2013.04.24 Crossing the football bridge

Written by David Green.

By DAVID GREEN

It's odd that I awoke this morning with the old football bridge on my mind. Let me think for a minute about who would know what I'm talking about. I think the cutoff date might be around 1964, and let's say you had to be five years old at the time to have developed any memories of it. Therefore, if you're 56 years or older and grew up in Morenci, you might remember the football bridge over Bean Creek.

I can clearly hear the sound of that bridge in my head, the clanking of the boards when someone crossed over the river.

If you were on the football team, you would go down into the smelly locker room at Stair Gymnasium, get your gear on, then run west on Congress Street toward Wakefield Park. This had a unique sound of its own. Metal-tipped cleats from football shoes created a sharp sound on the pavement.

The school was on Summit Street, the high point, and it was a downhill run toward the crick, as it was called. It's not a big hill, but there was enough of a decline to allow some slipping around. Cleats aren't made for pavement and there was also the occasional sound of someone "skating" down the street. This is the street where David Carlson broke his leg while skateboarding. David was a golfer, not a football player.

After a couple of blocks, Congress Street ended and curved south to become Mill Street. Football players kept going straight, behind the mill, pausing only to grab a few grains of wheat to chew like gum. Then they reached the crick and the bridge.

The bridge looked a little like something you might see in a National Geographic photograph where peasants are crossing a chasm on a simple structure made of rope and planks of wood. In this case, there were two metal cables stretched across the creek to support wooden planks. Two additional cables were higher up for a hand hold. Maybe there were two more up higher yet. I would love to see a photo of the old bridge.

When was it built? John Geisler said he first crossed it in 1949. My father has no recollection of it when he was in school, but the football team didn’t play at Wakefield Park when he graduated in 1941.

I suppose I used the football bridge for football practice, but maybe not. I don't know when it went out of service. I think we were ordered not to use it long before it actually disappeared. That meant we had to run an extra three blocks south to Main Street and then back north to the football field. Only a few bad boys took the bridge in defiance of the orders.

Because of the extra distance, I wore a pair of cheap tennis shoes from Meyer's Department Store and carried my cleats. I had an attractive pair with gold corduroy glued to the tongues (leftovers from a skirt, I believe, that my mother sewed for my sister) and shoelaces dyed chartreuse (left over from dying my long underwear). One day I returned to the hill where we left our shoes and they were gone. I'm certain someone tossed them in the crick.

My football bridge experiences are from the days before high school. We always tried to cross when none of the big boys were around. If a little kid crossed, the older boys would have a great time jumping up and down on the bridge and making it sway back and forth. It was frightening enough without the older kids. There were often a few planks missing. I liked to cross without looking down at the water flowing below. When the creek flooded it was worse yet. The brown water sometimes rose as high as the middle planks. Slipping off the bridge would surely lead to drowning. 

I don't recall hearing of anyone falling off that bridge, but it must have happened. With the proper resolve, the best thing was to run as fast as possible across, the planks clanking away and the cables making sine waves across the crick.

People complain about the shortcomings of the town—roads need fixing, jobs need to be created, houses need repair, etc.—but I think what this city needs is a good football bridge. Well, not too good. Just some cables tied to trees with a row of loose planks.

  • Front.sculpta
    SCULPTORS—Morenci third grade students Emersyn Thompson (left) and Marissa Lawrence turn spaghetti sticks into mini sculptures Friday during a class visit to Stair District Library. All Morenci Elementary School classes recently visited the library to experience the creative construction toys purchased through the “Sculptamania!” project, funded by a Disney Curiosity Creates grant. The grant is administered by the Association for Library Services to Children, a division of the American Library Association.
  • Funcolor
    LEONIE LEAHY was one of three local hair stylists who volunteered time Friday at the Morenci PTO Fun Night. Her customer, Aubrey Sandusky, looks up at her mother while her hair takes on a perfect match to her outfit. Leahy said she had a great time at the event—nothing but happy clients.
  • Shadow.salon
    LEARNING THE ROPES—Kristy Castillo (left), co-owner of Mane Street Salon, works with Kendal Kuhn as Sierra Orner takes a phone call. The two Morenci Area High School juniors spent Friday at the salon as part of a job shadowing experience.
  • KayseInField
    IN THE FIELD—2004 Morenci graduate Kayse Onweller works in a test plot of wheat in Texas. She’s part of Bayer CropScience’s North American wheat breeding program based in Nebraska, where she completed post-graduate work in plant breeding and genetics.
  • Front.winner
    REFEREE Camden Miller raises the hand of Morenci Jr. Dawgs wrestler Ryder Ryan as his opponent leaves the mat in disappointment. Morenci’s youth wrestling program served as host for a tournament Saturday morning to raise money for the club. Additional photos are on the back page.
  • Front.bank.2
    SHERWOOD STATE Bank opened its Fayette office at a grand opening Friday morning, drawing a large crowd to view the renovated building. Above, Burt Blue talks to teller Cindy Funk, while his wife, Jackie, looks around the new office. The Blues missed the opening and took a quick tour on Tuesday. Few traces remain of the former grocery store and theater, however, part of the original brick wall still shows in the hallway leading to the back of the building. The drive-through window should be ready for customers later in the month.
  • Front.carry.casket
    CARRYING—Riley Terry (blue jacket) and Mason Vaughn lead the way, carrying an empty casket outside to the hearse waiting at the curb. Morenci juniors and seniors visited Eagle Funeral Home last week to learn about the role of a funeral director and to understand the process of arranging for a funeral.
  • Front.make.three
    FROM THE LEFT, Landon Wilkins, Ryan White and Logan Blaker try out their artistic skills Saturday afternoon at the Morenci PTO’s first Date to Create event. More than 50 people showed up to create decorated planks of wood to hang from rope. The event served as a fund-raiser for miscellaneous PTO projects. Additional photos are on the back of this week’s Observer.

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