Buying shoes in 1911

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This week G. George Ostrom has selected a classic column from August, 1971.

My dad read the column I wrote about buyin’ school shoes for my kids and it reminded him of a time maybe 60 years ago when his family was living on their homestead at Camas Prairie on the Indian Reservation.

One evening, my grandfather, Clark, made all the kids put their feet on the catalog “measurin’ sheet” so he could make a mark with their name beside it. Then, the next morning, he left the house walking over the mountains toward Thompson Falls.

Three days later, he came back with a pair of shoes for each kid and one for my grandmother, nine pairs of shoes, in a gunny sack. He had traveled over 50 miles, most of it on foot, to get those shoes.

I asked my dad if all the shoes fit, and he replied, “A lot better than the old ones.”

My kids listened to that story and didn’t say much, but later the oldest son Shannon asked me if that was really true. I told him it was true, but Grandpa was probably exaggeratin’ a bit when he told about going into the forest for winter’s wood and bein’ given the job of walking down the logs kickin’ off the knots with his bare feet in order to save the shoes for school.

Was very sorry to read of the tragedy Aug. 15 on Sperry Glacier. Wherever young men probe the unknown, there is danger, and I guess that is somehow a vital link in the thing known as adventure.

One thing not often mentioned in the press discussions of glaciers is the existence of large and small cracks in the glacial ice below the bergschrund. These cracks are treacherous traps, especially this time of the year when overlying snow still conceals them, but has melted down to the point of thinness. Below the Sperry bergschrund are many of these cracks which are usually only found by breaking through a snow bridge, a fatal accident if proper equipment is not in use.

Several years ago, Hal and Jimmy Kanzler and I made full traverse of Sperry Glacier without serious incident because we took almost “old maidish” precautions. I mention these things because I know more and more people are going out on the glaciers, and it gives me occasional nightmares to picture the naivety with which so many people contemplate those vast high shining fields of snow beckoning on a sunny day in August.

A glacier is a beautifully gigantic, live, twisted, contorted and moving mass of ice with 90 percent of its danger concealed from those who do not choose to prestudy its anatomy.

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