From the Relief Society Magazine, April 1957 –
New Shoes for Flo
Wanda F. Hilton
Summers when it was hot and dry, Flo did not wear shoes. She went barefoot Sunday through Saturday, month after month. Of course, there were things like bruised toes and thorn pricks, and it was always wise to look about carefully when climbing the rocky hillsides for rattlesnakes. The one pair of shoes, worn all winter, did well to last through the spring thaws.
With the last patch of snow melting in the spring sunshine, Flo’s shoes, or what remained of them, melted away, too.
Flo loved those first days after the shoes were gone. It was good not always to be laboring to keep a ragged piece of leather tied in place. But after a few days, she just didn’t give it a thought one way or another. Then as September trumpeted its arrival with red and gold pageantry, Flo began to dream of new shoes, and by Thanksgiving it was right uncomfortable to be without shoes because it was cold, cold, cold!
Then Flo’s mother would wrap her feet in warm rags and that felt good as long as she stayed indoors where it was warm and dry, but rags got wet if one ventured out, and then they were worse than nothing.
There was always one thing about the rag business, though, that made Flo’s eyes bright and her dreams more real, for then Mother would begin talking about shoes.
Now, for two days Flo had been wearing rags, and she had kept her ears open for any mention of shoes. But for two days, so far as Flo knew, her mother had not given them a thought. It was now the beginning of the third day, and mother hadn’t given one hint that she was even tinkering with the idea of suggesting that father ride into Rexburg and buy the winter stock of shoes and other necessities like bacon, sugar, and flour.
The blessing on the food had been given and the mush dished up, when Mother spoke.
“Jim,” she asked in a matter-of-fact tone, “don’t you think tomorrow might be as good a time as any to hitch up old Bess and Pet and drive to town and stock up? It’s getting along in the season and things are running low. Flo could even do with some shoes, it’s that cold.”
Flo sat still and open-mouthed. Even though she had been expecting the words, they came as a rapturous shock.
“Yes, I guess it’s time,” Father answered looking up into Mother’s face. “But are you willing that I should go now? Maybe I’d better wait a week or two.”
Wait, thought Flo. What for? There had never been any talk of waiting before when Mother suggested the trip.
“In a week or two the road may be closed tight as snow can make it,” Mother replied. “You usually have made the trip by now. I just realized it day before yesterday, when I had to wrap up Flo’s feet. Best go right away. The sooner you go, the sooner you will be back, and that’s the way I want it.”
There had never before been allusions to things not being just right, and it worried Flo; but in the hurried preparations for Father’s going, she forgot her misgivings. Everything but joy vanished when she looked at the long list of things for Father to buy.
The first item on the list was “A pair of shoes for Floetta”!
That night, just before she climbed into bed, Father stood her on a piece of paper on the table and traced the outline of her foot with his stubby pencil. It had tickled and she had wiggled.
“Stop now,” Father said. “You must stand still and hard. Let your foot spread out as far as it will. We don’t want those new shoes to be too little.”
Flo had gone to bed feeling that she had tried on her new shoes, and soon she would have them for keeps.
At the moment of Father’s departure, Flo recalled her misgivings, for Father seemed uncertain and hesitant.
“You’re sure you want me to go?” he asked, and Mother nodded, her face calm.
As the wagon jolted off over the rough, uneven trail, the calmness faded, and her face looked like winter, Flo thought, lonely and cold and even fearful.
The Harris family lived far away from all the settlements and towns. Father, Flo had heard it said, had poor health and the natural hot spring about a mile from the cabin was good for whatever was the matter with him. So Father and Mother had sold their livery stables and town lots and moved up to nowhere.
The cabin had been built close against the mountain where the aspen trees came down and snuggled about in a tight friendly circle, only giving way a little for the path which led down to the road a half mile away.
The trip to town usually took about five days – two to go, one in which to do the shopping, and two to make the trip home. Father spent the two nights between home and town at the Williams ranch.
Flo was sure Mother had never acted as if she were expecting Father before the fifth day before, but this time, the morning of the third day Mother began walking the half mile to the road and back again every little while. Her face looked white, and she said few words. When they knelt for prayer her petitions were urgent, and she stayed on her knees a long time.
When it was bedtime, Mother turned out the lamp, but instead of coming to bed, she sat before the fire and rocked back and forth, and sighed.
Flo was sure Mother even made the trip to the road alone that night. The pressure of her uneasiness was the most frightening thing Flo had ever endured. It was so big and real that even thoughts of the shoes were not comforting or of importance.
The morning of the fourth day, Flo awakened to the desolate sound of the wind. Mother was at the window peering out into the semidarkness. She stood there a long time before she let the curtain fall back into place.
All day the wind howled with growing fury. The windows rattled, the door shook, and it seemed that Mother bent and quivered like the trees outside – almost as if she were in pain.
And then toward evening the first snow began to fall. At its coming Mother shed her first tears, and with a cry that chilled Flo’s heart she flung open the door and ran like a frightened creature down the path to the road.
When she came back, walking heavily, the weariness on her face was still there, but the fear was gone. Things still weren’t just right, Flo decided, but it seemed Mother could and would take care of whatever was the trouble.
The prayer at mealtime was, “Please bless our Daddy and keep him safe from the storm and help us here at home.”
Flo was familiar with those words, but somehow the way Mother said them this time gave them a bigger meaning as if there was a special need right now. Flo wished she could help, and could know what had to be done, but Mother rushed the eating – her movements quick and sure. It was as if she were racing with something or someone.
When the food was eaten, Mother said, “You are to sleep in the bedroom tonight. There are a few things that need to be done before I can blow out the lamp, and I don’t want to keep you awake.”
Flo was sorry to give up the warm kitchen and Mother’s companionship, but Mother’s voice was firm, and when she pulled the door closed it was somehow important that it stay that way. Mother did open it again, though, to give her a second goodnight kiss, a gentle caress, and a sweet, sweet smile.
Above the sharp wail of the wind, Flo could catch the soft sound of her mother’s movements. The kiss and the smile had quieted her fears and her last thought was that tomorrow would bring Daddy, and Daddy would have the new, wonderful shoes.
The wind was still blowing when Flo awakened next morning, and the one bedroom window was clogged with snow. Her breath had made frost along the quilt top, but inside, the bed was snug and warm.
Then a sharp, cutting thought tore across her mind, dark as night. What if Father had not made it safely to Williams’! What if he had been caught in the storm, was even now somewhere alone in the white, howling waste! A fear more deadly than any she had known pushed and hammered at her. She must get to Mother. Together they could pray again, and wherever Father was, God would save him and bring him safely home.
Flo flung open the kitchen door and stopped there stunned and speechless. There sat Father! Father rocking gently back and forth, with a small white bundle held closely in his arms. Mother was asleep in the big bed, and on the table – on the table – was a pair of black, high-button shoes.
The whole sight was so thoroughly unexpected – so wonderful after the smothering fright, that all Flo could do was cry. Great choking sobs, that awakened Mother, and Father’s bundle began to make twittering little bird sounds, and it was all so queer that Flo kept on crying until she reached Mother’s arms and Father was bending over her. Then it was that she saw what Father was holding. It was a baby. A real, little, red-faced baby.
Her amazement dried up her tears like a blotter, and she just sat, speechless, with the most wonderful feeling welling up all through her.
Father safe, Mother with happiness on her pale face, a baby, and, yes, there were the shoes.
Oh, what joy! Was ever the world so grand! Were ever Father and Mother so dear or baby so sweet!
“Here,” Father said, “you hold him.”
“You have a little brother,” Mother said.
“Let me hold the shoes, too,” said Flo.
It was like a miracle, she thought, as she ate tiny, juicy nibbles of her first orange and wiggled her toes inside her new shoes. A miracle that Father was home. It seemed he had known the baby was coming. It hadn’t been a surprise at all to him, and so he had driven straight through to Rexburg, changing teams at the Williams’ ranch. The shopping had been hurriedly attended to, and he had started back after only a few hours rest. He had raced the storm home in time to be with Mother when the baby came.