by Chester Carl Ambrose
I was fifteen years of age when it all started.I lived in the hills of West Virginia.
One day as I was on my way to the store for my mother’s order of a poke of potatoes. I came to this old man lying in the road. He had an ugly bump on this forehead. As I got closer he tried to sit up shaking his head. I asked if I could help. He replied that he would need some help to stand up. Being large for my age I had no trouble helping him to stand. He was not too steady on his feet. I asked him where he lived. He pointed to a high hill off to our left. I saw the trail head and knew the climb would be difficult for him. I told him I would assist him to get to his home. With great effort on the part of both of us we made it. His home was one of those log cabins found in all parts of these hills.
The old man, I learned, was called Sam. When I asked Sam for his last name he replied, “Just Sam”.
When we entered the cabin there was this wonderful smell. . .leather. The cabin floor was covered with all sizes of cut-up leather. Over a strange looking stool hung larger pieces of leather. My surprised look on my face caused Sam to speak.
“This explains why people call me Sam the Cobbler–now my friend tell me your full name.”
Before I could answer my eyes fixed on the shelves in a small room to my right. There were shoes and more shoes of all types and sizes.
Your full name, boy!” Sam said in a loud voice.
“Oh, excuse me Sam. My full name is William Hatfield but people just call me Will.”
“All right, Will, why are you so taken in with my shoes that your eyes have not gone off them?” asked Sam.
“Sam, I never had a pair of shoes in my whole life.” I replied
“I know, said Sam, that’s the way it is with you hill folk. That is why my shelves are so full: no customers. Will, let me return your good deed by making a pair of shoes.”
I asked,“Why make a pair? Wouldn’t any of those in there fit?”
“No, it has to be special. You see Wil everyone’s feet are unique. Often one foot is a little bite bigger than the other then there is the problem of flat feet,high arches,narrow ankles and a matter of fact some people have more than five toes on each foot.”
“NOT ME—just look” I exclaimed.
“Let’s get down to measuring.I’ll have these done in a couple of days.They will be brown oxfords with good strong laces.”
I could not contain my excitement . MY VERY FIRST PAIR OF SHOES!
“You come back dressed in your very best get up this Thursday,” ordered Sam. I did and you can not imagine what happened after I put on THE SHOES!
Sam told me to look at myself in the full length mirror. I looked at my-Sunday-go-to-church clothes and I never looked better. I seemed to be taller. It was all because of the shoes!
“Sam, Sam they are wonderful!” I exclaimed.
“Now what will you do William Hatfield?” asked Sam.
Without hesitation I said to Sam words that even surprised me. “Sam I’m leaving these hills”.
Good for you, the shoes will serve you well.” replied Sam.
Wheeling, Pittsburgh then to New York each city was a venture into adulthood. I now live in Chapel Hill, North Carolina where I write stories about my early years. I look at my library shelf, there under a glass dome, are a pair of well worn brown oxfords. Yes, Sam they indeed served me well.
Chester Carl Ambrose was a storyteller and teacher in California. We are grateful for this story he shared back with us in 2005.
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