The Bridge

In a land far from here,  in a time long forgotten, there were two villages separated by a deep chasm. On the east side of the wide rocky gorge was Becket’s Corner, to the west lay Paradise.

For a time when the elder’s grandfathers were young, a wobbly suspension bridge provided passage, commerce, and sharing between the two villages. Over time the villages grew apart, each community blaming something the other had done.

Then, one night, the bridge was gone. Both sides condemned the other for the destruction with pointed fingers, but neither could prove anything. While a few mourned the loss of the bridge most didn’t seem to care. They were content, even happy, to be on their own.

One day in a far-off city, many many years after the bridge fell, Jason from Becket’s corner met Ferdinand from Paradise. At first, the old animosity and hatred ruled. Even though they tried to avoid each other their orbits brought them together again and again.

Soon they found snippets of commonality. Jason introduced Ferdinand to fried sweet dough and Ferdinand shared his favorite spiced wine which they both enjoyed. They told their stories.  They laughed as the other recounted something upside down from their understanding and got angry when a basic tenet was misunderstood. Yet through these shared moments over fried sweet dough and spiced wine, a bridge of sorts was built.

Soon the day came for Jason and Ferdinand to return to their villages. They each carried home the things they had shared. While the fried sweet dough and spiced wine were welcome additions to both communities their newly embraced views of the village across the chasm were unwelcome at home.

At the dawning of each day, however, Jason and Ferdinand would approach the chasm and talk with each other through the wig-wag waves of signal flags. Always ending with “WIBN” for wouldn’t it be nice as they each recalled sharing food, drink, and stories in the far off city.

A few years later news came to Paradise that war was coming across the land. Another people had invaded from across the sea and were burning villages as they marched toward the far-off city. Becket’s Corner felt safe since the city would have to fall before the enemy could reach them. Many on the safe side laughed and danced at their good fortune while Jason mourned Paradise’s unavoidable fate.

The citizens of Paradise considered many options. They thought about trying to race the enemy to the city but that seemed impossible. Someone proposed hiding in the caves which sounded good until another reminded them that there wouldn’t be any food once the invaders burned the village.  Ferdinand suggested something unheard of, build a bridge to Becket’s corner. The idea was scoffed at. The distance was too great. Becket’s corner would turn them back or worse.

The next morning Ferdinand wig-waged the news to Jason. “hold,” Jason replied, “I will see, back at noon.” With that, Jason ran off.  He talked to the elders and leaders of the village. It wasn’t their problem they replied. He talked to the oldest in the village to see if he could discover how the first bridge was built with no luck. But Jason did find a few willing to help, a few men and women willing to do whatever they could.

At noon Jason signaled back. “Have a plan, get longest ropes possible. Back one hour.”  

“WIBN,” Ferdinand replied and hurried off.

Ferdinand likewise found a few women and men willing to do something. Gathering several hundred feet of rope Ferdinand and friends gathered at the chasm and signaled Jason.

In the meantime, Jason had also gathered all the rope he could find and instructed some to set the posts needed while others assembled the ropes into a bundle. Jason then tied two of the ropes to a post and tied a large stone to the other end.  With some help, he threw the stone into the gorge. “Do the same,” he signaled Ferdinand.

Once Jason saw Ferdinand launch his stone he signaled, “meet me” Taking a rope in hand he repelled down the steep walls of the chasm.  Ferdinand followed suit.

In the darkness of the steep-sided valley, the two friends hugged. Jason explained his plan and what was required. They tied one of the ropes from each side together and scaled back up the chasm. Once both were again at the top Jason signaled and Ferdinand’s friends began pulling the joined rope towards their side. On the other end, Jason and friends knotted the bundle of ropes to the one heading towards Paradise.

It took many hours to complete but soon a rudimentary three-line bridge spanned the chasm. A thick rope for the “floor” and two thinner ropes above on each side for something to hold onto. While all this was going on villagers from both sides gathered at the chasm. Some cheering, some jeering, most just watching as the impossible became possible.

Jason and three leaders from Becket’s Corner were the first to cross. While talks began between the leaders of the villages, which Jason and Ferdinand helped along, work on additional spans got underway. Soon there were three rope spans with both sides working to lay down wooden planking across them.  When the loose lumber ran out folks began tearing wood from sheds, lean-tos, and even homes to provide the extra flooring needed.

By the time the last plank was laid in place, the leaders from Becket’s corner agreed to house and feed the refugees. This was not as easy as it sounds. Old animosities were brought up and fought over, but when a watchman reported a dust cloud in the distance both sides knew it was now or never.

Fears were conquered on that day. Many defeated their fear of the wobbly bridge. Others won over their fear of what they may find on the other side. But all made it over, the last of Paradise’s leaders crossing when the invading hoard burnt the first of the outlying homes.

Everyone from both villages stood on the precipice watching the enemy loot, plunder, and destroy Paradise. Many wept but none looked away. Ferdinand, Jason, and friends stood by with axes; ready to destroy the bridge they had just built. But the enemy had no interest in dividing their forces and soon left on their march towards the far-off city leaving nothing in Paradise but smoke, fire, and ash.

A few of the old grievances, old wounds, old stories, and old misconceptions between the citizens of Becket’s Corner and the refugees of Paradise were buried that night. As time passed more and more of those wounds were healed as the villagers learned to accept one another, care for one another, and even love one another.  And over time even the bridge was improved, widened, and strengthened.

The next year, a new village called Paradise Corner was born. Some still preferred one side over the other, some still chose to live a certain way, some still saw things differently than the others, but they were one people with a very sturdy and vastly improved bridge.

Dale Heinold
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