Lane Tuck's big toes stick out of his decaying shoes as he shuffles his feet toward the Great Salt Lake.
After months of abuse soaking up sweat, sun and soil Tuck's once caramel-colored suede sneakers have turned to shades of green, and they're covered in grime that even duct tape can't conquer.
But not enough.
Ten-year-old Tuck has a tested recipe for getting his shoes to smell bad enough to hopefully win the national Odor-Eaters Rotten Sneaker Contest and there are still a few final ingredients like salt water he needs to add before he flies to Vermont on Saturday to compete.
"We need that grime down by the rocks," Tuck's mother, Paula, calls to him as he ambles toward the water. He wiggles his feet around in the sand, then plunges into the water and kicks up a cloud of dead brine shrimp a must for smelly shoes.
"He needs to work on them some more, but I think he'll get there," Tuck's 14-year-old sister, Katharine says with satisfaction as she watches her little brother follow in her footsteps literally.
Katharine Tuck was the winner last year, with shoes so putrid that the NASA odorologist judge who smelled them said they were the worst he'd ever come across. This year, her little brother will bring her champion shoes with him, back to Vermont, where they will be inducted into Odor-Eaters' "hall of fumes."
It's an honor, no doubt, for Katharine a model student to receive such recognition, but the real reward will be for Katharine's mother, who finally will be rid of the stench of another pair of old sneakers.
"We are keeping (Katharine's) shoes and (Lane's) shoes in Hefty one-zip bags to keep the odor controlled," Paula Tuck said. "It's mostly so we don't have to smell it. I took a whiff of Lane's shoes last night and got nauseous. It's putrid, and currently, they're wet, so it's just bad."
If the Tooele boy wins Tuesday's stinky shoe competition, he'll bring home $2,500 and win a trip to New York City. The fourth grader is already planning to buy a violin and a laptop with his winnings, though he's facing some pretty stiff competition in the contest: teenage boys.
"He's a very confident young man," Paula Tuck said. "He doesn't worry about the competition. But realistically, I remember having 15-year-old brothers and how badly their shoes stunk. ... I keep trying to keep him grounded and not count on winning."
Even if Lane Tuck doesn't win, that doesn't mean Paula Tuck's days of smelling old shoes are over. All of her children are aspiring to stinky shoe status which Paula Tuck insists is not a Tuck family trait, but it comes only through hard work and dedicated effort.
Tuck says he doesn't plan to do anything different with his next pair of shoes, contest or not."I'll still go in the mud and the Salt Lake and stuff," Tuck says as he eyes the dead brine shrimp caught in the sole of his shoe under his toe. "I'll still do all the same stuff I do now."
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