Noble ruins of the South: The U.S. 25 bridge
By Tom Poland
When man abandoned it, the traffic diverted west, and the forest began to claim it. Today, sycamores, cedars, and oaks console it, and wind and water song replace the hum of tires. If you know when and where to look, you can glimpse this noble ruin of the South. A mere second, my glimpse, but it whispered, “Take time to visit me,” so I did. I knew the place would give me a good feeling, and it did. The place? The old U.S. Highway 25 bridge that used to straddle Turkey Creek. “Used to, you say?” “Yes, men cut away its mid-section.” Now like bookends, its truncated ends stare at each other across a westward-flowing creek. You won’t see books suspended midair, but this place is a book, and it deserves to be in a book, and I just might put it in one. In winter light, the north end looked Romanesque. The snow-white limbs of sycamores added brilliance to the dry brown of January, and the azure sky reigned perfect, not a cloud in the sky. Only man’s orange safety netting, a Band-Aid of sorts, marred the setting. Rains had the creek swollen and muddy, a chocolate-colored torrent. I like ruins. I’ve been to Rome’s Coliseum. I like going to the Glendale Ruins up Sparkle City way. I’ve never been to Cumberland Island’s Dungeness Ruins, but I will. Best of all I like the ruins beneath my nose, the ones no one cares about but me. And so it was I found myself walking toward this old bridge. On the way in I walked past coyote scat and a deer stand. A refugee from the Old West and primal instincts seek safe harbor here near this bridge to the past. When I got to the old bridge, right off I noticed that missing midsection. I noticed, too, two strange steel towers, green moss, white quartz embedded in gray cement, and those dazzling sycamores — a majestic setting for majestic ruins. This bridge speaks to me. “Like you, I was younger and essential once, but to see me is to see your future.” Time and something called progress leave many a bridge behind. Many get razed, like the vanquished Silas N. Pearson/Cooper River Bridge. But the old Highway 25 Bridge stands still, and it gives me that ancient Rome vibe. It’s truly a bridge to the past. I think of old makes and models of cars and trucks it ferried north and south. Old Coca-Cola trucks. Women in labor. Men bound for labor. Surely an old crew from the abandoned chain gang camp five miles south worked the highway here. Come torrid summer days I bet they leaned over those cement guardrails and dreamed they were swimming. The chain gangs are dead now. All those trucks and cars rusted to death. Those who built the bridge are dead. Those who traveled it? Many are dead. When you and I are dead, it will still be there as it holds its place among the ranks of forlorn bridges forced into retirement. On a cold, windy afternoon I stood on the old bridge’s south end watching the newer distant bridge ferry traffic across a creek turned small river when rains come. None, I daresay, knew a man was watching from the past, but I was, a witness to God Change. I watched them speed along oblivious to the old bridge and God Change who’s patiently waiting for them as well.