Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The River, the Wagon Bridge, and the Catapult Tree

When I was growing up in Colonia Juarez, there were two bridges that crossed the river. An ancient suspension footbridge known as the Swinging Bridge, and a single lane cement bridge known as the Wagon Bridge. The Swinging Bridge got its name from the side-to-side/up-and-down movements it makes as you walk across it. (I still take my kids to walk across it everytime we go visit my parents)
The Wagon Bridge was the bridge we used to cross the river when we walked home from school. It was made entirely out of cement, and was supported by two cement pillars that were built on the riverbed. Watching the water flow under the bridge was hypnotizing, and we wasted a lot of time standing on the bridge throwing sticks and rocks into the river below. More often than not, we would wind up climbing down the bridge to get to the river itself, where we would waste more time, get wet, filthy dirty, and destroy our shoes.

There were several ways to do get down to the river from the bridge: Walk down to the river from the east bank, take a running jump off of the west end of the bridge to the bank below, and (our favorite) climbing down the pillars that supported the bridge. When the river was flooded, we couldn't actually get down and play in it, but when the waters started going down again, it broke into two channels around a large segment of land in the middle of the river bed, creating an island. Our inner pirates couldn't resist playing on the island, so as soon as the island looked dry enough to walk on without sinking to our hips in muck, we went over the side of the bridge and down to the island.

The only way to reach the island was to climb down the easternmost pillar on the bridge. Looking at it now it isn't so big a deal, but when I was ten that was quite a distance to go down for short little squirts. Fortunately for us, there was a young elm tree that grew right up against the pillar. However, we were much more creative than simply climbing down the tree. We grabbed the top of the tree and jumped off the pillar. The tree would bend all the way down to the ground letting us off gently onto the island. When we wanted back up, we jumped halfway up the tree, bent it down, and then jumped again holding onto the top of the tree. It would fling us onto the pillar and we would then climb the rest of the way up onto the bridge. We called that elm the Catapult Tree, and enjoyed jumping back and forth off the pillar almost as much as we enjoyed the island.
Once on the island we would make mud/sand castles, cut river willows and have sword fights with them, throw mud at each other and sticks into the river and have a grand old time. 1983 was the best year for flooding while I was growing up (I was 10 that year), and we seemed to live on that island. I know that I got in trouble several times for coming home so late, wet, and dirty, but it didn't stop us. I must have gone through about 8 pairs of shoes that school year and, if I remember right, that was the year my parents got their first grey hairs. It was awesome!
Next up - tubing, body surfing, and other stupid stuff.


Melinda said...

You guys had good imaginations using the tree as a catapult. What a fun place for kids.

Melinda said...

Oh ya! thanks for posting another story and I look forward to the next one. See Ya Sunday!

RhondaLue said...

i just feel bad for your poor mother. How is she so sane after going through all those years with you boys? In actuality I think it's really girls that do the most damage to a momma's stress level but boys aren't too far behind!

Jed said...

Don't forget the Top of the Van surfing, Teen wolf style. I think we both got it pretty good for that. I believe that was the same day Renee ran over Caroline's radio. Ahhh....maybe the old saying is true......what doesn't kill us just gives our parents gray

great post primo!