Lisa Bondurant

My photo
I spend my time raising kids, gathering eggs, cutting wood, scoping out trees for tapping, making syrup in the last days of winter, watching my garden NOT grow in the summer, writing, wishing that there were more hours on the clock for sleeping.

Monday, March 12, 2012

A Bridge To Cross The Rippling Waters

Photo from old wooden bridge

          I remember a sunny day when I was very little, standing by my father's knee and listening intently to the conversation above me, yes above me, I was that little! My father was speaking to a neighbor, an old farmer who often came into the "Springs" to check the cows that grazed adjacent to my parent's property. They were speaking of the "Old Wooden Bridge". If you said  The Old Wooden Bridge to anyone that knew Rawley then they knew of what you spoke, if they didn't then they had no business being in the Springs. A small lovely, yet almost unnoticed bridge made of wood that spanned the rippling clear waters of the Gum and offered the perfect place to sometimes view the rare native trout or to stand safely above the raging waters of spring. The bridge was so thin in profile, 8 to 10 inches of wood running horizontally , the support beams all but unnoticed. Occasionally neighbors would ask back and forth if the other thought a heavy load could come across like cement trucks.
"Don't have any worries about that bridge!" the farmer stated and looked over his shoulder towards the bridge a few feet away."It is made to last."
 The old farmer laughed and looked back to my father and I knew a story was coming so I listened closely. "My father called on my brother and me to build that bridge one summer. We didn't much care to as it was summer, but..." he shrugged and laughed giving my father a sheepish grin that said he had better things to do in summer than make bridge, but of what better he would not speak of in front of little ears.
 "We did as we were told, my brother and me and we worked, just the three of us, on that bridge for half the summer." His shoulders raised quickly in a shrug and a laugh that told us he was a little proud of the accomplishment. "Barclay, we did it right and I wouldn't worry about taking any load across it! Ain't no flood taken it yet" he glanced again to the bridge and his voice dropped in that subtle way that gave an edge of mystery and danger, "...even though they have tried! Seen it covered over twice, but when the waters go down the bridge is there! The road might be gone around it but the bridge is there!."
 Even at my young age I knew the floods and power of which he spoke. My father loved to watch the floods as I did  and always brought the whole brood of us down to see the raging floods waters that ripped down through the mountain valley to leap and snap at the two bridges that accessed our mountain community. Fear and excitement settled down onto me like heavy mist from the words floating above, words like "worst flood I've seen" and "took out bridges bigger then this" " but this little bridge stood fast!" or " folks disappeared in that flood., body never found."
The words had started  my imagination and I no longer needed to hear them,  I just longed to stand on the bridge and watch the waters rush past till I felt dizzy and imagine the floods trying to snap me off the bridge. The prospect of standing just above the swirling waters and  just inches from potential danger was more temptation then I could stand!

"Come on Daddy", I drug him towards the little wooden bridge!. I would not stand there alone just encase the hounds of floods heard my thoughts and had already begun their leaping, bounding race down the mountains to claim me! A few steps later I stood at the very edge of the bridge side with my toes up against the wood rail, my fathers hand gripped tightly and peered down into the creek waiting for the wolves of water to leap towards me and snap their mighty jaws...but there was only a shallow ripple of emerald  waters dancing patterns above the golden stones, whispering softly, softly as they slipped beneath the weathered wood and onto their long slow journey to the vast ocean. I sighed and stared into the water a little disappointed. Perhaps the hounds of floods were afraid of my father's strong hands knowing he would never release me to their terror. Soon the whispering water made me dizzy and mellow and wanting to play and splash in the ripples and I forgot the flood waters, for now. I dreamed I was a tiny brown minnow darting through the shimmering sunlit water...and so the bridge was a portal of sorts for me, to take me into the world of shimmering shadows or hold me safe above the raging hounds of floods.

A mild flood, where the Gum meets the Dry

  Though we sometimes took the bridge for granted, the strength of it we never would. In the Big Flood of '85 the huge steel bridge crossing the much bigger Dry was torn from it's foundations not to be seen again, but the little wooden bridge still stood!

Viewing the Dry from the "New Bridge" that replaced the one lost in '85
It changed life for those of us living on this side of the water, a granted way to the outside world and for the world to reach us in return. My mother remembered a story  told to her of a man dying in the house we lived in high on the mountain above the Gum. This was long before the wooden bridge had been built and the only access was a ford passable in low water season. The undertaker was called and given the fact that there was no bridge then, a Citroen hearse was called for. The Citreon had the ability to cross rivers by hydraulically lifting it's self up to clear rough crossings. If the waters had been too high though the ford would not have been crossed, even by Citreon.

So the reason I have written such a long and sentimental story about the little wooden bridge is that the day finally came to have it replaced. Huge holes had rusted through the I beams that spanned the distance. Perhaps the hounds of flood had taken their pound of flesh after all and the damage took decades to appear.

The crew was to start at 7:00 a.m. and so all that wanted to be on the far side had to be over by 7:15 or be stuck on this side.

The last few cars to cross the Old Wooden Bridge

They started with cutting torches...

I found it a little sad!

We watched, all of those left on this side

A chainsaw was used to cut timbers 

Then the big trucks moved in for the big lift...
And CRASH! The first half did shift and crashed into the creek.

The guys with Trans Tech were not phased!

They started in on the next piece and so on...
Then the new bridge arrived

This man is standing between solid stone and an I beam that could slip at any minute!

Finally it moved and he was safe again.

Look close & see the big holes in beam 
Then there was nothing for the first time in so very long! I walked out into the creek side as far as I could and imagined the river before bridge or even man.

The new bridge coming in by air.

Big, bright and shiny!

moving in an inch at a time

Then it was settled within a 1/2 inch of the old bridge

Adding new planks

Close to finished

We left for awhile, we had been there all day and were tired. We had watched a piece of history, our history even, leave and it was a little sad and a little exciting. When we came back the bridge was done. 

They rebuilt in one day. 

I had wondered if the old bridge looked so new once! I wondered if the new bridge would pick up the fight of the Hounds of Floods, like a new young, strong knight in shining armor steps forth as the old knight steps finally from the field of battle.
I hope it lasts a hundred years connecting our side of the water to the wide open world...

...spanning the rippling clear waters of the Gum and just out of reach of the leaping Hounds of Flood.

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