanging there ever since I can remember… I really wish I could find some tough laces like that, I’d string ‘em in my boots.”
It became a ritual to check on the shoes as he turned down the road toward the yard. At this point in his career he was getting closer to retirement. He announced one day, “The day those shoes fall down is the day I call it quits.”
All who know him are very entertained by this, knowing my Grandfather as a man of his word. I imagined him faithfully checking each morning for the shoes— and if they were amiss, envisioned him walking into the office to deliver the news in a way only an old guy who answered to “Slip” knew how.
Some years later, I asked him if the shoes had given him his cue to retire. “Nope, those laces lasted longer than I did!" It was clear he was a bit disappointed that he wasn’t able to be dramatic about his exit. Knowing him, he would have dragged in the weathered shoes and thrown them down on the boss’ desk to aide in the delivery of his farewell speech.
Family Legend has it that if you travel down Saticoy’s Lirio Street in the early morning hours, the shoes are still draped across the comm lines— taunting our Ol’ “Slippery” to finally hang it up…