Post 3: The Bridge
There’s a bridge being built to span the Rock River near downtown Beloit, WI. It will be a pedestrian and biking bridge launching from between the hotel and the condo building where I live, and crossing to the renovated Ironworks development where the YMCA is opening and other office and businesses are located.
Retirement is great. I spent an hour and a half photographing and watching this morning and never once worried about being late for anything. My partner—I refer to him as Andrew in most of my writing, which gives him room to disclaim knowing what the heck I’m writing about—and I carefully watch the progress. We have front row seats from our balcony and I can also lumber down and take pictures. Once the bridge is completed, I plan to post the photos from start to finish. Sort of like the photo-journalist I aspired to be 50 years ago.
While Andrew and I walked this morning, I considered writing something about bridges as a metaphor for peace and learning and acceptance. Something that could help me understand the most recent tragedy, the attitudes of some toward people who are different, or are poor, or disabled, or LGBTQ+, or who believe or don’t believe differently from them. But nothing came to mind. Maybe I’m too overwhelmed with Las Vegas, or Puerto Rico, or hurricanes, or floods, or guns, or tweets. Whatever it is, no metaphors came to mind.
As I was taking photos this morning, standing next to the extended semi-truck with the 33,000 pound middle section of the bridge resting on it, waiting for the engineers and bridge workmen (they are all men, so far) to figure the best way to attach the straps for the huge crane to lift it, I started a conversation with the semi driver. He was excited about delivering the first section of the bridge and wished he could haul the last one. Gray haired, probably early 50’s, stocky but not too much of a belly, warm eyes, his little Maltese barking through the driver’s window at me. “People are crazy,” he said. “I was walking my little pooch over by the site this morning while the men were getting ready for me and the crane operator rushed over. You know who he is, right?”
I nodded. I’ve been watching the crane operator for two weeks. He’s shaped like Buddha, has a coarse voice and a manner that says he don’t take crap from nobody. The first day, waiting for a car to be moved so he could set up his crane, someone joked why didn’t he just lift the car up and put it down out of his way. “Done that before,” he rasped. “A bossman no one liked parked his little Ford too close once. When he was out of sight, I hooked it on and left it on top of the 5 story building next to us. Then I folded up the crane and cleared out.” That’s Buddha the crane operator. Don’t park near him.
“So, anyway, “the trucker continued, “that big old guy couldn’t get over by me fast enough. He bent over, petted my pooch, then picked him up and started sweet talking to it.” We both laughed. “Like I said, people are crazy. Especially around little dogs.” The dog travels with the trucker 24/7. They’re a family, 2 legged and 4 legged, who live mostly on the road.
We watched the crane operator gently lift the bridge section, ease it by the building 15 feet away, swing it over the river’s bank and slowly lower it on to the temporary supports attached to a barge. You read that correctly. As I understand it, they will assemble all 5 bridge sections on the barge which is parallel to the river bank, then move the barge out and swivel it into place. Maybe this is normal, but it’s amazing to me.
One of the workmen rushed by lugging loops of cable and rope over his shoulders and heavy pins in his hands. “Busy day,” I said.
His grin stretched from ear to ear. “Isn’t this fantastic! Can you imagine having a job doing this?”
A slender, elderly (elderly is anyone I judge to be 10 years older than me), bearded man wearing a baseball cap, somewhat studious looking and smoking a pipe, was also watching. Several of the engineers and crew occasionally greeted him. He meandered near me. “Get some good pictures?”
“I used to do this.” He hooked his thumb toward the project.
“You’re an engineer?” I asked.
“No, I did what that guy does.” He pointed to Buddha in the crane. My eyes got big. “Yup. I did that for 55 years. Spent my last 9 years in Denver, then retired back to Beloit to be close to family.” He sucked on his pipe, blew a cloud into the breeze. “I loved it. But I don’t miss it now.”
Building a bridge. There must be a way to build other kinds, too. People kinds.