Leslie T. Richardson- Memories & Other Stories
Spring! Outdoors! Walks! River! Railroad Bridge! So went the young mind, away back when.
The Railroad bridge held a fascination for the young hikers of former years. I do not know whether it does today or not.
To cross it over the open ties was a daring feat and many staunch person turned pale before stepping over many of the open spaces, glancing constantly downward in case one's foot went through. The distance down became deeper and deeper as one traveled further along, until the timid decided it was shorter back than forward and made a mad dash to the safety of the gravel approach. This was usually accompanied by terrified screams. A loud blast of relief was emitted when the safety of shore was reached and terra firma was just that.
The more daring folk would cautiously brave the open space between the ties and gingerly reach for the next support. Some would walk tie to tie. This we called "pin stepping" as every beam had to be stepped on or one would surely fall through.
As one became braver and more daring, as boys do, as they grow up, one would actually run across the bridge and miraculously never seemed to fall through. Somehow the open spaces closed up to these brave souls and never do I recall, did anyone ever fall between the ties during these races. Some of the better coordinated ones, even tried running on the rails themselves, but they were not too successful for long.
The thrill of running the ties across the bridge was augmented when you heard, in the distance, the sound of the train's whistle. You never saw such a scramble to get off before the train arrived. Hair-raising stories are told as how this one, or that one made it in time, or an older one ran back to assist or carry a smaller one to safety. Real unsung heroes, even though they were all trespassing.
The final thrill came when one was caught in the middle of the bridge by a train which sneaked out of nowhere and you had to dive into a barrel which was placed at convenient distances across the bridge and always outside, with nothing between you and the river but space. It was tricky enough to reach this haven but when you reached it, it was not fenced in securely enough to make you feel safe. It was, also usually filled with water to add to your misery. As the train went by the whole structure shook and dropped several inches, you and the barrel with it. One held ones breath in case the sagging ties would continue to drop. The river was even further below.
While you were agonizing thus, the trainmen were giving you a blast as they passed by. So you held on for dear life, inwardly vowing to never do it again. But when the train passed and the bridge sprung back into place again and you were able to walk in the middle between the rails again, the joy of being safe soon swallowed up the previous fear and you were ready for the next time you were caught in the middle.
How you could boast of this daring feat. A false braver 'tis true, but it did something to the ego.