by Christine Baker

A few years ago, not long after moving to the Cenla area, there was an unusual ice/snow storm that occurred multiple times in a row. During one of the weather lulls, my husband and I found ourselves at a nearby big-box store stocking up on supplies. We were like most average people around and instead of staying put and enjoying the break in the weather, we headed to town so sure we would starve without more groceries.

As we checked out, we entertained the cashier with our usual friendly chatter. We had much to talk about since snow in the deep south is such an extremely rare and restrictive occurrence.

“Restrictive?” she asked.

“Yes, well the bridges are all closed and we need to get across the river.” my husband answered.

“Oh,” she said not even stopping to breathe, “there’s a back way to cross the river. You don’t have to miss your appointment. Just take the back roads.”

“Back roads?” my husband asked wide-eyed. I nudged him with my elbow and tilted my head a little with a look that said, “don’t disturb the one who handles your eggs and soft bread.”

After we cleared the door, we both burst into laughter. He broke the laugh first.

”There’s a back way across the Red River?” We laughed again and both almost split a rib.  

But being a former Public School Teacher turned Home School Mom myself, I soon realized something:  this moment was not funny at all. Instead it was a teachable moment and I had missed my opportunity.

So, here’s my redemption:  To those who have slept through Geography class or just altogether skipped it, the Red River is a major river in the Southern United States that runs through Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana for 1,360 miles. This salt-water river flows between the cities of Alexandria and Pineville, Louisiana cutting them off from each other. In order to get from Alexandria to Pineville or from Pineville to Alexandria you’re going to need to cross one of the three beautiful man-made toll-free bridges in the area:  The Military Order of the Purple Heart Bridge, The Jackson Street Bridge or the newly built Curtis-Coleman Memorial Bridge.

Many years have come and gone since this adverse weather event, but every now and then when I’m crossing one of the bridges during inclement weather, I think about this misinformed young lady and wonder if she’s still confused. Then I smile and take in the beautiful red flowing water and thank God for the intelligence and ingenuity of engineers and workers who built the three available bridges in our area and for the faithful Louisiana tax payers who do what they’re supposed to do by paying needed taxes so someone like me and a confused young woman can travel over this major waterway, every day of our lives, back and forth, across the river.

Remember:  (1.) Enjoy the next Louisiana ice/snow event. It’s a rare occurrence (2.) Learn and appreciate the area you live in, including the topography of the land. (3.) Never miss a moment to teach someone something, even if they don’t want to learn it. That way you’ll live with no regrets.

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