Famous ‘shoe tree’ chopped down by dastardly vandals

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Has someone declared war on America's beloved shoe trees? (And we're not talking about this version of "shoe tree.")

The world's largest shoe tree -- located along U.S. 50 in Nevada about 125 miles east of Reno -- was callously chopped down by vandals. And last summer, a well-known shoe tree in Idaho burned to the ground.

Nevada's landmark shoe tree -- a spot where travelers on "the loneliest road in America" have stopped for decades to deposit their boots, sneakers, pumps and even roller blades -- is rumored to have come into being years ago after a quarreling couple tossed each others' shoes into the 70-foot cottonwood tree on their wedding night. Others, for some reason, felt compelled to follow suit, and soon a full-fledged phenomenon was born.

[Incredible photos: See a cube-shaped, 'invisible' treehouse]

(You can check out a gallery of earlier photos of the Nevada tree here.)

Indeed, shoe trees have become a quirky slice of Americana often sought out by generations of road-trippers. Roadside America -- which bills itself as an "online guide to offbeat tourist attractions" -- wrote that shoe trees "may be the greatest embodiment of the American Spirit you can find on the highway" and explained how they flourish thusly:

A shoe tree starts with one dreamer, tossing his or her footwear-of-old high into the sky, to catch on an out-of-reach branch. It usually end there, unseen and neglected by others. But on rare occasions, that first pair of shoes triggers a shoe tossing cascade. Soon, teens are gathering up their old Adidas and Sauconys, families are driving out after church with Dad's Reeboks and grandma's Keds. Many inscribe messages on the sneakers in permanent marker -- greetings, love poems and life accomplishments.

The Associated Press reports that the Middlegate, Nevada, shoe tree was cut down late Thursday or early Friday and that "fresh sawdust was found on the snow" by authorities. A memorial for the tree will be held by local residents on Feb. 13.

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