Last night, I introduced Samantha to the classic coming-of-age film, ‘Stand By Me’. She loved it, as she has come to love King’s characterization across several novels now. Particularly, she enjoyed how the four boys were realized, calling out Jerry O’Connell’s character as the ‘goody two shoes’ all the way. As I sat and thought about it, I most identified with his character. I was definitely that kid when I was younger. Although I feel that I’ve grown beyond that mindset somewhat, it hasn’t gone away. A great example comes from my brief photo expedition on Sunday.
I have a few Oklahoma locations bookmarked for future road trips. Since I hadn’t set out with my camera since coming home from DragonCon, I was getting antsy. I needed to get out and capture something. I picked the Snake Creek Bridge, only a little over half an hour away, just south of Bixby. I’d seen some promising pictures online and the old steel bridge had some great character. I hopped in the car and drove south, thinking of shots I wanted and keeping my eye on the receding storm clouds. As I approached 201st street, the roads grew smaller and the landscape grew wider. Hopefully this meant that I would have that stretch of road to myself for a little bit. I dislike dodging traffic when I’m working. I finally turned onto the road to Snake Creek to find that the road was, indeed, barren…because it was closed.
There was a barrier across the entire road. ROAD CLOSED. NO TRESPASSING. I looked down the overgrown lane and the bridge was nowhere to be seen. I checked my map and saw the river crossing further to the east, near another intersection. I muttered to myself, turned around, and tore down the gravel roads. Surely the road would be open from the other end, right? Pessimism began creeping into my brain. When I arrived at the east end of the street, I found that pessimistic voice to be correct. Closed on both ends; it was clearly labeled. Looking past the double barriers on this end, I could see the outline of the steel bridge just beyond the trees. It was RIGHT THERE! If only I could get to it. But there was no way back…unless I disobeyed the signs, hopped the barrier, and walked. I swore, drove in circles trying in vain to find an alternative, and finally turned back around to head home.
After about a quarter-mile, I stopped. I pulled off the road, sat in silence, and thought about my situation. I was out in the country; what harm would it be to go snap some pictures? But the SIGNS. It was CLEAR. I was not allowed to go back there. What if someone in one of the nearby houses saw me and called the police? Worse, what if they came out yelling and trying to chase me away? My stomach churned with anxiety. What was I going to do? I was so looking forward to this. After about half an hour of internal debate, I finally made my decision. I locked the car and walked back to the closed road; I definitely didn’t want to leave the Mustang near the turn-off as a clear indicator that I was doing something I was not supposed to.
I arrived at the barrier and ducked under the first barrier smoothly. I didn’t pause, for that might bring paralysis with it. I could feel my heart beat throughout my entire body. SURELY somebody was waiting in the bushes for some fool city folk to breach this place. I ducked under the second barrier and picked up the pace, nearly jogging. I knew I stuck out like a sore thumb, striding along the decaying concrete in a clear violation. When I approached the treeline and the bridge grew closer, I calmed. I took my pictures and spent about twenty minutes admiring the old bridge & the road beyond as it stretched into overgrowth. It was a secret, and I had risked my sanity to discover it.
On my way back out, I felt the panic threatening to overtake me. Would there be police waiting for me at the main road? Perhaps some angry farmer with rusted implements was waiting to punish me for my transgression. I know this sounds ridiculous…but these things seriously went through my head. I don’t do ANYTHING that goes against the Establishment. I don’t rock the boat. I stick to the train tracks when the wilderness is unknown. Although I enjoyed my time at the bridge, the journey felt like it was going to kill me.
I ducked under the guard rails and started walking back to the car, sure that the net was going to fall at any moment. When I got back to the Mustang (undisturbed, rather than vandalized or towed away by my fears), I got in quickly, sat down, and sped away. I didn’t stop constantly glancing in the rear view mirror until I was safely in town again.
Nothing happened, of course. I never got a phone call from law enforcement. I haven’t had any strange visitors at my house. It’s done. And perhaps all of the opportunities I’ve not taken in the past when it came to other such signs would’ve had the same result…but I don’t know. Just typing all of this has my heart racing again. But I will say this: my journey beyond the barrier was growth. A baby step, to be sure, but I literally stepped outside of my comfort zone. And that counts for something.