by Elsie Lenton Corwin

After the big flood in 1938 it was very difficult to cross the creek from the house, for the once shallow stream bed had been deeply cut, tearing out steep banks like they are now. So it was necessary to clamber over huge rocks and boulders and stumps, up and down the steep sides. The swinging or suspension bridge, which is now so picturesque on our campsite, was also a necessity to reach the orchards and buildings across the stream.

The bridge was started by Lester Thomas, the now grown boy of the snake story, and a couple of his friends who were staying on the ranch at the time. They hiked up to the mine and packed down many feet of strong wire cable that had been a part of the mine equipment. This they used for reinforcement to safely suspend the bridge and also anchor it solidly in the ground. Their ambitious plan of the boys was to make the bridge four feet wide and using whatever logs and lumber that could be salvaged from the flood, space the floor planks about three feet apart to fit their long strides.

Mother Loomis, small and lively, remembers that she "sure had to step 'high, wide and handsome' to cross on it”. But it did shorten the way to the orchards and cabins, maybe, says she, “Because they had to take longer steps". However, when Hazel and Orval returned to the ranch to live, in 1941, Orval rebuilt the swinging bridge, cutting down its width to a more practical size, and making a solid floor so that Mother Loomis would no longer have to jump from board to board. He anchored it deep in the ground with steel reinforced cement posts – “deadmen" such anchors set deep in the ground are called. With this work it became a fine safe to walk on, even during winter storms.

You might like to hear an interesting episode about it, that Orval told me which really proves how strong it is. Early in World War II, when even remote Loomis Ranch had heard the one long telephone ring which indicated a complete blackout, they had all had gone to bed. Suddenly they were awakened about 1:30 in the morning by a very loud banging on the door. When Orval sleepily opened the door an Army Corporal and another soldier emerged from the darkness asking the way to Mill Creek divide. The Corporal explained that Army trucks had brought a platoon of soldiers to Barley Flats, about seven miles from the ranch, and unloaded them there in strange territory in the dark. By morning they were supposed to meet another platoon of soldiers over Roundtop Mountain by the Monte Cristo mines. Since none of them had ever been in these mountains before, they had no notion where they were going. The adventure was a part of army practice maneuvers.

Well, Orval gave the young Corporal directions for finding the trails over the hill and he went back to bed to finish his sleep, thinking the two of them safely on their way.

All of a sudden they heard tramp – tramp - tramp out on the bridge! Hearing so much racket they all rushed to the windows to see what was happening, and looking out saw thirty men crossing the swinging bridge, instead of only the Corporal and his companion. Now, marching soldiers, as you probably know, are always taught to break step when crossing bridges. It is a well known fact that even some of the strongest bridges will sometimes collapse if men or horses cross them in the even rhythm of the march step. There’s something about that rhythm that does it. And so these soldiers too broke step and from this experience we know that the bridge is surely very strong if it can hold thirty soldiers at a time. However, we also break step when two or more people are crossing at the same time.

I remember seeing one of the Loomis cats, old blind Monkey, running across the bridge and it swung back and forth like a hammock in the wind with the rhythm, of his running kitty feet! That's a real good reason for walking, not running, and never, never playing on the swinging bridge. It's a rule of Camp. Those rocks down below are pretty hard and sharp!

Oh, yes, those soldiers - there was a funny part to that story. When morning came and Orval looked out the window, he thought he was really seeing things because there stood another platoon of soldiers. The two groups had passed each other in the dark on the trail and had never met at all up at the Monte Cristo mine. They never even heard each other on the trail, much less found each other at the appointed meeting place. I wonder if they had to go back and start all over again with their maneuvers.

Well, anyhow we know that the bridge is strong and useful as wel1 as being a part of a very pretty picture against the green trees surrounding it. As campers we will follow the rules and use it carefully.

[Source: The True Loomis Stories by Elsie Lenton Corwin, Wandalee Thompson Collection (2006.38.1)]