poetry and prose about place

Posts Tagged ‘ptarmigan

inside the covered bridge

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the Starkey Bridge over Long Creek

One of New Brunswick’s ‘claims to fame’ is its covered bridges.  A covered bridge is a bridge constructed with high sides and a roof, made to cope with winter snow loads.  The covered bridge was designed to be easier to cross in winter.  Also, these bridges don’t have to be shovelled free of snow after storms.

There are 60 covered bridges in New Brunswick, one less after the Mangrum Bridge, crossing the Becaguimec River, was destroyed by vandals earlier this month.  Communities really love their covered bridges and try to keep them safe by holding watches at Halloween and other times of the year.  It is a huge disappointment to anticipate driving across a covered bridge you have visited in the past, only to find it has been burnt and replaced with a metal Bailey Bridge.

Visiting covered bridges is a favourite pastime for many New Brunswickers. On a hot day, the bridges are cool inside and there are usually open ‘windows’ to encourage breezes and allow a view of the river. When a car drives through the bridge, the whole structure vibrates and the car tires make a deep-toned rumble.  The floor timbers in a covered bridge are pleasant to walk on and the rafters make interesting study for the carvings and writings people have left as mementos of their visits.

In 1992, my husband and son and I began a project to celebrate Canada’s 125thbirthday.  We intended to visit all the covered bridges in the province and make a record of the carvings and graffiti inside each bridge.

we promised to include the ‘Canada 125’ logo whenever we reported on our project, so here it is!

We explored many of the bridges, and made pencil rubbings of some of the more memorable carvings.  I particularly remember the girl’s name ‘Phoebe’ carved in elegant lettering in the Wheaton Bridge (bridge installed 1916) over the Tantramar River, and a carving of an old car and the date 1910 in the Maxwell Crossing Bridge over the Dennis Stream (bridge installed 1910).

some of the notations in our record for the Maxwell Crossing Bridge over the Dennis Stream

Other markings were also noteworthy.  Inside the Falls Brook Bridge at Nortondale over the Nackawic River were the following words in India ink:  ‘Ptarmigan Hunter Ray Brown May 12th 1896  Horse had bad leg”.   An expert birder in the area told me Ptarmigan have never been recorded in New Brunswick and this could be a valid record.

Another bit of graffiti I particularly liked were the words I AM THE WIND, printed in yellow in at least three of the bridges in Charlotte County, including the covered bridge on Stillwater Road over the Digedeguash River.   This bridge is now gone and a Bailey Bridge was in its place the last time we visited.


 I am the wind


I am the wind

of the Digedeguash

shaped by valley walls


I  race trout

lift ferns

blow quick kisses

under the wings of butterflies


I am the wind

spoken in the beams

of the covered bridge

slipped into space



I rattle the roof, the reeds

vibrate with my breath


I am the wind

from the County line

to the Passamaquoddy Bay

I race


refreshed by the waterfall, salted

by the rising tide


carve my name

on the boards, block

my name in yellow



I am the wind


Published as: ‘I am the Wind’, Spring 1995, The Cormorant XI (2)


© Jane Tims

Smyth Bridge, crossing a small tributary of the South Oromocto River

Written by jane tims

September 5, 2011 at 7:47 am

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