Saturday, July 19, 2008

The Harbor Bridge

When I was a little bitty kid growing up in my little bitty home town in south Texas, my grandparents would often take me and my little bittier brother to spend weekends in the Big City.

Usually, a weekend in the Big City meant San Antonio which had been my grandparents’ home town. However, during fishing season, my grandfather’s concept of the Big City meant “Corpus”.

Corpus Christi, Texas, that is.

My little bitty home town of Goliad was equidistant between Corpus Christi and San Antonio, about eighty miles from each. But to my little mind, San Antonio seemed more like The City than Corpus.

To this day, whenever I hear Petula Clark’s 1965 hit Downtown, I picture the tall, brown buildings lining the inner city streets of San Antonio.

But ever so often, my grandfather would take us to spend a weekend in “Corpus.” Rather than heading north, we’d head southwest along the Gulf Coast plains of south Texas.

The flat roads would be endlessly lined with this grain crop called “maize”. I know that “maize” is somewhat related to the Native American word for “corn” but this was an entirely different grain.

To this day, I still have absolutely no idea what the South Texas grain crop of “maize” really is. I think it might be fed to cows or turkeys or oysters.
I don't know.

I just know that, as a kid, we’d just watch endless rows of it pass by the car window on the way to Corpus. Ever so often, there would be one stalk of it sticking above all the rest.

Boom. There’d be one stalk shooting above the rest among miles of evenly-grown heads of “maize.”

I asked my grandfather how that happened. He laughed and explained to me and my brother that when those seeds were planted, a seagull happened to fly by and shit on that spot, thus fertilizing that seed more than the rest. And that’s why those stalks were higher than the rest.

Sounded plausible to me. He was a good grandfather.

He also said that if my brother and I didn’t quiet down, he’d pull over at the next mailbox and just mail us home. Of course, when he’d see the next mailbox along the two-lane highway, he’d dramatically pull the car over and we’d both squeal with laughter.

He was a good grandfather.

He also said that if we were really good, he’d stop at the next town and buy us an ice cream cone. He’d give me the road map and have me look for the next sizable town that would have ice cream.

Okay, take a look at a map. There’s absolutely nothing between Goliad and Corpus Christi, Texas, but he had me honing some good cartography skills the entire way. I was almost seven years old.

He was a really good grandfather.

Anyway, the highlight of the trip was crossing the Harbor Bridge into Corpus Christi. My gosh, how I loved crossing that bridge.

Apparently, the only way to drive into Corpus prior to 1960 was over a drawbridge. As we came within 30 miles of the city, my grandfather would start telling us how traffic used to be backed up because of the drawbridge; how he’d practically have to wait for days to get into the city prior to this incredible, huge, colossal, Harbor Bridge being built.

Then, as we would begin the ascent to the bridge, he’d explain to me how the construction crews began building the bridge on both sides and

(we’d begin climbing the ascent higher and higher)

and the bridge construction reached across the water

(we would be among the steel trusses way above the bay)

And finally! Both sides met!

(And we’d reach the apex and begin our descent into downtown Corpus Christi)

God! How I loved that bridge! My grandfather made it so exciting.

We’d check into a nice hotel by the waterfront and my grandmother would continually slather my brother and me with Sea-n-Ski so that we wouldn’t get sunburned.

We'd go to a really nice seafood restaurant and I'd get to order a half-dozen fried oysters. The salad was a huge wedge of iceberg lettuce with this really strange dressing slathered over it (I think it was "Thousand Island")

I was only six years old, but I remember so well just wanting to stay in the air-conditioned hotel room where I could peer out the bay windows in the hotel room and watch the cars traverse the Harbor Bridge. . . .

. . . Are you ready for this?

Progress moves on . . . Ships are being built bigger and taller. . . . And apparently the Harbor Bridge isn’t tall enough anymore.

A new, taller bridge has been planned to replace the Harbor Bridge into Corpus. Can you believe it?

It seems just like yesterday that my grandfather was getting me to marvel at the big, new bridge. But "yesterday" has somehow slipped into four decades.

If I had kids, I’d love to show them the new bridge into Corpus. I’d tell them how the old bridge only came up so far, then crossed the channel and went back down. And how it had only six lanes of traffic. And how the old bridge was so incredible for its time and how my grandfather loved this bridge . . .

. . . But, of course, my kids would be in the back seat, ignoring the bridge and playing with their game-pods.

But on the way out of Corpus, I'd point out the fields of "maize". And I’d be sure to tell them how the seagulls pooped on that one maize seed to make it taller than all the rest. . .

. . then a quick pullover to a mailbox with an anecdote about their great-grandfather,

And, I'll just bet that a few squeals of laughter might be heard after all.

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At 9:50 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Loved your story. My Dad used to put light bulbs in the ground and tell my daughter who was pre-school at the time that the bulbs he planted were ready to harvest.He had to own up before it became embarrassing for a tiny kid because she really did believe that's where light bulbs came from.

At 7:19 PM , Blogger Miss Healthypants said...

This is a great story, dooder! :)

At 8:03 PM , Blogger Barb said...

Wow! I loved that story ~ you had me enthralled. What a great testament to your grandfather. Oh, and Sea & Ski ~ PRICELESS. I hadn't thought of that in years. Thanks for the mental vacation.

At 8:11 PM , Blogger Iwanski said...

I enjoyed this.

At 1:48 PM , Blogger Lorraine said...

(claps little hands)


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