Thirteen Holes


There’s a first time for everything: your first kiss, first real romantic relationship, first car, and first home. The list is endless but doesn’t stop just because you get older.

We more seasoned folks can still have first time experiences as surprising and exciting as those when we were young. Just when I thought there couldn’t possibly be any firsts left out there for me to experience, last weekend happened.

I had to admit I’ve been wrong.

My “wrongness” isn’t a new thing — it’s been ongoing since 2002. But before we get to what I’ve been wrong about for so long, I first have to say that we were right. My three brothers and I were right a long, long time ago on that old familiar street not so far away called Flamingo. And I believe someone owes us a whole lot of money.

But what does any of this have to do with thirteen holes? Everything. Confused? Read on, Dear Reader, all will be clear soon.

This story starts where a lot of our adventures started, in the forests of Flamingo Street. Cripple Creek ran the length of Flamingo through the forest behind the houses on the right side of the street. Deep in spots, wide in others, with huge trees lining its banks, and limbs big enough to tie a rope swing to, Cripple Creep was a wet paradise for any kid.

Throughout the summer, we kids would spend hours playing in the shallows, daring each other to stick hands in holes that riddled the banks, using ropes to swing across, and getting shoes sucked off in the gray clay muck that was its creek bed.

For a kid growing up on Flamingo, Cripple Creek was the perfect creek to play in. For any mom who lived on Flamingo, especially ours, it wasn’t. Pebbles left in pockets, torn clothes, and socks and shoes covered in sticky mud were just a few things Mom didn’t like about our playing in the creek.

Pockets could be emptied, torn clothes repaired, but the one thing Mom couldn’t fix was our shoes. She refused to put them in the dryer, so our shoes didn’t have time to dry out before the next day.

Dad’s refusal.

For the first two summers spent on Flamingo, Mom fought the wet shoe thing. Then at the start of the third summer, the brakes on my bike failed. Flying down the steep hill of Flamingo towards the cul-de-sac, I couldn’t stop. Jumping off I surely would die, so I dragged the toes of my tennis shoes on the pavement using them as a makeshift braking system.

It worked!

Unfortunately, my shoes now had a huge hole in the front. Dad thought it was a reckless thing to do and told me to wear them for the rest of the summer, refusing to buy new shoes until we went back to school that fall.

An accidental discovery.

All that summer I wore those tennis shoes with the giant hole in the front, and I loved them. Not only did the hole provide great ventilation keeping my feet cooler during the summer, but they also never filled with water.

Even after spending hours playing and wading through Cripple Creek, when I got out, the water just drained right out! Because they didn’t hold water, my shoes were the only ones that could dry out before the next day of fun. It wasn’t long before all the kids on Flamingo had giant holes in the front of their summertime tennis shoes.

A missed fortune.

We never thought about selling our giant hole shoes. And why would we? Dad said they were worthless. Besides, who would want to buy shoes with a giant hole in the front that provided good ventilation and let water drain out?

Thirteen holes later.

Flamingo and those times spent down at Cripple Creek were long ago. Still, I’ve waded through a few creeks as an adult and each time had the same problem — wet shoes. The solution wasn’t one large hole in the shoe — it was thirteen.

In 2002, the thirteen-hole shoe was invented and, despite Dad saying no one would buy a shoe with one giant hole, the holey shoe was an instant hit.

The aquatic shoe has made millions for the three inventers, and my brothers and I should get a commission. After all, we invented holes in shoes a long, long time ago on that old familiar street not so far away called Flamingo.

You always remember your first.

Last weekend was a first for me. I bought my first pair of those odd-looking shoes with the funny name and thirteen holes. And no, even though I really like the new Barbie movie and our two granddaughters pleaded with me to buy them, my new shoes are not pink. They are a manly army green. Me wearing pink shoes? Now that would be a first — a first I’m just not willing to try on.

Then again … there’s always a first for everything.

[Rick Ryckeley has been writing stories weekly in The Citizen since 2001.]