28 years ago, (give or take 6 months) I rode a borrowed bike from my Grandmother’s house down a nearly-dirt road about 5 miles to a tiny little convenience store beside a tiny little bridge over Lake Greenwood.
I don’t remember much about the store… other than how great a Cheerwine tasted at about 2:45PM at 90 degrees and 98% humidity, but I remember much about the bridge there on Todd Quarter Road.
My memory is tainted both by time and the glamorization of being in South Carolina–a place so magical that you could pee in the yard (which is a fairly big deal to an 11-year old boy), but it was not a fully one-lane bridge, while also not necessarily wide enough to fit two cars across at high speed.
It was the kind of bridge years later as I learned to drive I’d watch my knuckles whiten as I reminded myself to breathe when a truck passed me.
Todd Quarter bridge is where I learned to fish.
My cousin Michael (who was from around here) would take me and my older brother, the city boys from North Carolina, to sit underneath the bridge and fish for crappie, brim, and the occasional bass.
In those magical days before cell phones, we’d leave the house mid-morning with the instructions to be home before it got dark.
We never cut it close to it getting dark. The thought of riding a bike down that road at dusk was enough to break through even a pre-teen’s illusions of invincibility.
Hours later with a stringer full of fish flapping from the handlebars of whoever had the best ability to ride while being fish-slapped for 5 miles, we’d pull back in and start cleaning the fish for dinner.
This morning I woke up to the sound of my 9-year-old who was too excited to sleep past 5 AM. He’d been promised fishing with dad and a cousin.
Now that we live right on the other side of the lake from that house I’d spend a week in each summer, I thought it fitting to go and check out how the fish were biting on Todd Quarter Road.
The bridge is much nicer these days. The placard on one edge reads 1999, my sophomore year of college. Don’t tell that 11-year-old, but now you can actually fish from the bridge, with a dedicated spot to stand out of the way of traffic.
That convenience store isn’t there any more (can’t tell what they’ve turned that building into… looks like a guest house or something).
I told myself it was to avoid a sunburn that I opted to do my fishing from under the bridge. But once I sat down on that red clay (redder than I remembered, even… but maybe that’s this new-fangled 20-year-old bridge construction) I got a little emotional.
I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, and realized…