“Well…it’s a gone for good it looks like.” Old Farmer Ray said, as he stood at the edge of the gully looking over at the large pile of decayed wood that lay at the bottom. The wood was part of a small bridge that had hung over the now dry ravine. The rotted wood finally gave in and collapsed, leaving nothing left of the structure.
“I miss the bridge mommy,” Little Libby Sue said as she pressed her rag doll next to her face to try to soak up some of her tears.
“I know, Baby. We’re all goin’ to miss it.” Barbara told her daughter as she held her hand tightly. She looked over at her farmer father as he twirled a piece of straw in his mouth, both hands in the pockets of his faded overalls. His expression was emotionless, as he stared down at the broken planks.
The air got quiet for a while as father, daughter, and grandchild all stood silently in mourning. Finally, the silence was interrupted by a young boy running up to the edge of the gully on the opposite side of the chasm.
“What’s the big deal?” young Henry Clemmons shouted. “I was sittin’ in them there trees over there listening to you complain about this here old cruddy bridge. I don’t know what the big deal is. That bridge was so narrow, you practically had to walk single file over it. You couldn’t even fit yer’ tractor through it, and besides, the water is dried up in this here gully anyways. I could jump down in there and climb my way up the other side.”
Barbara looked at her father in hopes that he would not scold the boy. He was new to the town, and he was speaking out of ignorance. You see, no one knows exactly when the bridge had been built, or who had built it. All they knew was that Litton County had a very small, narrow bridge stretching across a small strip of water that ran through the forests and countryside. Many of the townsfolk would speculate as to the origins of the bridge, but no one actually knew how it ended up there or why. Henry Clemmons was right in questioning the usefulness of the bridge. After all, it didn’t seem to serve any practical purpose. However, it was the memories found at the bridge that made it special…
I remember that day six years ago, Barbara thought to herself. Flashbacks came to her of the day that she married Charlie Wilkes. The bridge served as a special centerpiece for a unique wedding ceremony. Pastor Barnes stood in waders inside the ditch. With Bible in hand, he performed the ceremony, shouting out to both Charlie and Barbara.
“Do you Charlie Nathan Wilkes take Barbara May Jones to be yer’ wife?”
“I DO!” shouted Charlie.
And do you Barbara May Jones take Charlie Nathan Wilkes to be yer’ husband?”
“I MOST DEFINITELY DO!” Barbara exclaimed.
The pastor pronounced them man and wife, and they both ran through the narrow opening and across the rickety planks to meet each other in a warm embrace at the center of the crossing. It was the happiest day of her life, taken away just four short years later when Charlie was killed during the war.
Barbara looked down at Libby Sue and smiled. She is my piece of Charlie that I will always cherish, she thought to herself as she looked over at her father. He too had tears in his eyes, as he pondered his fondest memory of the old bridge.
“I remember bein’ drunk one night and stumblin’ onto this bridge” he told Barbara. “Your mother was pregnant with you. I had given her a big purple shiner on her left eye. She threw me out the door and told me not to come back until I got some help. I made my way to this bridge and fell face down onto it. Jesus walked onto this bridge and picked my head up. I looked into his eyes, and he told me that I best take care of my wife and my little girl…We didn’t even know we were having a girl.”
The two shared a warm embrace with little Libby Sue sandwiching herself in the middle.
“The old bridge may have crumbled, but the bridge to my heart that Jesus built still stands…and it will never collapse.”
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