Once upon a time, two bloggers wrote a joint post. They liked it. So they decided to do it again. This it. The link to E’s blog to be posted here later…
We meet on a sunny Saturday the last weekend of Bridge Festival. The last time we went adventuring—over a year ago–we went to Spring Fest. Since then, I have finished my third degree and started a new school year. She has traveled around the world. Literally. (Check out her travel blog: https://kiwihoosier.com). But since she has so recently returned home, she wants to play tourist one more time, looking with new eyes at home: so we go to the Fall Bridge Festival.
Once upon a time in high school, she was a covered bridge tour guide. I am jealous; I’ve always wanted to do that. Parke County’s claim to international fame is that we have the most covered bridges of any county anywhere. That gives us an excuse to festivalize; it’s fun. Crafts and antiques and festival food pop up in little towns all over the county. We wander to a few of the booths at our starting location of Rockville. But our main goal is to find a map of historic, old, covered bridges and just enjoy them and Fall and catch up.
We stop at our first bridge and start by taking a picture. We document ourselves there, too. She is a photographer and a writer; I can depend on her for great pictures. I’m just a writer. Capturing the moment visually is seldom something I think of. It’s a lovely little bridge, happily spanning a trickling creek. It should be more than a trickle, but the water table is rather low this season. Off to the north, a herd of Angus chews its mid-morning cud in the sunshine. While E. takes pictures of the interior, I step around the edge to a little narrow wall overlooking the water so that I’m out of the way. I can feel a migraine coming on—a more regular occurrence than not, these days, so I have my sunglasses on. She finishes and comes back, and I turn around to step back across onto the bridge…and stop.
I have forever been and likely always will be rather leery of anything that looks…snake-like. The squiggly-looking thing in front of me MIGHT be a worm, but it’s squiggles are a little too…vertebrae-ish. I take a closer look… Oh, my heavens, there’s a head on the end of that. “E,” I say, “What you see right now is me not panicking about the fact that there is a snake between me and the car. If you could just give me your hand and give me a yank…” She gives me her hand and pulls me over the gap.
If you are not now applauding me for not panicking, then you should be. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that said snake was only three inches long.
As we drive from bridge to bridge, we note builder’s names written on the end. We note the differently shaped openings and windows. I can ask questions of my personal tour guide; she has all kinds of bridge facts neatly tucked away for easy access. There is no pressure; there is no rush. Just Saturday, sunshine, good company and good conversation. She tells me that the bridges were covered because they were built of wood, and that was the only way they could protect it from the elements. This is likely also why I can still drive my car across half of these. The paved road has been diverted around others, so we park and walk into them. Most are painted bright red, perched over creeks and surrounded by changing leaves. It’s really no wonder someone decided to have an annual festival.
Our midday stop is Bridgeton; a covered bridged used to be the entrance to the town. Now, it’s off to the side with a concrete bridge doing all the hard work. An old mill, still operational, is in full swing. Hundreds of booths and tents are set up down main street and down alleys. Private residences have turned their front yards into festival grounds. We’ve decided to hunt down lunch, here. Once upon a time, I had a Polish sausage with my mother at the Bridge Festival. I’ve always wanted one since. I finally find a place that sells them, but am rather disappointed by my purchase. A Polish sausage should be drippy, messy, and slathered in peppers and onions. Mine has about half of a bun, a beautifully cooked sausage with a skin so think you can’t even bite it, and about three slivers of onion. I will just have to wait a bit longer to relive that happy memory.
Something as simple as an excursion to Bridgeton is already wearing me out; I just don’t have the energy to do lots of things anymore. Being tired often results in a migraine; if I push too much, I might actually just sort of collapse in the grass. So, I measure my energy carefully. E is very thoughtful and patient. We take breaks now and then; she a great person to just stop and look at things; she doesn’t mind quietness. I like watching her take pictures; it’s always fun to watch an artist at work. I find that I see lots of lovely things when I’m too tired to actually do them. As we prepare to leave Bridgeton, the last thing E wants to do is try to take pictures of the famous Bridgeton Bridge and mill. The lighting isn’t quite right, but it’s a pretty place, nonetheless.
Somehow or another, E and I always come around to the “Old Soul” conversation. She doesn’t like the phrase; she feels like it’s a sort of backhanded compliment—saying that someone is old and out of date and behind the times. I say it’s a compliment. It means that you have a vision of the world and wisdom unusual for your age. You have the ability to enjoy things much older than you and have an appreciation for the generations and advice that came before you. This describes E; after all, not many people would spend a Saturday afternoon photographing 100-year-old architecture in the middle of nowhere. Somehow, we always get around to that conversation. Maybe someday, we’ll finish it.
We wind our way through the countryside, driving through towns I’ve heard of but never seen. (There are no more reptiles.) The final bridge is one her great-grandfather built. The lettering is peeling off one end; but the other end is perfect for photography purposes. Our last stop is Tangier, where the Festival Buried Beef is famous. I have come prepared to buy some for supper. E waits for me; she has probably had more buried beef than she can stand already this week. Her family is from Tangier and is involved in the meal preparation. It’s pretty impressive…and the beef is kind of amazing.
Her house is just down the road from there. We end our trip in sunshine and a confused discussion about what the large bumpy fruit is that hangs over the fence in her yard are called. Ugly fruit? Hedge apples? Then she collects Frodo, the stuffed Kiwi, from the dash (he has been perched there the whole trip) and heads into her house. I drive home through the afternoon Fall sunshine.
Parke County is a funny, rural place. Lovely in places; not always lovely in others. While part of the county delightedly celebrates Fall and history and the local economy with the Festival every year, there are always people who don’t. Today, someone saw us admiring the Fall foliage and called at us to “get out of Parke County,” assuming, of course, that locals would never admire the view and that tourists are annoying. Wild, isn’t it? Maybe what they need is a touch of the “Old Soul”; the ability to see the loveliness around them; the appreciation for the past and it’s gift to the present. Maybe what they need is a sunny Saturday, the last weekend of Bridge Festival, to just drive, and chat, and look.