"The bridge reaches beyond the boundaries of
time and space and goes straight to the heart."
The bridge crosses a small stream in northeast Washington. The bridge is made of simple creosoted wood and formed metal rails, that attract no special attention, except to our family. It has been a focal point for many memories and experiences. It is the bridge that every family needs – tradition.
Every summer, since our marriage, my wife and I have traveled to this spectacular section of Washington State, where we camp with many of our family members and friends. After a couple of years of freedom, our new four-month-old baby joined us, and the camping experience became complicated.
Two summers later, another little guy added to the insanity of outdoor experiences with children. We loved every minute of it, even though the packing and the maintenance load grew exponentially. Can you imagine all the paraphernalia needed for two kids under three years, in a primitive camping experience with no facilities – not even an outhouse? We often have over twenty people in a large open camping area sharing a common campfire and sometimes meals together. It is our favorite time of year, except for Christmas. One of the lures of this camping area is fishing in the creek, which snakes its way through this rugged terrain. We will float the creek on hot summer days, enjoying the coolness of the waters, as well as the excellent fishing. One fishing tradition that is a part of every summer trip, is fishing off the bridge. It has become a familiar scenario, “Hey boys, let’s go down to the bridge.”
We grab the poles and head for the bridge. They proudly carry their Mickey Mouse fishing poles, tiny tackle box and a container of worms. We walk the short distance down the gravel road. The excitement increases as we approach the bridge. The kids cast a couple of times and quickly get bored with the fishing and start throwing rocks into the creek. Fortunately, the fish do not seem to mind. When I hook a fish, they come running to reel it in and then they go back to playing. We have spent many hours playing out this scenario. I love it. I am a fisherman through and through and I am thrilled to see them experience catching fish any way possible. This seems to be the most fun for them.
Both my boys caught their first fish from the deck of the bridge. The oldest was the first and at age three, could reel well enough to do the job. So, while mom filmed, he joyfully brought the fish up and over the railing. He was so excited, he started grabbing the fish and showing it to everyone around. He decided he had to run back to camp and show Grandpa and Grandma. He also was very excited to eat the big fish he had caught that night for dinner. The next summer was our second son’s turn at not quite three years old. He had a bit harder time reeling but showed the same enthusiasm when the fish came over the railing. The difference with him was that he wanted to put the fish back in the creek. After explaining that he could eat the fish for dinner, he agreed to keep it. The smile on his face was so heart-warming. I thought I was done with this “first fish’ tradition. Then several years later, my wife and I decided two children was not enough and adopted a beautiful little girl. The next summer, with her at two and a half years of age, the tradition continued. She caught her first fish from the exact spot her two older brothers, now eleven and nine, caught their first fish. To my great pleasure, she was not squeamish at all about holding onto the wriggling little rainbow trout. She showed it proudly to all and even tried to kiss it on the nose. My thoughts went back to those few years ago, when my boys were tiny little guys marveling at their first fish. The joy is unexplainable.
I am looking forward too many more trips to the bridge and maybe even another first for another young life, that needs the benefits of tradition. The bridge reaches beyond the boundaries of time and space and goes straight to the heart. The heart of a family; the heart of an experience with Nature; the heart of traditions that bond for a lifetime. For these reasons, I will always love the bridge; not for its physical attributes, but for the intangible emotions that draw me back year after year. I am grateful for such places in life.