Thursday, September 16, 2010

Daily dose of Lucas County: Sept. 16

Bridgework. Or the most dangerous bridge in the world. Or gray bridge rail on a gray day when the sun refused to shine: 3:15 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 16, 2010.

This is the old timber bridge across the Union Pacific (originally Rock Island) tracks on what I call the Wolf Creek Road connecting Highway 14 and the New York Road oh maybe 3 miles south of Chariton. It's a killer, but because it is so dangerous so far as I know no one has ever died here.

Arched to give trains headroom, the hump means there is no visibility. This is especially intimidating when approaching up the steep hill from the east (the one you're looking down). The usual approach is to creep to the crest of the bridge, stretch your neck to its limit, peer over and if no one's coming, continue.

The Wolf Creek crossing is at the foot of the hill in the distance; the New York Road, at the top of the hill. All the land to the south was Redlingshafer territory long before there was a railroad. George Redlingshafer owned everything you see here. His land joined that of my great-great-grandfather, his brother John G. Redlingshafer, perhaps a quarter mile west of the bridge.

When I was a real little kid this bridge burned, set afire by sparks from a locomotive (yes, they still had locomotives that threw sparks --- and dinosaurs --- back then). So it's a little younger than I am. When I was a somewhat older kid, an evening's entertainment consisted of filling a car with as many as would fit and driving around --- no booze, no cigarettes, no drugs, no sex --- just driving around. Sometimes, we would drive at this bridge really fast, hit the hump --- and fly. I won't tell you who was driving (Larry Arnold) because his folks still are alive and well and someone might tell.

If you jump onto the top of a boxcar here and stick --- alive --- you'll end up in Kansas City.

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