In 1907, when the Mill Creek Bridge was built by D.M. Brown, the actions of the Founding Fathers didn’t seem quite so long ago. America was a youthful 131 years old then. Teddy Roosevelt occupied the Oval Office. A generation later, his face graced Mount Rushmore, alongside Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln. Time passes quickly. Someday, our current legislators’ angry chatter and apocalyptic warnings about the Affordable Care Act will be lines in a high school history book, like those uttered by opponents of Social Security in the 1930s. Some saw it as the end of the United States of America, as they knew it. Maybe it was.
On this quiet, half-gravel, half-pavement country road, surrounded by woods and farmland, there are a few reminders of the right way for humans to behave. Three signs greet motorists as they approach the white-and-red covered bridge. “Load Limit 3 Tons.” “Warning: Flooding Possible.” “One Lane Bridge.” People apparently have accepted those rules. The bridge is still standing, still handling pickups and accidental tourists. Neighbors and strangers, alike, appreciate and respect its utility and simple beauty. It keeps working, day after day, because the creek below keeps flowing, sometimes high and sometimes low, and folks need to get from one side to the other.
It’s time to head back to the city, now. The radio will undoubtedly apprise me of the latest counterpunches thrown in Washington’s crisis-of-the-month soap opera. Those lawmakers hundreds of miles from the rural simplicity of Parke County need to seek out their own silent spot, remember that their feverish arguments and dire predictions will fade someday, and entertain the possibility that they just might not be completely right. They face a choice, as we all often do, to cling to a rock in the stream of change or go with the flow toward the next bridge and new pressing issues.
Regardless of their decision, this creek will, barring divine intervention, still be trickling on a warm October afternoon 106 years from now, as plummeting walnuts splash into its waters.
Mark Bennett is a columnist for the Tribune-Star, Terre Haute. Contact him at email@example.com.