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I Thought I Was Over My Fear Of Bridges

Updated on February 7, 2011

As a little girl, I walked to and from school with my older brother and a few neighborhood kids. We had a choice, we could either walk across the railroad tracks, ( sometimes, we chose to walk the tracks themselves ) or we could walk across the bridge which crossed the tracks.

Of course when the train was coming crossing the bridge was the only choice, other than waiting on the train to pass, and hey, school was out! Who wanted to wait on the train? None of us!

We lived within a few miles of a coal powered electrical plant, the coal was shipped by train, and the train had scheduled runs......lots of them. One that concerns this story, passed through town just about the time school let out.

From the school yard, we could hear the roar of the train, the whistle and the signal that told us the arms were going down over the tracks, blocking our passage. Several boys, my brother included, made a great competition of trying to get over the bridge before the train started under it. Apparently, even then, they understood it would have been stupid to try to beat the train across the tracts.

Being as I am a short woman, you can be sure that I was a short girl. My little legs worked hard, very hard, to keep up or face walking home alone. I did my best, but no matter how hard I tried to keep up, there were times that I caused my brother to lose the game. He would stop and wait on me to catch up to him.........gee, I guess he did love me!

Maybe he lost a bit too often, for in the springtime, he lost all patience with me. He and I one week, just walked fast to the bridge, we never once beat the train. But my brother put the fear of bridges in me.

This small town railroad bridge was in need of repair, even a second grade girl could see that. The cement was breaking away in places and you could see a good two inches of lumped coal in the freight cars, should you have the nerve to look through the open spaces. Not only that, but when a train was underneath and a car passed over, the bridge swayed! I was sure the next vehicle to cross would cause the bridge to fall. Fortunately, back then, most Moms were home waiting on the kids to come in from school.

As if all of this weren't enough to scare my socks right down into my saddle shoes, big brother once held me still and forced me to watch the train pass underneath. It is a wonder today how I made it to third grade with a good strong heart.

Years later, we accompanied my Grandparents to the hometown of their youth. I can't tell you where this was other than in the western hills of Arkansas, somewhere between nowhere and no way out. My Grandmother wanted to visit a particular site of her girlhood, and the driving uncle thought he knew a shortcut. Along this path was a suspension bridge, built shortly after Moses parted the Red Sea. My Grandmother, a short little woman, was a force to be reconded with! She refused, to be driven across that bridge, and she did not go. At the age of ten, I took my stand with my Grandmother, and we walked away as the rest of the family drove on. To this day, what my Granddad said to uncle is unknown, but we had not walked but a few hundred yards until he was back to collect us and take the other route. Granddad could be a force himself!

As young driver, in a tiny, do nothing car, I once attempted to pass a tractor-trailer rig, in a rain storm on a two-lane bridge. Huge mistake, his tires were bigger than my car and the road spray coming off of his tires was enough to make me think I was drowning. They say that some people learn by reading and some by doing, I guess I learned that lesson the hard way. That driver must have either pitied me or cursed me. Sorry, big truck driver, if you ever read this. I know better now.

For years, many years, when I had to drive across a bridge, my upper teeth bit down on the lower, my jaw clenched, the veins on my neck stood out and a small quick prayer went up. ( Actually, the prayer still goes ) As we crossed the mighty Mississippi, my ten year old daughter noticed the tension. She asked me what the problem was, and I told her that I was afraid of bridges. She of course asked why I simply did not go around it, and I told her that from Little Rock to Birmingham, you will cross the Mississippi somewhere. Not to add, that there are many bridges across the highways as there are in life, and you can not avoid them all.

For years to come, as I approached a bridge, she would tell her younger sisters to quiet down, be still and " leave Mama alone, she has to drive across a bridge,". Should I have the occasion to drive my adult daughter around today, I would expect her to tell her sisters to be quite, there is a bridge ahead.

In years past, I have indeed crossed many, many bridges. I have driven a tractor trailer rig over the narrow bridges of small towns, over the St. Charles Bridge in Louisiana. Here, I did really get apprehensive when, just as I was about to crest the bridge, someone put on the brakes, causing a chain reaction. If the bridge wasn't difficult enough ( it is narrow and steep ), now, I have to slow down in a uphill climb. My husband and I crossed this bridge often in separate trucks, and he called me on the CB, and I told him, " no talking, on the bridge".

In my driving career and in my personal travels, I have had to cross bridges. Some improvement has been made in my bravado. The jaw no longer automatically clenches, the neck veins do not pop out, and unless you hear me send up the short prayer, you may never have any reason to think that I am afraid.

I have mastered crossing bridges that link NYC to the mainland, bridges that cross brief parts of the ocean in Florida, the San Francisco Bridge, the Mackinaw, and even, the Lake Pontchartrain in Southern Louisiana. If you read the link provided, the author says it is 24 miles long. The first time that I crossed it, in a big rig, it was late evening and I thought I would be across before the sun actually set........but I was wrong.....the swamps in the area are named. I counted seven of them, before I started counting miles. Once, I did start clocking them, I counted 27. Maybe my odometer was off or maybe my fear was in control.

Look at the link......there are some very nice photographs, and some bridges that, I, like my Grandmother would refuse to cross. My journey would be ended by my own fear.

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