The End of Time
It is now officially the end of time. I have been doubtful, snickered even, at the predictions of Armageddon, aghast at the rapture and the left behinds(my group obviously), but now I know it is real. EVERYONE IN HYAMPOM AGREED ON SOMETHING!!!!!! This is the end of history surely.
The issue in question is the Swinging Bridge or Mule Bridge which spans the South Fork near my house. It has a swimming hole, campgrounds and is so lovely it is one of the reasons I bought the land. The kids grew up swimming there in the heat of the summer, pretending, as small children, to be seals or Trinity River sharks. I go there of a hot afternoon, walk upriver if someone is there, do yoga in the sun and swim back and forth across the river a few times. The water is cool if not cold, takes the heat out of the body and the day and makes it possible to live here. In summer the South Fork is a turquoise ribbon which winds it way through steep forested cliffs and every once in a while widens out into a pool with sandy shoreline. The Mule Bridge crosses at such a place.
Now the South Fork also runs through our town, divides it in fact, with the Post office and the store on one side and, well, a closed bar and campgrounds on the other. The town is one of the few villages left in the US. It is isolated and hard to get to and lacks many of the amenities of civilization. People in the village love and hate each other as villagers have done for centuries. There are feuds that span decades, arguments that can be renewed at a moments of forgetfulness that this is not the person you talk about "______" with. When an issue arises, historically, the town chooses up sides. My ex husband use to say when some people zig; the others have to zag. The town is notorious for this and an object of derision by some of the other more civilized centers of the county, like, for example, uhhh, Hayfork. But that is the way villages are. Sometimes one is on the same side as the "other", a puzzling and slightly disorienting experience; sometimes the lines are clearly drawn as when "those tree huggers stop a logging sale".; sometimes there are strange crossovers and you are standing next to the person you fought so vigorously on the last issue.
So the Mule Bridge issue was added(penciled in) on the bulletin board so that not everyone saw it. This added certain sense of conspiracy to the meeting. Who penciled it in? Was it a legitimate item? One of the HCSD board members called me to ask if I knew anything. There was an intriguing sense of something underhanded going on.
I hemmed and hawed about going. I hate meetings. My vision of hell is that it is a meeting and the chairman keeps asking "Is there anymore old business?", and there always is. But finally RK came by and we drove in.
I take a seat next to Van whose presence surprises me. He is not particularly community minded and certainly on the other side from me of any issue, What are you doing here? "Spoiling for a fight" says he. "With who", i ask, but he doesn't reply. Then in a whispered aside, he said," what do you think about this "mule bridge". When he finds I want to keep the bridge, the spoiling for a fight attitude evaporates and we begin to exchange facts about the bridge. He is astounded to learn Dale fell through the rotten pressure treated boards they used the last time they "fixed it" i tell him Chip's dog fell through and died and Chips came down and replaced the rotten board his own good one. Van says authoritatively that the piers, footing, cables all need replacing. "You have to get a cat on that road and dig out a new place for the footings." He is a big equipment guy and there are $$$ signs in his eyes and "getting a cat in there" his solution for almost everything. "Really", I am impressed that he has inspected them, but only later find out he hasn't been down to the bridge in years. John Rapf sees an opportunity and asks Van for his HCC dues. Van snorts. "How much is it now?" "Five dollars." "That's up from a dollar isn't it?" says Van. He then gets up and hands John a twenty and tells him to shut about dues for a while. They are grinning. John has pulled a coup in getting money from Van and Van grudgingly concedes the victory.
I look around and see Richard sitting by Melba, who once again lives with Milt, and who is RK's former one night fling. On the other side of him is Joe Watkins who during the Gates road issue had threatened to dump Richard if he ever found him alone. Sweet. It is a new era. Honey Arey comes in, a wise and judicious old timer, and Tony and Don somebody or other, both wet behind the ears. Mel Hester is there representing what is left of the mule skinner contingent which is not much. He weighs close to 300 lbs, pity the animal he sits astride, but sit astride them he occasionally does. Jay Carr, the meeting buff, is there. Roger, whose aneurysm has left him with nothing to do but go to meetings where his comments are always slightly off point, but his loudness factor has improved over the past year. Oh yes, we're all here--a big crowd for an HSCD meeting, usually unattended and difficult even to get a quorum for action.
In true democratic fashion, everyone gets a chance to speak their bit of truth. Honey points out that in the "64 flood, the Mule Bridge was the only access for downriver folks who were trapped behind the slide. Van says his piece about getting a cat down there to put in new footings. People object to the new 5ft span. Mel jokes that if they make it bigger at least you can turn a mule around on it. Everyone laughs. Richard says it should be maintained according to its current configuration. Joe Watkins says he put the rotten pressure treated boards on and they were a disaster from the get go. Larry, the fire chief, says that it seems to be a safety issue and thus is a proper issue for HCSD to address. This relieves those who care about proper venues. I say I don't think anyone wants the bridge removed. I mentioned the Clampers had put a sign up declaring it of historical value. We had contemplated monkeywrenching the sign when it was put up as it seemed an insult to a wild and free piece of river, but this sign is now coming in handy. I am corrected by Milt who says it was the Historical Society. The Clampers(who as far as I know are the Historical Society) at the moment have some bad press for having had a drunken brawl which necessitated a sheriff's call while a wildfire threatened Weaverville. So without further ado we vote on wanting the bridge maintained, and ask for a meeting in Hyampom with Supervisor and Road Dept. Head.
Wow! There is a certain sense of surprise in the air. There were not angry "others" arguing for the bridge's demise. It's even a little anti climactic. We all get up and begin to file out. There is a sigh of relief from the board that all has ended so well, but one of them remarks, "Oh now you're all leaving." They have moved the bridge item up to first on the agenda for us. "Oh yes", I say, " Now you can all go back to practicing your corruption!" I catch Larry's eye. He is grinning. As we go out the door, Richard says, I can't believe you said that." But I am laughing myself at my own joke, a good belly laugh, that this small group of well meaning and mostly good hearted Hyampomians should have the onus of being "the government." I laugh all the way home as Richard and I discuss the "end of history". We imagine how the valley will now sink and the mountains close around it, as one by one, the stars go out. We try to think of someone who could save us from blissful extinction. Helmut might disagree after all, or Joe Cooney who is never seen in town or at meetings at all until there is a issue to argue. We reassure ourselves that life with all its conflict and struggle, vigor and joy, will continue, and drive on laughing and content.