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.cross
    HUDSON RUNNER Jacob Morgan looks toward the top of the hill with dismay during the tough finish at Harrison Lake State Park. Fayette runner Jacob Garrow focuses on the summit, also, during the Eagle Invitational cross country run Saturday morning. Continuing rain and drizzle made the course even more challenging. Results of the race are in this week’s Observer.
  • Front.bear
    HOLDEN HUTCHISON gives a hug to a black bear cub—the product of a taxidermist’s skills—at the Michigan DNR’s Great Youth Jamboree. The event on Sunday marked the fourth year of the Jamboree. Additional photos are on page 12.
  • Front.crossing
    Crossing over—Jim Heiney was given a U.S. flag to carry by George Vereecke (behind Jim in the hat), turning him into the leader of the parade. Bridge Walk participants cross over Bean Creek while, in the background, members of the Morenci Legion Riders cross the main traffic bridge on East Street South. Additional photos appear on the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.hose Testing
    HOSE safety—The FireCatt hose testing company from Troy put Morenci Fire Department hose to the test Monday morning when Mill Street was closed to traffic. The company also checks nozzles and ladders for wear in an effort to keep fire fighters safe while on calls.
  • Front.starting
    BIKE-A-THON—Children in Morenci’s Summer Recreation Program brought their bikes last Tuesday to participate in a bike-a-thon. Riders await the start of the event at the elementary school before being led on a course through town by organizer Leonie Leahy.
  • Front.train
    WRECKAGE—Morenci Fire Department member Taylor Schisler walks past the smoking wreckage of a semi-truck tractor on the north side of the Norfolk and Southern Railroad tracks on Ranger Highway. The truck trailer was on the south side of the tracks

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