Twelve-year-old Andrew Buecher worked with 26 volunteers on Saturday picking up trash along a 3.5-mile section of the Mokelumne River and came away with the most unusual find.
A platform shoe. Red patent leather. With a white patent leather belt looped through the strap.
It was lying in some groundcover, still shiny and almost new, said Amanda Nelson, the executive director of Foothill Conservancy said, prompting lots of imaginative stories about how it came to be there, beside this river that had just been named wild and scenic by the state of California.
A drag queen perhaps. A lady of the evening who sipped champagne from it with her date.
“We were wondering,” Nelson said. “It was really interesting.”
But there also was a love letter lying elsewhere on the ground, ripped into pieces so small you could only read individual words — love, mad, pain. They tried to put it back together but the pieces were too small, Nelson said.
“The handwriting was beautiful, like a teacher’s handwriting, old school,” she said.
There were also some angel wings, which Nelson promptly put on her dog, Flora.
And in another area, the remnants of a long abandoned homeless camp, which the volunteers dismantled, blankets and clothes and trash.
It was all among the 465 pounds of trash and recyclables taken from the Electra Run.
When the cleanup was done, the volunteers and Foothill Conservancy staff had a hot dog cookout on Vaught’s Beach. Buecher was given his Munnerlyn’s Ice Creamery gift certificate for most unusual find.
Nelson said it was one of the most successful cleanup, with more than twice as many people participating as last year.
“With the wild and scenic designation, it’s on the minds of people. The river is used for so much,” she said.