by Mirah W. (mwelday)
Warning: This post begins with my stream of consciousness thought process. Please bear with me, it gets easier to understand. Well, at least, in my mind it does.
Let’s see…Moon Day….schmoon day…what’s that about? Google…ah, Armstrong walking on the moon. That’s boring. Or cool. Conspiracy. Space race. What are those Russians up to these days? Apollo has landed. Ok. Landed. Land…walking on land connected to moon would be what? Moonwalk? Haha…don’t want to write about Michael Jackson. New Moon…um, no. Comanche Moon…oh, I love that book. Woodrow. Augustus. Lonesome Dove. No, Comanche Moon. Famous Shoes! I love him! And he walks on land in a book called Moon. Can I use that? Sure, why not.
So that’s how it happened. That’s how I got the topic for today’s holiday blog post for Moon Day. This post is dedicated to Famous Shoes, the Kickapoo tracker in the books Comanche Moon and Streets of Laredo, two books in the Lonesome Dove series by Larry McMurtry. If you haven’t read them, well, I honestly don’t know what to say to you except…go on PBS and request them. Now. You won’t be sorry. The series is one of the best I have ever read.
Famous Shoes is one of those characters I remember long after I’ve finished reading. To be honest, lots of characters from the Lonesome Dove series are in this category but Famous Shoes is special. He had a relatively limited role compared to the other, more prominent, characters in McMurtry’s works but I think his quiet excellence is what made him so wonderful and unforgettable. There are several traits that make Famous Shoes one of my all-time favorite book characters: he is dependable, independent, curious, introspective and not afraid of a good journey. Plus, he inspired a shoe obsession for me but I’ll get to that later.
Famous Shoes was known for his ability to move quickly and show up unexpectedly. ‘Famous Shoes was a slight man with a deceptive gait. He never seemed to hurry, yet he had no trouble keeping up with a troop of horsemen’ (McMurtry, p. 33). Famous Shoes walked to his own beat, I guess you could say, but he always completed his task. Captain Inish Scull would trust Famous Shoes to be away tracking for days and never thought Famous Shoes would fail to return or leave them in the lurch. For a man who did not trust anyone, it seemed Scull put trust in Famous Shoes. It’s his quiet dignity and sense of purpose, I think, that made Famous Shoes trustworthy and dependable.
Curiosity and search for knowledge sets Famous Shoes apart from the other characters in Comanche Moon. He was, without a doubt, independent in his search for knowledge: ‘The man would walk a thousand miles to listen to a certain bird whose call he might want to mimic’ (p. 108). I admire Famous Shoes for going against the grain and doing his own thing. He didn’t care if people thought he was crazy for taking on seemingly pointless treks. He learned from his journeys and sometimes the education came from the journey itself and not the destination. I sometimes go to places and do things others don’t agree with or they think are pointless, but you know what, those journeys make me a better person. I think Famous Shoes shared my way of thinking.
Famous Shoes was a journeyer. I believe that’s part of the reason why I connect so much with him. In one of my favorite passages of Comanche Moon, the reader learns more about Famous Shoes’ journeying spirit:
‘The journeys people took had always interested him; his own life was a constant journeying, though not quite so constant as it had been before he had his wives and children. Usually he only agreed to scout for the Texans if they were going in a direction he wanted to go himself, in order to see a particular hill or stream, to visit a relative or friend, or just to search for a bird or animal he wanted to observe.
Also, he often went back to places he had been at earlier times in his life, just to see if the places would seem the same. In most cases, because he himself had changed, the places did not seem exactly as he remembered them, but there were exceptions. The simplest places, where there was only rock and sky, or water and rock, changed the least. When he felt disturbances in his life, as all men would, Famous Shoes tried to go back to one of the simple places, the places of rock and sky, to steady himself and grow calm again’ (p. 548).
In my life I move often and I think I have a journeying spirit like Famous Shoes. Part of my journey is sometimes looking back to places I’ve been before and things I have experienced. Living in different places has taught me lessons on so many things: independence, compassion, resilience, patience, understanding, friendship and love. When things in life seem confusing or overwhelming, I like to think back to simple times. My ‘water and rock’ is Hickam Beach in Hawaii…going on my own, enjoying the sunshine and sound of the ocean. My ‘sky and rock’ is Misawa, Japan…looking out from our balcony at hawks floating by, the mountains and beautiful sunsets.
Ever since I read Comanche Moon I had in my mind a picture of what Famous Shoes’ boots would look like. I saw them as a fawn brown with fringe. For years I wanted what I called ‘Famous Shoes Boots’. I don’t know why I wanted them; maybe I thought I would be infused with the wisdom of my favorite Kickapoo if I had the right shoes. But as much as I searched I couldn’t seem to find what I was looking for. For years my husband heard me mention them. I would look online at moccasins and boots and he would hear my ‘no, not quite’ comments. I think he thought I would never be satisfied.
During a trip to Kyoto last year for my birthday my husband and I were walking to our hotel and he nudged my arm and said ‘Famous Shoes!’ I was like, ‘Where?! What?!’ He pointed to a Japanese girl walking nearby who had on the boots I’d been looking for. I couldn’t believe it….would I find my boots in Japan?! A couple of days later on the way back to our hotel after dinner we saw a shoe store and THE boots were in the window. My husband urged me inside to try them on and I walked out with my ‘Famous Shoes Boots’!
First of all, my husband is great. I’ll just interject that observation here. Amongst the throng of people walking the streets of Kyoto, he was the one who first spotted those boots and he actually remembered the name Famous Shoes. And two, now I feel one step closer to being a journeyer of purpose. I may not have gained all of Famous Shoes’ wisdom when I put them on, but the boots remind me of the importance of the journeys in my life. And trust me, the fact that I found the boots while on a journey was not lost on me. I wore the boots home after our trip. I even took a picture of them while at the airport; I’ve included it here so you can gawk at my level of obsession.
In conclusion, I say: Walk on like Famous Shoes. Find your purpose and what makes you happy and keep on trekking. Whether you’re searching for answers or a place to feel at peace, keep on looking. Whether it takes you to the moon or the house next door, be open to the journey.
Cited: McMurtry, Larry. Comanche Moon. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2010.