ANOTHER DAY IN THE COUNTRY: That old bridge at Jacob's Crossing
© Another Day in the Country
“I think it’s time for a Kansas fix,” said my cousin Keith, calling from Colorado.
That announcement just made my day!
Keith grew up in Ramona and he loves quiet country towns and the wide-open prairie vista Kansas offers as much as I do. He’s also a photographer, so I always look forward to tramping the back roads with him and taking pictures.
When he arrived and we were sitting at the table after supper, he said, “Somebody sent me a picture of a big old crane taking out the bridge at Jacob’s Crossing. You know anything about that?”
“What?” I said in horror. “They’ve taken out the bridge?”
It wasn’t like I didn’t know that bridge removal at this historic site might be on the docket. Years ago, there was a hearing and locals came to express their opinions to county commissioners about what to do with the bridge at Jacob’s Crossing.
Some of us in Ramona fought to keep it just the way it had always been — rickety but functioning. Others in the area wanted it to be a regular road, sturdy and available to more than single-lane traffic.
Here it was happening, and I didn’t know.
“Why, I just drove over it a week or so ago,” I lamented. “I had no idea this would be my last time. I’d have taken pictures!”
It’s not like we don’t have pictures of that bridge. For 30 years, I’ve been taking pictures of this lovely historic spot. It began when I came back to a Schubert reunion with my parents and we drove out to see it.
I’d heard Dad tell stories about the bridge at Jacob’s Crossing and he retold the tale of how the boys in Ramona loved to go there in the summer to go swimming.
A swimming hole had a mighty draw in sweltering Kansas. His story went on about how the boys loved to jump on the train passing slowly through town and ride out there to Jacob’s Crossing, and how one particular time he had to go home and do chores before any cooling off at a swimming hole was on the docket. That evening one of the boys jumped for the train, slipped, and lost his legs.
This was always a moral tale, as told by my father. He even used it in his “sermon material” as a preacher, when he wanted to stress obedience, ending with how thankful he was that he wasn’t with the boys, that he’d gone home and milked those cows.
I’d grown up on these stories and I loved that bridge at Jacob’s Crossing because it spoke of my history in Ramona. It also spoke of the present. My little buddy, Clayton, loved fishing off that old bridge. There obviously wasn’t a lot of traffic to dodge, so he and his dad and sometimes his grandpa Gary — who also grew up in Ramona — would go out there in the evening and fish. They always caught something.
Now that bridge is gone.
“We’ve got to go check it out,” I told my cousin. “Seeing is believing.”
I must admit I hoped his information was a joke and we’d drive out there and find those old iron arches still intact with the rickety boards laid out across the spring-fed swimming hole, barely drivable but inviting a person to slow down and enjoy the view.
“Road Closed,” read the barricade.
It was true! The bridge was gone and “progress” was already begun.
“Man, I remember going across this bridge with a tractor 50 years ago and wondering if I’d make it,” Keith laughed, shaking his head at the memory.
Now, he and his brother Gary stood at the neatly graded swath of ground that ended abruptly above the creek bed below.
I took pictures of the brothers standing there talking, remembering all the history of our family flowing by like the lazy little creek meandering on. Another remnant of the past gone, like the Co-op elevators in town. In my mind’s eye I could still see the bridge behind them.
Representing the future and a younger generation in our family, LeeRoy said, “I loved the old bridge, loved fishing off it. I’ll miss it, but I can sure see why we needed a new one.”
He went on telling how many times he’d be driving down that road with a big tractor, bone weary at the end of a long day, and would have to drive a mile south, a mile east, a mile north, just to get back on the road home.
Things are changing at a rapid pace.
“C’mon, Keith, you’ve got to see all those windmills going up over by Tampa,” I said as we climbed back into the car and headed west on another day in the country.
Last modified Oct. 24, 2018