The Sound Of A Bridge


It’s funny the things your brain remembers.

I was remembering when I was a young boy, we lived in Lamont, CA.  Each summer, we would drive back to Lindsay, OK to vacation with my grandfather on his farm.  This would have been in about 1957 or so.

We would leave Friday evening after Dad got off work.  One of the reasons for leaving at that time was our car did not have air conditioning and Dad wanted to cross the Mojave Desert at night.   We had a canvas water bag that held about a gallon of water, which was hung on the front of the car.   This was before anti-freeze and modern cooling systems.  Things we take for granted now.

We would start on State Hwy 58 to Barstow and get on historic Route 66 (before there was an Interstate 40) and then on to Needles, CA.  For a long time, Needles was known for being one of the hottest locations in America.  It was also a place to gas up after crossing the Mojave and before entering in the deserts of Arizona.  We would usually get to Needles after dark and it was usually very warm, even at night

I must tell you before I go on, my Dad liked to travel straight through.  No motels, no sight-seeing,  no restroom breaks (except for my little sister who got to go on the shoulder of the highway, between the two opened passenger doors, our car running, while other cars and trucks were flying by, rocking our car as they passed at full speed)(I will not even mention what my brother and I were restricted to use).

There was no stopping for eating either.  Going into a restaurant or even a drive-in was unheard of and unspeakable (I didn’t know those options existed).  Mom would fry some chicken and make some chocolate/oatmeal no-bake cookies  to start us off.  I’m sure there were other things in the sack, but I was in the backseat and didn’t get to lean forward and look over the back of the front bench seat.  The next meal would be to stop at a grocery store along the road and buy some bologna, a small amount of pickle loaf, a small amount of liverwurst,  a tiny jar of thousand island spread (like mayo), and a loaf of sliced white bread.  Dad knew how to cut the cost of travel to a minimum.

The wheel wells between the front and back seats would have luggage filling the space, topped with a quilt to form a more comfortable space for sleeping.  We would stretch out and lean against our sibling for some good “hobo-style” sleeping.

After Needles, CA came Kingman, AZ and then on to Flagstaff, AZ.  Flagstaff had a rest stop just west of town that was surrounded by tall lodge pine trees and it had a water pump with a long handle, which when primed, produced some ice cold fresh water.

Bridges are built to connect, not to burn.

After Flagstaff, came Gallup, NM and then Albuquerque, NM.  In Albuquerque, there used to be a Ramada Inn on the north side of Route 66.  I tried pronouncing the first name of the motel as Ram-a-da, but Dad said, “No, it’s Ra-ma-da.”  They had a big sign with a early American looking guy holding a lantern to entice you to turn in.   Tucumcari NM was just before entering my home state of Texas.   Amarillo is located in the center of the panhandle and was home of the Big Texan steakhouse, where if you can eat a 72 oz steak and all the sides in 60 minutes, you got it for free.   Elk City, OK was the first city of size entering Oklahoma.  Even now, as I travel in Western Oklahoma,  I see some buildings that were once gas stations or restaurants, that I remember.  In many parts, Route 66 is just off of I-40.  It would have been late in the night when we got to  Oklahoma City.  From Oklahoma City, it was south on State Hwy 76 to Lindsay.

Just south of Lindsay, is a small community named Erin Springs, which is just beyond the steel trussed bridge over the Washita River.  My parents are buried in a small cemetery in Erin Springs.   It seem to me, about two o’clock in the morning, we would turn East off of Hwy 76 to a hard packed dirt road, now identified as County Road 1520 and head for that last mile before we got to Papa’s farm.

Between Hwy 76 and the road that turned south to the farm, was a old bridge, similar to the one I have pictured.  As the car would start across the bridge, the weight of the car would cause the wooden planks to slap against one another.  That sound, the sound of the bridge, would wake me and let me know we were close to the end of our journey.  There was no other spot on that 1500 mile trip that would produce that sound.

The headlights of our car would shine on the large cottonwood trees as we pulled into the yard of the dark and quiet farmhouse.  And then, a porch light was turned on.  Dad would get out of the drivers side to stretch his thin frame after a thirty hour drive.  Mom would be getting the back seat all awake and moving and headed toward the house.

It was a very modest farmhouse.  Certainly, nothing fancy or extravagant occupied the interior of the home.  Preparations for sleeping began by folding down the divan and palettes made-up for kids to sleep on the floor.

There was something that I learned, as a small boy, in this house that I visited only a few times in my life, and that was about praying.  It was my grandfather’s habit to have everyone in the house, kneel and pray each night before we slept.  I heard my family praying aloud with voices of earnest and intense request to a God I did not know at the time.   A seed was planted in my heart, that twenty or so years later, gave fruit.  It was a time that was to be an example to me.  It was seeing a Christian life in action, not just one talked about.

What will your children remember about your life when they recall things that happened over fifty years ago?  Will they remember you as fervent or as casual in your faith?  It’s not to late to give them some good memories.  They may remember you straying for a while, but toward the end of your life, you devoted yourself to the Lord.  My grandfather was forty-five years old when he became a Christian.  He lived to be one hundred and four.  I only remember him as a man committed to serving the Lord.

May this little story encourage you to think beyond yourself and think about what your legacy be within your family.

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