The small, condemned bridge was unsafe for any sort of vehicular traffic but dad said people could walk across it if they watched out not to step into the gaps between some of the wooden planks. I carefully crept to the center of the structure and peered through a large gap at the creek below.
I was perhaps six or seven years old at the time of this first personal encounter with a decrepit bridge. It was a personal event that I can easily visualize now. While I stood on one of the thick planks, I looked at dad a few yards away on the rutted dirt road. He was standing next to a large wooden tripod with his surveyor’s transit mounted on top. Dad was planning a new state highway bridge that would run parallel to the old condemned county road bridge.
Perhaps dad was trying to plant the desire in me to learn about civil engineering because he frequently brought me to job sites during my childhood. Although I don’t have the mathematics smarts dad had hoped for me, I still have a keen love of bridges.
If there is a bridge with a walk-way, I’ll stroll across it. The act of walking on a bridge brings me great joy. Long, high bridges are the most satisfying of all. To walk on a bridge of historical significance is not a secret fetish of mine.
The wintertime walk across Tower Bridge in London was a thrill worth remembering. The morning was chilly, hazy, and drizzly. The stereotypical London fog coated my eyeglasses, so they needed frequent wiping. I didn’t mind at all.
Every time I visit San Francisco, I’m compelled to walk across the Golden Gate. Of course, I love to drive on that grand old orange suspension bridge. The same goes for the spans of the Bay Bridge to the East. The old eastern steel truss span of the Bay Bridge is no longer. I feel a little sad about that. But it has been replaced with an ultra-modern self-supporting suspension bridge and a couple of viaducts. Yet, the western span that opened in 1936, with its traditional suspension towers, remains as the most magnificent portion of the bridge complex.
While famous bridges are widely admired and loved by millions of people, there are regional bridges in other states that many local people appreciate. Nebraska has several historically significant bridges that are worth pondering.
One of the most noteworthy is “Mormon Bridge” actually two steel truss bridges that cross the Missouri River boundary between Omaha, Nebraska, and Pottawattamie County, Iowa. The bridge is so named because the nineteenth century Mormon Trail was nearby.
Most of the state’s historical bridges were built and used by the railroads. One of the most significant bridges was built by the Union Pacific Railroad to span the Missouri River, again from Iowa to Omaha.
Probably the most amazing railroad bridge was built in north-central Nebraska in Cherry County by The Northwest Railroad Corporation. This very high bridge no longer carries train traffic, but has been converted into a bicycle/hiking bridge that is a portion of the “Cowboy Trail”. The trail along the old Northwest Railroad corridor goes from my hometown, Norfolk, westward about 190 miles to Valentine. Theoretically, I could walk to this tall bridge, but driving there is a more realistic option for me, especially in late November.
There’s something else regarding bridges. That is, bridges are metaphors for life events and our connections with each other. We think of programs like The Olympics as ways to bridge gaps of nationality, racism, and sexism. We all build our own personal bridges during our lives. Our bridges bring family, friends, and coworkers together. Burning our bridges can greatly impact our lives, so building bridges seems like a better idea.