Crossing the Bridge

Last week, I shared a college experience with my teenage partner, John Long. Thoughts of working with John triggered a second Oklahoma memory.

Not only did the small Oklahoma church where John and I worked as Christian Youth Roundup partners provide places for us to stay and food to eat, the members also arranged for each of us to have a car for the week. Two thoughts drove their decision about providing cars. First, every night following our worship service, John and I each drove teenagers from the church back to their rural homes. In addition, the cars provided transportation between the church and the farmhouses where we stayed. No problem! Although old, my car seemed reliable. I did not feel in the least bit uneasy driving on rural roads late at night.

All went well until midweek. As soon as we got to the church, word spread that a man had been murdered the night before under a bridge spanning a dry creek. Fear followed my initial shock as I grasped that each night after dropping off the teens, I crossed that same bridge. Maybe I had even crossed just as the murder had taken place!

After hearing the news, I pulled John to one side and admitted, “I’m really scared to drive over that bridge tonight.” After a moment of quiet contemplation, John replied, “Lock all the doors. Even if the weather stays hot, keep the car windows rolled up. And, when you get to the bridge, drive fast.”

That night, I watched the last teen walk into her home before I carefully turned the old car around. Before that night, I had never noticed that the thick corn stalks grew taller than the roof of the car. Although I had previously never had trouble getting back on the main road, I seemed to be backing up and turning around for a long time.

Finally, back on the dirt road leading to the bridge, I checked the locked doors. In spite of the Oklahoma heat I rolled the windows to the top. (At that time, no cars had air conditioners so I had no other alternative except to drive in the heat.) Approaching the wooden bridge, I looked in both directions and then pressed the pedal to the floor and barreled across. With my young heart beating much too fast, I did not slow down until I reached the house where I stayed each night. That evening, sleep did not come easily.

On each of the following nights, I repeated the process. Obviously, by following John’s astute suggestions, I remained safe until we left Oklahoma and made our way back to good old, safe Texas.

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