This column was written by my wife Ashley because she has crazy adventures in Tennessee as well.
I am about 1/4 mile away from the bridge, going about 80mph. It's dark. I have the music at full blast. The windows are open. My hair is a halo of competency flying around me. I am illuminated by the lights from the dash. Hard pounding rock thumps out the car as I speed down the road through the Bayou. Cannot wait to get home and take a shower after a day of dirty yardwork at the cabin. I see some type of reflective fabric on the bridge. Uh oh. Police? No. Not Police. Oh, Good. 'Cuz we're doin' 80. Yeah, I know. This is a 50 zone. I know. I am so tired and dehydrated and strung out from the recent days I think I may be hallucinating. I'm definitely talking to myself. I blink and shake my head. Nope. Still reflective and moving around. A mylar balloon caught in the road? Closing fast, whatever it is. Still doing 80. Oh, right. Bridge has only one lane. I remember. Right-o. Adjust to 50. Music is still driving at a mad pace. I switch on high beams. A single high wattage bulb responds right back at me. Oh #@$% it IS cops. No. Not cops, woulda already been lit up. Ok, no idea. Slow to 50. Low beams. The light goes away.
I turn the music down. I see a dog in the road. OK, I see now. That's no problem. Someone let their dog out for a potty break on a lonely stretch of road and the dog won't get back in the car. All good. Crazy dogs. Aren't they something? But the dog is running from one spot to another on the bridge. Barking. At the reflective fabric. I bet the owner is irritated. I laugh. Dumb dog.
He's a purebred bloodhound. All floppy ears, droopy eyes and long goofy legs. He is havin' a good ol' time. I watch him, still trying to determine what he's doing. I imagine his name is Beau. ROLF ROFL ROLF he howls at the fabric. I have slowed down to a crawl to allow the owners to catch their dog. But no one is trying to catch him. Then I realize the fabric on the road is actually my headlights reflecting off about 8 or 10 big fish. Ten 15 pound live fish are in the middle of this bridge, flopping around and this dog is going crazy. Complete stop. Eyes straight ahead.
FWAPP! The sound startles me. It's another fish. It's fallen from above the windshield of my vehicle onto the bridge. For all intents and purposes it is raining fish on this bridge. Beau or Rufus or whatever his name is howls mournfully and bows down playfully at the new arrival. I'm right there with ya, Beau. I feel like howling a bit, too, Buddy. The light comes back. It points at me and wiggles a little. I cannot see what is behind the light. I follow the light and I can see two young boys standing on the sidewalk of the bridge. Leaning over. Oh dear. Something is wrong. They motion me forward. A little impatiently. Considering everything. I inch up to the entry to the bridge.
"You good?" I ask in my best Southern drawl. You good? applies to everything from greeting people at Sunday school thru car troubles and apparently a fish storm.
"Yep." They eye my license plate skeptically. Out of the corner of my eye, I detect movement. I turn my head slightly to the left, still keeping Rufus and his finned friends in sight, a nod to the rearview mirror, because, let's face it, I am still in Tennessee. A bright white T-shirt straightens up from leaning over the bridge. He's maybe 13. In his left hand he has a compound crossbow. A weapon. Capable of travelling 100 yards at 430 feet per second. He is holding a weapon, just as sure as I am sitting there. That is a full-on weapon. He is not yet old enough to shave. He looks unconcerned. In his right hand he is holding a spear. On the end of the spear is a 20 pound piece of reflective muscle. The reflective muscle gives a half-hearted twitch in response.
"You can go ahead," says Opie. He waves the dog out of the way. The dog pants happily and sits obediently. "Oh. OK. Thanks. I didn't want to run over your fish" There's a sentence I have never said before. "Naw, it don't matter." He waves me through. I proceed cautiously across the bridge, at first swerving to avoid the fish. When there are too many, I drive over a couple. It makes a noise. It sounds about how you would expect it to sound.
I look in the rearview mirror. The newly caught reflective muscle flies through the air and lands with a thunk near Rufus who howls gleefully but does not run out onto the road until permitted. I drive home the rest of the way with the music off. I keep to the speed limit.
The following day I see our neighbor "Bobby!!! Bobby!! You would not believe what happened!!" I'm breathless, because I ran to catch up to him. He looks at me knowingly. He knows I cuss and have a hot temper and he knows the climate down South. He waits. I tell him about the dog and the fish and the music and the lights and the crossbow and the reflective fabric and everything. He does not miss a step. His gait does not alter one inch. He tosses a reply over his shoulder without breaking stride, "Nah, they supposed to throw em’ in the bushes, they not supposed to leave them on the bridge."
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