An original wooden bridge over Gamble’s Creek spanned the tannin stained waters for thirty years or so before I moved on to the Quarter Circle A Ranch in 1957. Two years later as my brother and I returned from Parrish Elementary School and were entering the tree line that hid the creek from anyone on State Road 62 passing by the dirt and shell single track leading to the ranch headquarters, we realized we were blocked from crossing the bridge by a semi truck. The right rear wheels had broken through the old wooden structure. Heavily laden with fifty pound sacks of cattle, horse, and chicken feed, the truck must have created a frightening crunch that echoed through the swamp. The young driver just assumed the bridge would handle the truck’s weight.
As an eight-year-old, I delightedly watched the ranch’s biggest tractor pulled the semi truck free of the dilemma and jumped back a little from my vantage point on the creek’s bank when the trailer loudly splintered several more planks of the bridge. I did not know at the time that the destruction wreaked by the truck was a death knell for the bridge.
The bridge, until that moment, had become a creaky, familiar friend that my brother and I crossed at least twice a day during school days and many more times a day on weekends and almost every other chore-free day. The bridge was the departure point for our explorations of Gamble’s Creek. We explored both east and west for miles over the years, encountering alligators, otters, snakes, turtles, fish, birds, and many other creatures wild Florida offered. We often stood on the bridge, leaned on the worn wooden rail, and watched bass, gar, and bream reveal themselves in a sandy stretch of the water to the west. I caught my first keeper sized bass from that bridge using a cane fishing pole and a grasshopper as bait.
My father and Vick Blackstone replaced the bridge with a concrete structure that still spans the creek today. The new bridge lacked rails to lean on but was always cool in the shade for barefooted boys.