When I was a kid the first versions of Nike Air tennis shoes were released. It was paradigm shifting. Actual pockets of air were in the sole of the shoes. Man, they were they slick, and everybody wanted a pair.
Of course, I did not expect to get Nike Air when my dad took me shoe shopping. However, when we reached the sporting goods store, I found a pair of high tops that had air pockets like the Nike’s. Much to my surprise, my dad agreed that I could get them. I was the happiest kid on the block.
I couldn’t wait to get home. We pulled the car into the garage, I burst out with shoes in hand, and ran into the house.
“Brother, Brother. Look at my new shoes”, I said, “They have air pockets just like the Nike’s!” My older brother approached skeptically and took a shoe from the box.
“You idiot”, he said, “these aren’t air bubbles. It’s just plastic. Those are just cheap L.A. Gear’s. Stupid!”
My heart was broken, but only for the moment. Once I put on my high-top tennis shoes, it didn’t matter they weren’t Nike’s. My dad had bought them for me, and I loved them.
The following summer, I went on a father son Y.M.C.A. trip to Colorado. I wore my L.A. Gear tennis shoes and was filled with the spirit of adventure. Take in mind, I was only nine years old, very much a fragile child. However, I did not hesitate to sign up for the climb to the Keyhole on Long’s Peak. It was 10 mile hike up an incredible elevation. It was not a novice ascent, but I welcomed the challenge.
We started the climb just after daybreak. We had a group of six. Four of which were grown men. The other kid, Jacob, was older, a teenager.
We were delighted as we hiked through the evergreens. However, as we passed above the tree line the sun became a menace, and we stopped to apply sunscreen. Resting for only a moment, we then continued to zig-zag up the mountain, ground hogs kept us company.
By the time we reached the bolder field, I was quit weary. I did not know if I could make it. However, I could see our destination in the distance and pushed forward. I leaped from boulder to boulder. My mother would not have been pleased if she knew what I was doing. After I passed the boulder field, we came to a 200-foot vertical cliff.
I was nervous to make the climb but did not hesitate. The Keyhole was just above the cliff. I reached high pulling myself on to each ledge, and before I knew it, I was on top of the world. I looked down of the opposite side of the mountain. The cliff face dropped thousands of feet into a valley. I had made it.
We lingered for a short time. Then began our decent. We climbed down the ledges and crossed back over the boulder field. I was out front setting the pace. The group followed-quiet and tired. As we hiked, the glory of nature permeated our spirits, but we kept hearing a squishing sound.
“What is that?” one of the dad’s asked. Jacob, who was having trouble keeping up, spoke with embarrassment.
“My shoes. The air bubbles popped.” The men laughed, and I couldn’t help smiling.
I had never been so tired in my life, but I made it to the bottom and back to camp. As I sat in the lodge that night, I pried my shoes from my feet. My ankles were swollen, and my arches ached. I looked at the soles. The tread was completely worn off, but they had held up. They had brought me to the mountain top and safely back home. They were the best shoes I ever owned!
Written by: Brett Wiley