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James R. Stout

The Old Wooden Bridge

            There’s a wooden bridge not far from my house. The bridge as it stands now was built about 20 years ago. But there has been a wooden bridge over that creek for as long as I can remember and long before that. My grandfather owned the land that the county road is on and in the 1920’s he gave a strip of his land to the county to build a road. It was a good deal for both parties. I suspect that there wasn’t a bridge on that road until the county built one in the 1920’s. Grandpa wouldn’t have been able to build one. I do know that 100 years ago that creek wasn’t nearly as big or deep as it is now. Grandpa most likely forded the creek in two or three spots in order to get from one part of his farm to another. I do know that there was what they called “a lane” along the general path of what would be the road going back to the late 1890’s. It was a simple wagon track.

            Grandpa’s property started at a “Y” in the road and ended at another “Y”. The south part of the lane was known as the “John Russell Flats” and was named for the landowner where the lane joined up with Grandpa’s land. John Russell was related to us on my Grandmother’s side, but to what degree I’m not sure. I know that her mother was a Russell. When we had family reunions when I was growing up it was for the Shaw-Russell side of the family. Those reunions started in about 1935 and were held every year until 1967, the year my grandfather died. They continued in 1968 and lasted through 1972, but due to the generation that had started them becoming too old to organize the reunions or too many of that generation dying, the reunions ceased in 1972. To be honest, they were never the same to me after Grandpa died. We had fun at the ones in 1968, 1969, and 1970, but due to another death near the time of the reunion in 1971 that year was canceled. The last gasp was in 1972. Yet another couple of deaths in 1973 just put an end to them. I digressed there.

            The wooden bridge before the current bridge had been around for at least 50 years. It was the bridge that we crossed so many times to get to and from my grandparent’s farm. I have some very fond memories of that bridge. When we visited the folks, how many ever of us kids that were there would always walk to the bridge together. It was about 3/10’s of mile from the farmhouse. The best times were when it would be me, my sisters, and my two cousins, David and Phil. We would have a great time just being together out in the country. When we got to the bridge, we would toss small rocks into the creek and there were times you could fish off that bridge, but I never fished. Not my bag. Generally, we would get to the bridge and one of us would say, “Let’s keep walking up to the top of the hill.” The hill was where my grandfather had a gate entrance into the pastures. We’d get to the top of the hill and someone would say, “Let’s walk on down to the “Y”. That would put us about ¾ of mile from the farmhouse. If it was a hot day, then we would get to hoping Grandpa would come along in his truck and we could hitch a ride on the tailgate back home. There was a love among us that none of realized at the time. I look back on those days now and think of how much fun we had together. Sadly, if the four survivors were together today at the farmhouse, I doubt that we’d make it to that bridge as a unit. I know that my sister couldn’t make it. David and I would, but we’d both be hobbling more than anything. Philip probably can still get around pretty good. He lives in Alaska and that means he’s a bit heartier than us!

            Sometimes those days seem like just a week ago and sometimes they seem a lifetime ago. The great part for me is that I drive that road several times a week. Given it’s a dirt road and not exactly maintained as well as it should be, I have to drive slowly. But in a way, that’s ok. I drive that road and it’s like those days when we walked it. It’s not quite as shady as it once was due to there was a pine beetle problem about 30 years ago that killed off a number of trees. But it’s still pretty shady in places and when I go across that creek a flood of memories comes rushing through. Pun intended. My mother used to talk about how they all walked on that road and across that bridge when she was a little girl. Well, when my kids were still at home, I used to bring them and stay at the farmhouse for a weekend or a week of vacation. We would all walk down to that bridge together and it was déjà vu all over again. I even have pictures that I took of my daughter walking with me on that road to that bridge when she was expecting her first child. I’ve certainly driven that road with my granddaughters over the past few years, but it hasn’t occurred to me to walk it with them like we did. Not until now. Next time they are up here I think I’ll have to do that. I may have to use my cane, but so be it. It will be 5 generations in our family to have done that. All this about a simple wooden bridge and an old dirt road! But isn’t it true that the simple things, the things that are free gifts from God, are the best part of life?

 

This is how the road once looked.

This is the actual road with the farmhouse visible through the trees.

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