Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Bridge over Muddy Waters

Seeing how treacherous the Big Wood looks lately reminds me of an incident five years ago; before they smashed Ski View Lodge into smithereens...

That year, it was another wet spring and one late afternoon, there was a tap at my shack door. It was Rapping Tim[i] and he brandished a large chainsaw. Tim was a skilled jack-of-all-trades and he needed some assistance. The wooden bridge he helped construct twenty years before, was taking a beating from dozens of logs stuck and bobbing beneath. With Trail Creek running furiously, it was clear this logjam would soon become worse.

Tim asked if I could ‘spot’ him, and as he wheeled back his chain cord, I noticed his sneakers were without tread. Then as he stood close to me over the bowed and slippery bridge, to speak over the raging creek, I smelled whisky on his breath; and I’m sure of that, because I had rum on mine at the time.

Tim courageously cut into the logjam. After several minutes, he eventually freed several. I was amazed to see him operate the chainsaw skillfully, with the running blade mostly submerged. This reminded me of underwater chainsaws invented out of necessity.

Tim faced downstream as he meticulously sliced away at a fallen Tamarack. Meanwhile the upstream started providing weighty backlogs, to press precariously against the old bridge. I envisioned that at any moment a large cottonwood could come rushing downstream, fly up off the stuck logs and knock Tim into the muddy water.

Maybe that’s why he wanted me to stand there. I was to warn him of flying logs. I wasn’t doing anything else besides standing there on the slippery slope. Perhaps he wanted me there as moral support, or maybe I was to perform a miracle rescue, while simultaneously speed-dialing 911, as Tim slipped in Trail Creek’s drink.

Despite Tim’s epic efforts, that year, eventually enough logs battered into the bridge braces to swipe it away. Looking back at it now, I think Tim just wanted me there as an eyewitness for that memorable experience. He took a lot of pride in that legendary footbridge and wanted it to last. I miss it as much as I miss the sunny days of our tumbledown shack. And often when I pass though that area, I glance down to where it used to cross Trail Creek and then pine a little for the old Ketchum days

[i] Not his real name.

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