Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The "Adventure"

Do you remember that incredible scene in the movie “Stand By Me” where the boys barely escaped being run over by an oncoming train while walking across the bridge?

Here it is:

The same thing happened to me and my brother when I was seven years old, only it was our grandmother, Budgie, who had been responsible for us being on the train bridge.

Whenever we were visiting our grandparents, Budgie would take us out on “an adventure” as she called it. This usually involved a hike along the San Antonio River or some nearby creek, picking blackberries beside a dirt road, or just taking a drive along the back roads throughout the county.

It was a means of keeping two little boys entertained. It was also so our grandfather could enjoy an afternoon nap without being bothered by two little boys.

One afternoon, our “adventure” entailed a walk along some nearby railroad tracks which was awfully exciting for me since I had a “thing” for trains.

Soon, we came to a bridge that crossed the San Antonio River and it was one of those old, steel truss bridges. I wanted to walk across it in order to get a better look, and since this was “an adventure,” Budgie took our hands and we started across.

It was pretty scary, looking down through the railroad ties at the water far below. But Budgie had a firm grasp on our hands and besides, the ties were close enough together to prevent a small child from actually falling through.

About halfway inside the steel trusses, we realized that the end of the bridge was really farther than we thought, so we decided to turn around and head back.

I took a look back over my shoulder to examine how the girders were constructed and noticed something in the distance. . . .

“Budgie! There’s a train coming!” I exclaimed.

She thought I was teasing my younger brother, as I was wont to do, and said something to that effect.

“No! Really! There’s a train coming!" I reiterated, more emphatically this time.

Much whooping and hollering came from Budgie as she looked back and saw the train herself. (She had a tendency to sound like Edith Bunker whenever she got excited.) The three of us began running across the remainder of the bridge with our wrists firmly bound in Budgie's death-grip.

The train really was quite some distance away which allowed us plenty of time to get off the bridge. However, the tracks were then bordered by steep, earthen embankments on both sides which prevented us from scurrying to safety.

We had to run quite a bit more until, finally, we found a pathway up the embankment and quickly nestled ourselves up there. Soon, the train was barreling by just where we had been running a few moments before.

About twenty-five years ago, freight train service ended on that line and the tracks were removed. However, the old steel truss bridge was left standing over the San Antonio River.

Whenever I visited home, I’d notice that old bridge and remember the many “adventures” that Budgie entertained us with. Those were wonderful memories that I am truly fortunate to have. (It was a good thing my grandfather wanted have a quiet house to himself on those afternoons, too.)

Recently, I came across a photographer who lives in my home town and sells his work on line. I was looking through his work and was instantly captivated by one photograph in particular.

It was the old train bridge across the San Antonio River.

Years of neglect were evidenced by the encroaching vines and undergrowth. But I can still hear Budgie’s squeals of surprise as the train approached on that summer day over forty years ago.

(By the way, I contacted the photographer to order a print of this photo)


At 2:45 PM , Blogger Miss Healthypants said...

Dude, I never heard that story! Thank God Budgie had the tight "death grip" on you and your brother! *smiles*

At 5:40 PM , Anonymous Bro said...

That does bring back the memories.


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