Ouch! Every summer I gaze back to when I curled my toes in warm sand of south Georgia streets and welcomed a summer shower and its puddles. The puddles became lakes for sailing match box boats.
We made frog houses by packing sand around a foot, extracting the foot, leaving a tiny cave.
Shoes were not required in school. Our desks were kept in lines and rows by nails driven into the dark hardwood floor. Kids stepped on the nails, of course.
I suspect the same floors remain in the building awaiting a new purpose. They were cleaned using sweeping compound made of sawdust and oil or wax.
The custodian scattered the compound on the floor, and the dust and dirt stuck to it rather than floating around and resettling.
As we walked into our rooms, the first thing we noticed was the smell of the compound. It was more organic than chemical, and on the rare times I smell it, I'm demoted back to the first grade.
Sweeping compound is still used in businesses and homes. Some people make their own.
After gingerly walking tender-footed for a few days, our soles toughened up, and by mid-summer they would carry us over just about anything.
The skin over the heel is thick, but since it is the first thing that contacts the ground, “stone bruises” were common.
Walking in sandy soil was easy but further north the land is different.
Middle Georgia soil becomes clay with granite and quartz. In most of Georgia there is no top soil.
Kids learned to pick up their feet as they walked because when a toe and a rock meet, the toe loses. It was routine to see a kid with his big toe bound up in a strip of cloth.
I've mentioned Uncle Guy Phillips, and one of his oddities was that in late summer he plowed barefooted. At night he and Hugh Webb plowed by moon light: And barefooted.
Further north there is clay mixed with flint and is called chert.
Chert packs down and was discovered to be a perfect medium for durable road surfaces. There are still chert roads in north Georgia.
The material is cheap, if not free, and the major expense is hauling and packing it, but you have a surface to nearly the consistency of a paved road.
Chert is not good for walking barefoot. The flint has little broken edges creating tiny cuts, some so small they are barely visible.
I thought I'd get started going barefooted on my recent birthday, so I left my shoes by the door and headed for the mailbox.
I didn't get far.