Over time I will revisit past etudes I have written friends and relatives. Here is one of my favorites written back n 2005. Side bar notes have been added in this obnoxious color.
The Hoxie Bridge
After retirement from teaching, Brenda, my wife of 43 years, (it has been longer now - 43 years was then, this is now) and I sold our house in Pflugerville, Texas, and moved into our motorhome. Journeying with us are our three wirehair miniature dachshunds (weiner dogs): (if you follow my blugs, you will know that I have 5 now - these three remain on staff.)
Greta, a cute little blond, is the smallest coming in at about 8 lbs.,
Fritz, a black & tan 20 lb. loving fuzz ball, and
Leisl, a brown & white piebald who gets nervous about things.
Last week, we moved to the Granger Lake Corps of Engineers park. Granger Lake is about 20 some miles east of Georgetown, TX, 8 miles north of Taylor, and right beside a nice little town of Granger. For those who haven't heard, Corps Parks are great for retirees. Once you are eligible for the "Golden Age" Passport, (cute title - probably dreamed up by a 22 year of girl in the front office) -- you can stay in a Corps Park for half price...dogs are free.
Half Price is about 9 or 10 dollars a night. For this you plug into electricity and hook up the water. Sewer does not exist at Corps Parks usually. Now, that's not true. Sewer is down the block. You go down there and empty your sewer tanks. Sewer Tanks can be a whole different subject for another day.
Granger Lake has 3 different parks or areas. We are on the south side at “Taylor Park” in space 4. This space backs up to a wall of trees and ground that falls off radically to somewhere green. A small dark creek trickles at the bottom of the green.
After we parked on Thursday - and rested appropriately, we rounded up the dogs for a short walk around one of the legs of the figure 8, or loops if you prefer. Not 20 feet down the road, I noticed an orange stucture to the right, behind the motorhome, down in the creek bed. It is a bridge, a one way bridge going nowhere in the middle of the wilderness. A narrow path leads down to the bridge.
Taking the dogs in tow, we continued down the path. The bridge is at the bottom of a steep path - no road, old or new, is in evidence. It extends across a deep ravine with an ugly creek creaking along, or whatever a creek does. Babbling brook certainly does not apply to this waterway. The floor of the bridge is 2 x 8 boards fastened to the steel structure. At the far side of the bridge is a sign post explaining the reason behind the structure.
I paraphrase the sign: The Hoxie bridge was built in the early 1900s east of here. It was built with prison labor, or local prisoners. One of them tried to escape and was shot. To make a point, the guards hung his body from a nearby tree. He was never given a proper burial. For years after, his ghost was said to haunt the bridge at midnight on Friday nights. At one point a priest came out and performed a religious service which was said to send the ghost on his proper way. About 15-20 years ago, the unused bridge was moved to its present location by volunteer workers and has set here since.
[ So you will understand the why behind the next thing -- My process at bedtime is to take each of the 3 dogs out for a wetting. Gretta goes first (she is the smallest) followed by Liesl and Fritz in that order. This usually happens between 11 and 1 a.m. ]
The following evening as I prepared to close it down for the night, I held Greta in my arms and took the steps down to the grass. Usually when she is put down (she can't climb down the stairs by herself), Gretta paces about sniffing until she locates just the right blad of grass - then she squats.
That night, hitting the yard, she immediately went into a freeze position staring into the thicket behind the motorhome. We stood; she did not wet.
I heard voices down on the bridge. It was a group of kids talking. On the road to my left 2 young girls walked. They were covered head-to-toe with beach towels. In the dark of the night, all I could see was the tuff of their hair and the flip-flops on their feet. They moved slowly to the edge of the bridge path. Greta watched; she did not wet. Behind me in the motorhome, Liesl and Fritz barked for their equal time.
The young girls slowly moved down the path, not venturing over 15 feet before freezing into their pose. Greta had not moved a muscle. From the bridge I heard an older voice speak,
"Oh Spirit of Hoxie Bridge, show yourself. Come to us ole spirit of Hoxie
Bridge. We want to see you." His voice continued; the girls didn't move;
I checked my watch. It was midnight, and it was Friday night. Greta
still frozen, watched; she did not wet.
I raised my extra heavy duty flashlight pointing it into the woods near the bridge; I flipped the switch on. All of a sudden everything broke loose. The people on the bridge began to run. The girls screamed, flip flops flip-flopped away from the bridge - up the path - back home as fast as their young legs could move, beach towel flowing behind like a cape. Screams galore. The sound of many boys yelling and running across a wooden bridge is a racketing noise. They emerged from the woods. I would guess 8 to 10 bodies came flailing up the path.
Greta watched; she did not wet.
Within a moment or two, all was silent. There were no girls in beach towels flip-flopping. There were no boys yelling and running up the path. There were no more noises drifting up from the bridge. It was now past midnight on a Friday night. Oh, to be a kid again seeking ghost at midnight on a deserted, haunting bridge. I miss those days.
Greta and I stood, watching for another few minutes. She didn't move, and she didn't wet. Greta held it all night long. Liesl and Fritz came out and performed magically & quickly, each in his turn.
We all went to bed dreaming of next Friday night at midnight on old Hoxie Bridge. Greta curled up waiting for the morning light.
A "STONE" is a family word for a personal story or thought, not quite an essay or short story. We moved to central Texas to be near a daughter. We are down to only one wirehair dachshund - Sadie. (Goodbye in 2021 to Oscar the ball boy and Bruno the larger twin) & my wife -- penned by a retired Texas H.S. band director - just nonsense thoughts unrelated to each other or anything other than what's happening and comments.
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Posted by Mike Metze at 4:31 PM
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