Hundreds, if not thousands of people will argue why their road should be paved and improved before someone else’s until their face turns blue. But, there’s an old bridge close to my parent’s home that really should be replaced before anything else.
After the Boaz City Council approved its 2020 Fiscal Year Transportation Plan this week, detailing how 41 different streets would be improved for more than $1 million, I thought about the road to my parents’ home.
To find the house I grew up in, you have to pass over what has to be the oldest bridge in Marshall County. I’m not sure how old it is, but Moses probably had to part the Red Sea to escape the Egyptians because he didn’t want to use this old rickety bridge.
It probably hasn’t been updated or replaced because it’s practically in no-man’s land. My parents’ home sets in Marshall County, but it’s only a mile or two from Blount and Etowah counties.
The wooden bridge is built over a creek on Mt. Hebron-Douglas Road. In order to get to the bridge from either side, you have to drive down a steep, winding road off the bluff. For years, there was no railing on the bridge, but now there are metal rails that have been replaced a time or two, I think — or maybe the county just fooled us with a new paint job.
When my brothers and I were younger, my parents would occasionally stop in the middle of the one-way bridge at night to spook us. Most of the time, the battery would “die,” and we’d have to walk the rest of the way home. But, we’d have to watch out for “the Boogie Man” who lived under the bridge or “he’d get us.” For a while it really would frighten us, but as we got older, we only played along for a laugh.
Once I was taking a date to my parents’ home, and I pulled the same trick on her that my parents would on my brothers and me. The moment the car stopped in the middle of the bridge that poor girl started to panic, and I didn’t even bring up the old man living underneath. After I let her think we were in trouble for a minute, I started the car back up again without issue, but her engine was running hot. As you might imagine, that relationship didn’t last very long.
When I began learning how to drive, I hated that bridge. Over the base layer of wooden planks, there is a separate track laid across the bridge for vehicles to drive over — it isn’t much bigger than the width of a mid-sized tire. If you miss the track or drive on the edge of the track, you have to wrestle with the steering wheel like it’s a bucking Brahman to get the vehicle back in line.
Eventually, I got used to it all — driving down to and across the rickety bridge became second nature. But some people never get used to it. When we go visit, my wife still gets a little nervous once we start rolling down that hill.
With the statewide gas tax going into effect Sunday, “experts” say thousands of roads and bridges could get replaced and improved with all the projected revenue. I know there are a lot of roads and bridges that need some work, but those “experts” better address that old rickety bridge first.
Taylor Beck is managing editor for The Reporter. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.