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Standley White

The Shoe Tree Murder

By January 8, 2011

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Nevada's famous Shoe Tree, a 70-foot cottonwood that stood next to U.S. 50 about 100 miles east of Reno, was brought down by one or more vandals sometime around December 30, 2010. This despicable destruction put an end to a tradition of 30+ years standing when local residents and passers by stopped to toss pairs of shoes into the tree's branches or to just enjoy the unusual landmark along The Loneliest Road in America. According to some reports I've seen, this Shoe Tree was the largest example of it's type in the nation.

Nevada's famous Shoe Tree, east of Reno.
Nevada's famous Shoe Tree, east of Reno.
Photo © Stan White

The chainsawing of the Shoe Tree sparked outrage from residents at nearby Old Middlegate Station and throughout Nevada. It even gained national attention over the news wires, an indication of just how widespread is knowledge of the Shoe Tree. The owner of Old Middlegate Station, Fredda Stevenson, is planning a public Shoe Tree memorial at the site on Sunday, February 13, from 2:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.

The vandal(s) may not have known it at the time, but they committed a federal crime by downing the Shoe Tree. It stood on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) public land within the U.S. 50 right-of-way held by the Nevada Department of Transportation (NDOT). That means both federal officers and the Churchill County Sheriff's Office are on their tail. People with any information or tips should call the BLM Nevada Record-A-Crime hotline at 1-800-521-6501. You can also report anything you may know to the Churchill County Sheriff's Office at (775) 423-3116. Let's catch and prosecute these criminals.

Sources: Reno Gazette-Journal, Nevada Bureau of Land Management.

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January 8, 2011 at 6:05 pm
(1) Chuck says:

I’m not big on leaving comments but I’ll take exception here because I’d like to know what kind of sick minds think it’s amusing to cut down a tree. I hope someone finds these SOB’s and takes a chain saw to them in the same manner.

January 10, 2011 at 11:08 pm
(2) John Ridge says:

I can understand a lot of things but something like this I can’t. What possible pleasure or benefit would someone receive from cutting down a famous tree or any tree for that matter. This is part of what makes America great.

January 11, 2011 at 2:44 pm
(3) Ron says:

This was one of my favorite things from all the travels my wife and I have done on the road in America. It simply captivated everyone who drove by it–they all invariably turned, stared, stopped, and came back to look and take a photo with it. I got to see it twice–once in fall and once in the spring. I even had a friend do painting of it which is on my office wall. I guess I should feel lucky to have seen it at all….

What purpose other than to be hateful and destructive does this serve? I’m sure these people will go on to commit other crimes against animals and children. The type of mind that conceives of taking this kind of action is the type that moves all to easily on to other acts of pure hate and destruction since they take pleasure in the pain of others.

Some will say it’s just a tree, but it meant a lot more to me as it stood tall and proud in the middle of nowhere on highway 50 providing an odd sense of joy and happiness for the thousands who had a chance to be in its presence over the past 30 years. Rest in peace tree….

January 13, 2011 at 5:59 pm
(4) Tina says:

I agree with Ron. Who could do such a thing to something that brought so much joy to thousands of people. I was at the tree again for my third time this last summer, but this time I brought shoes, wrote on them, and tossed them into the tree. I thought how neat is was that a part of me was out in the middle of nowhere and that if my shoes fell out of the tree that someone might try to contact me. Just like a message in a bottle.
I cried when I heard about the tree being cut down. I have such wonderful memories. I had just blown up my tree picture and framed it to put in my house, and I gave one as a gift this Christmas to my boyfriend who was with me when I saw the tree all three times. A piece of me died when I heard about someone cutting the tree. Sounds strange, the memories are priceless. So sad that generations to come will not be able to enjoy such a unique piece of Americana.
I hope the Feds, police, or lynch mob get these idiots. People like that do not deserve to be walking around feeling all smug when people are feeling so sad.

February 6, 2011 at 6:03 pm
(5) Jolene says:

I will miss that shoe tree. Both of my children tossed shoes in that tree. That is a lonely highway but I would choose that drive every time I drove to reno from where I live in Illinois just took look at that tree.. I hope they find the people responsible.

August 1, 2013 at 11:40 am
(6) jwilson says:

That is very sad news. My buddies and I saw the shoe tree in 2004 while passing by headed west on that incredible highway. We added a couple pairs our selves. why?

August 1, 2013 at 6:13 pm
(7) Joe Schebler says:

Thats really sad, it was a fun little stop there on the Loneliest Road in America, had hopes of doing it again someday.

January 7, 2014 at 11:07 pm
(8) Deanna Hunter says:

I accidentally stumbled onto this article and what a shock. It is now 2014 and what a sad thing to find out. We are getting ready to leave for California from Colorado. Every time we take this trip this is one of the highlights of the drive. No matter what time of day or night, we always stopped at the shoe tree. Our son added a pair of shoes to her attire too. I have some beautiful pictures of her and we will miss her immensely. I hope they caught the creeps that did this and I pray they went to jail for it.

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