Monday, July 07, 2008

The Eastpointer

Turnstyle Bridge

By Richard E. Noble
There are certain people who are particularly concerned with the question - "what's important?" Philosophers, writers, and talk show hosts are a few. As an aspiring "internationally famous writer and author" for most of my teenage and adult life, this has always been one of my particular concerns. Not too many hopeful writers become internationally famous writing about things that really aren't all that important. So every time that a writer takes pen in hand or puts finger to keyboard he must ask himself, "Is writing about the fact that I was born with six toes on my right foot really all that important to the rest of mankind; or is the fact that every time I eat a peanut butter sandwich I get indigestion more gripping?"
Over the years this dilemma has perplexed me for endless hours. But in recent years this problem has disappeared. Now that I have become an "old person" overnight, I have no problem in figuring out what events of my past are important enough to write about. It is relatively easy these days.
I figure that if I can still remember this particular happenstance from my ancient past it must be important. I mean I have already forgotten more than most young people have learned the first thirty years of their life. Actually I consider this to be one of my biggest achievements to date.
Mark Twain once said something to this effect; "My memory has now gotten to the point that the only things I remember for sure are those things that never really happened at all." And I must say I do resemble that remark.
Strangely enough our first day here in Eastpoint and Franklin County is still vivid in my memory's eye.
We came plowing through main street Apalachicola in our Chevy Van towing our Airstream Trailer on Seafood Festival celebration day. That surprise was almost as thrilling as the day we arrived in Mena, Arkansas on the annual celebration day of Lum and Abner.
We were thrilled by all the excitement. We were gawking every which way until we got to the Apalach Bridge. Some contraption like a railroad crossing gate came tumbling down in front of our truck and the middle of the bridge turned sideways. We didn't know what the heck was going on. I now know that type bridge was called a "turnstyle" bridge.
We peeked around and watched some of the other vehicles that were backed up behind us. Many of them turned off their ignitions, left their vehicles and began wandering around on the bridge. We decided to do likewise. A few Gulf shrimp trawlers were lined up waiting to pass through the turnstyle.
There was a bridge operator sitting in a glass room high up on the bridge and she waved to the shrimp boat captains as they slowly floated through the newly made temporary hole in the bridge. The shrimp boats looked older and even more antiquated than the bridge.
Since Carol and I were hoboes with no particular place to go and no certain time to be there, we just stood on the bridge and watched. It took quite some time for the few shrimp trawlers to get clear of the bridge and on their path out to the Gulf.
Neither of us mentioned it but I know we were both thinking how truly un-American this whole deal was. Can you imagine in New York City or Boston or Chicago if a bridge split open every so many hours and tied up the traffic for fifteen minutes to a half hour? Why my goodness, there would be riots in the streets.
But here in Apalach everyone turned off their ignitions, left their vehicles and stood around on a bridge pointing, gawking, giggling and chit-chatting.
I really didn't know what to make of it. I mean in a world where every day was go-go-go and time was money, here's this bridge that opens up in the middle of the afternoon, stops all the traffic and commuters and most surprising of all - nobody is complaining. They're all acting as if this is an everyday type thing - and, of course, it was. It was hard to believe.
We immediately decided that we had to stay here for a day or two and check this strange community out. There may have been other places with bridges like this but in all our travels we never saw another.
We found a little campground right on the water for $25 a week rent and then we ran over to another bridge and fished off the "catwalk" - not too many places had catwalks either. We caught the biggest flounder that I had ever caught in my life and a great big red fish.
It was a memorable day. And now 25 to 30 years have passed and we are still here. To be honest there has not been a week that has gone by in all this time that I haven't thought of hitting the open road once again but yet I haven't. Someone once said to me that once you get some of that Eastpoint sand in your shoes, you just can't get rid of it. So far that seems to be the case.

Hobo-ing America and A Summer with Charlie are books written by Richard E. Noble. They are both for sale on Richard Noble is a freelance writer and has been a resident of Eastpoint for 30 years. If you would like to stock his books in your store or business he can be contacted at