Recently, a friend was telling me that her mother, a most charming Southern woman, had to give up her high heels. She is 76 and the loss for her has been immense.
“She wore them three or four years longer than she might oughta have,” she said.
It’s hard to accurately describe my love affair with high heels. When I was a sports writer, I wore them on the sidelines of many a football game. At least twice, I was able to outrun a couple of running backs who were forced into the sidelines by the defensive line.
In all the years that I was in NASCAR, I never once went to the track that I wasn’t wearing heels at least three inches high. One year, back in the days when Daytona’s Firecracker 400 was run on July 4th beginning at 10 a.m. and lasting until 2 p.m. or so, I was dressed in a red pencil straight skirt and high heels.
I was in the pits, watching the scoring board. None of my Buick drivers were in the top five. With two laps to go – and thinking that a Chevy was winning – I sauntered down pit road, heading back to the garage area when I noticed a lot of tension in Bobby Allison’s pits. He was one of my drivers.
“Why are y’all so anxious?” I asked one of my friends on Bobby’s crew.
“Because we’re about to win this race!”
I glanced at the scoring board then looked back at him. “No, you’re not. Bobby’s a lap down.”
“The board’s wrong. He’s leading the race!”
My heart stopped. I was at least a half of a mile from the garage area and the truck where my Buick hats were stored. This was my most important job: Getting a Buick hat on a driver when he pulled into Winner’s Circle so we could get press coverage.
It was a hundred degrees and there I was in high heels – but I took off a-runnin’ like a bear was chasing me. This is a pretty unusual sight – a woman in a skirt and heels running through the pits. The guys watched as I ran past them, urging me on, “Run, girl, run!”
I made it to the truck, got the hats, and ran over a half mile back in the same heels and heat. I got into Winner’s Circle just as Bobby pulled in. I plopped the hat on him as soon as he came out of the car then sank to the ground beside the car. Bobby was in a very good mood, having just won the race, so he looked down and laughed. “What’s wrong with you?”
“Don’t ask,” I replied as I fought back total collapse.
Even that incident didn’t drive me toward wearing more sensible shoes. I had been an admirer of a woman, well into her eighties, who was late for church every Sunday morning. Normally, she would arrive about 15 minutes before the sermon ended. Ceremoniously, she’d throw open the front door then prance down the aisle. She was always exquisitely dressed and tottered quite well in a pair of very high heels. She was my hero, to the extent that I immortalized her in my first book.
About three years ago, I went to visit at the hospital. I got on the elevator with a woman who was probably somewhere in her sixties. She cast an eye downward to my high heels.
“I used to wear heels like that,” she said in a somewhat angry tone. Then hatefully she continued, “Enjoy them while you can.”
“If I get to where I can’t wear high heels,” I replied. “I’ve told everyone to just shoot me like a downed horse and put me out of my misery.”
She didn’t laugh … which was good because I wasn’t joking.
[Ronda Rich is the best-selling author of “Mark My Words: A Memoir of Mama.” Visit www.rondarich.com to sign up for her free weekly newsletter.]