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As It Was: John William Fitzhugh Gives New Meaning to “Barefoot”

John William Fitzhugh gave new meaning to the phrase “going barefoot.”

Fitzhugh was the grandson of Solomon Fitzhugh, an early Oregon senator who helped draft the state constitution.  Fitzhugh spent many years in the early 1900s working on the family dairy farm, laboring in mines along the Sixes and Rogue Rivers, and exploring the region’s rugged wilderness.

Fitzhugh liked to tell a tall tale about the day he was mining near Illahe on the lower Rogue. His provisions were running low, and when he got hungry, he went hunting.  John’s shoes were worn out, so he took them off and went barefoot.  Pretty soon, he discovered black-bear tracks, or what he thought were bear tracks.  He followed them for hours without encountering the big animal.  When he scrutinized the tracks more carefully, he realized that the bearfoot tracks he’d been following the whole day were really his own barefoot prints.

When Fitzhugh later recounted his tall tale, he embellished even more, saying, “I don’t know what would have happened if I’d caught up with myself, as I’m a pretty good shot.”

Sources: Oregon WPA Project. Oregon: End Of The Trail. Portland, Ore., Binfords & Mort, 1940, pp. 325-26; Fitzhugh, John K. Fitzhugh, An American Family, edited by John K. Fitzhugh, Wordpress, www.cigararmy.com/fitzhugh.htm. Accessed 27 Dec. 2017.

Valerie Ing was a teenager when she hosted her first music program on the airwaves. As a student at SOU, she was JPR’s Chief Student Announcer and the first volunteer in our newsroom. She's now JPR’s Northern California Program Coordinator, hosting Siskiyou Music Hall from JPR's Redding studio in the Cascade Theatre.