Zinc Bridge

Marilyn Smith poses for this photo on the Zinc Swinging Bridge.

Once a quarter, the Springfield Writers’ Guild has a writing contest where it uses either a phrase or a photo prompt. This quarter’s prompt was a photo of a rickety swinging bridge that goes off into the foggy distance. Because I was one of the winners of last quarter’s contest, I was ineligible to enter. If I could have entered, I would have written about my experience traveling to Zinc, Ark., to take pictures of the bridge there, for an article I wrote for The Ozarks Mountaineer magazine (November and December 2007).

When Fred Pfister, the magazine’s editor, contacted me regarding an article about suspension bridges, I was pleased. I had information supplied by Virginia Snyder about the bridge over Turnback Creek, and by Vesta Wiseman McKinnis about the one that crossed Pomme de Terre River, northeast of Fair Grove.

Virginia’s and Vesta’s bridges were long gone, but the one in Arkansas still was hanging there. Here is what I wrote, “For those who would like to experience walking across a suspension footbridge, the Zinc Swinging Bridge, over Sugar Orchard Creek, in Zinc, Arkansas, is still usable. It was built about 1927 by an unknown builder, and is owned by the town of Zinc, which was a prosperous mining community from the late 1800s until approximately the early 1930s.

“Most of the state of Arkansas, in the spring of 1927, suffered from massive flooding, and Zinc was no exception. It is believed the bridge was built soon after those floods to replace the earlier one that was lost. It is possible that some of the miners and railroad workers in the area helped in the construction.

“It is 104 feet long, and its highest elevation above ground level is approximately 16 feet. Although the water seldom rises above its banks, this little creek has been known to become a roaring river during heavy rains, making vehicular crossing over the slab impossible. Consequently, the Zinc Swinging Bridge continues to provide a much-needed method of pedestrian transport across this seemingly harmless creek, and serves as a window to the past in the once thriving community of Zinc.”

The day we visited Zinc, before GPS devices were available, we drove around and around attempting to find the bridge. Finally I convinced Terry that we needed to ask directions — you know how men are. We were sent down such and such a road, around a couple of corners, to finally find the rickety, scary-looking span of rotted boards held together by rusting wires. Wanting a photo for my article, I walked out on it. Terry refused, by the way. He wasn’t about to take a chance of falling through one of the rotting boards.

The contest I mentioned earlier, Terry entered a poem he titled “Lifeline.”

It’s just a thing of sticks and ropes ~ That represents my fears and hopes. ~ This flimsy bridge is what I dread ~ As in the fog I forge ahead.

Onto this bridge I step with fear. ~ I do not know if harm is near. ~ What lies ahead I cannot see. ~ No turning back, it’s up to me.

So step-by-step I make my way ~ I fear the price I’ll have to pay. ~ Each step I take comes with a cost. ~ Just one misstep and I’ll be lost.

Who knows how long this bridge could be? ~ It might just be that’s up to me. ~ Each one of us must cross this way. ~ Just call it life and pass away.

I hope he wins. I guess we will see.

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