Wednesday, August 13, 2014


The covered bridge is out for awhile. . .okay.
But this oldest bridge in the world is in service.


We were up in the village the other day, by fording the river,  carrying our bicycles over on my shoulder and using a stone walkway to see how things were going at the covered bridge, plus to get a feel of the village (a little desolate), and to visit with our oldest friend in the valley 75 years long in the village and pretty distraught at what is happening to the covered bridge. A bridge she has lived beside since the age of ten. Tears rushing to her eyes that she bats back with that old yankee determination. Once upon a time her father bought up most of the houses in the village as a gift to our friend's mother, who loved the trees. The huge maples and elms. It was a long time ago.

She spends most of the visit wanting to know the latest news, and because of things, she has a way now of elegantly and smoothly wading into a private pool of her own and gazing at my wife with such a look of love that one could say it's only with those not of this world. And then she looks over to me. I've been with those having started to leave this world and I wasn't aware of then what I am aware of now. It lasts a good long minute of the gazer soaking in an aesthetic unknown to all of us caught up in our daily routine and better health. They are in a nether world, and they do see things. They come from places and a time and memories that are invaluable. If we're really paying attention, they're showing us what we're missing.

Viewing the Selectboard meetings of late, which remains a grand testimony to the democratic voice, I got to view an old neighbor of mine I haven't seen in a decade, fight for the very good cause of recycling. He came well prepared, was polite and spoke his piece and everyone else was polite. Maybe something will come of it. I liked it that this old neighbor then sat through the discussion on the Green River covered bridge since he once drove over this bridge for years and years and certainly a bit of his life is threaded and tied up in those old darkened beams.

It shouldn't be lost on anyone that there are a lot of bright, experienced and knowledgeable people attending these meetings on the covered bridge — all walks of life. Construction workers, large machinery operators, the fire chief, town road commissioner, surveyors, loggers, secretaries, teachers, physicians, businessmen, farm stock, manual workers, carpenters, and they all have many thoughts in their heads on what might be the most productive move to make on the restoration of this covered bridge.

Some I also call "slam and bangers," and sometimes they're in charge, god forbid, because restoration on a covered bridge is anything but slam and bang or rush to judgment, or 'hurry in a road and while you're at-it, hurry in a new bridge.' There's nothing at all wrong with "slam and banging" in the right place, right tools, right job. However, a covered bridge, a hidden valley aura, homes tucked in and around hill and dale, slipstreams and grassy spurs, is all about patience and surgical cuts and real conversation not to the benefit of our way of life, but to the benefit and continuation of Green River valley's way of life.

It seems lost on some that Green River isn't Guilford which isn't Greenfield. Just as Old Deerfield, Massachusetts isn't Deerfield, Massachusetts even if the former sits in the palm of the hand of the latter. They're two different species, architectures, tones and ways of life, and varied minds and persuasions and mutual respect over decades with the citizenry has made it work. It takes people that understand preserving a landscape and its way of life takes a preservation of the mind amongst all the people. Or else you have trouble.

I watch many good minds at work at these covered bridge meetings that could have easily been the sort of minds and brawn that would have been there to rebuild the first bridge that went down before the covered bridge went up. Yes, there was another bridge there long ago before our current one and it took them no time to build our covered bridge because they needed it and they wanted it and the way it was built shows they most definitely had a preservation of the mind. All without electricity, engines, or gasoline.

Since Green River is not Guilford, and never has been Guilford, but its own hamlet, and we gladly pay our taxes to Guilford and don't at all mind being governed by Guilford, it's up to Guilford to understand you don't change a valley shape, its river, the covered bridge, and a way of life to suit the needs of Route 5 Guilford or Guilford Center Road. That would be arrogance on Guilford's part. It's with hope that Guilford's brain trust understands, with fraternity, we have a treasured pocket in the corner of the town map and we aim to keep it that way. It's going to take work on everyone's part, and it's going to take work and always patience on the villagers' part, and yes the twain will meet if its meant to. This will mean a regular dump truck and plow (like Harvey drove for years) and other service vehicles abiding to the wholesome construction of the valley, its river and the covered bridge. They were all here first. Respect your elders.

There are at least two defined and well-maintained access roads for folks on the west side of the bridge (where I live) when the covered bridge needs repairs and things are closed down. We're fortunate. We're very lucky to have such detours, since one route slides right by the beauty of the Weatherhead Hollow Pond. I've seen it for almost 50 years and I'm not sick of it yet. I also have a business that demands immediate attention and mail order and I've seen no hiccup or reason to complain about the service continued by both UPS and Fed Ex out to my place. They come through. And we get to Holly in West Brattleboro to ship our mail because that's what we have to do. And yes we pay extra on gasoline and it's expensive and none of that at all has to do with the covered bridge being opened or closed.

When the covered bridge is closed it shows us what we're going to miss, and oh what a living lesson that is.

The solution to the covered bridge is to build no new modern bridge at all! Keep the new low load limit on the covered bridge, rehab it to include a modified opening that prevents larger vehicles from passing through it and limit it to passenger cars only. Build the Old Mill bypass after the route is combed over by the engineers for feasibility and there's our heavy traffic road. Money spent will go to landowners (money in local pockets) instead of a mammoth salary raised for a new bridge, whether temporary or permanent, it's all the same nightmare.

[ BA ]

Here are some photographs gathered up over the last week of making the rounds of village life and restoration work around the covered bridge. 

One evening we took a bicycle ride the 2 miles up river to the covered bridge in the village
where work has begun on repairing the west stone wing

The large stone removed and new ground being excavated and ready for rebuild.

Close-up of the west concrete abutment and where the next trouble is hidden.

One of the workers excavating by hand under the concrete . . .

. . .and with his Smart Phone taking photographs to best see and locate the trouble.
The bridge was closed for use over two months, now it's at least three months.

A week later. . .now on the east side of the bridge (village proper side).
Note to town: our Fed Ex driver read this sign and surmised the bridge would be closed ONLY 
for one day, "July 28."

Green River Bridge approaching from Green River village.

The crew of Peter Welch laying in the west wing stone wall, using native rock (already there) with a few longer tie-rock delivered by flatbed truck.

A tie stone properly placed.

Man and machine. Look closely — there's long level and string level being used.

You can't come in for awhile.

Back Road Chalkie
for August
speaking the mind of a
backwoods, wily, once upon a time

photos 2014  © bob & susan arnold