There was an old rusted bridge, once painted blue,
that crossed a green river.
It was old but beloved, with character in its steel beams and wood floor.
How many people fished from its side, stopped to look through its metal girding to the stars, or stared down at the water, deep in thought?
But it was old. And old bridges are a liability for someone, I suppose.
So men came with yellow machines and big trucks to build a new, ugly concrete bridge downstream. No amount of protest could stop progress, after all.
Then one day the river swelled from much rain. The men with the machines, who did not know the river's nature, left their equipment on her shore, confident that it would be safe.
The river, however, was not so pleased with them, and gave the men quite a scare.
As she boiled around them the men made their way to the machine that was fast being swallowed by the angry river.
They managed, just in time, to retrieve their equipment and parked it further up the bank this time. The river tried to get to it, but the rains stopped and slowly she receded.
So the men with machines have won.
The old bridge was scheduled to come down this past Monday. My relationship with the bridge developed only in the last four years, but this bridge has stood since 1908, 107 years. Many others have known it and traveled it: horses pulling wagons, people on foot or riding horseback, children on bikes, Model As and Model Ts. Men crossed on their way to work or to war, women to shopping and church. Loads of hay, trucks of cattle, musicians loaded with gear and writers armed with pencil and paper have all passed over the old bridge and many stopped a minute just to look, to listen to the quiet ripple of the water below or to check the rising flood. Kayakers, canoers and fisherman traveled below, seeking the calm of water and nature, wind and sky.
We went out to the bridge near midnight Saturday to say goodbye.
The moon was drifting fitfully through the clouds, and rain still threatened.
I listened to the others share memories of good times and years past; one told a story of climbing up into the top girders when he was younger. Why? He couldn't remember, but then sometimes when we're young we don't need a reason to do things. We just do them.
A few toasts, and it was time to go.
I suppose the old bridge is gone by now. I stood on the new bridge before I left last weekend and tried to get a sense of what it means, what it will change, and how it will serve in the place of its steel predecessor. Hard white concrete gives no hint, keeps its secrets. Perhaps over time it will be as beloved as the old metal bridge. But it's hard for me to envision that day ever coming.
Copyright Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.