After my latest lesson in the fine art of equestrianism, (translation: how to not fall off of a moving horse), I decided that I’d take my wife over to Mueller’s for a late supper. Since my riding lessons and the little restaurant are both in Atchison, it seemed a rather convenient arrangement.
We sat on the deck, enjoying our drinks and watching the muddy Missouri roll along underneath the three bridges that connect Kansas and Missouri at this particular point. The nearest bridge, and lowest, is the old railroad bridge, a gridwork of heavily rusted steel and iron braced by limestone pillars and set just above the five-hundred-year flood line. The middle one, both in elevation and proximity to the others, is the old highway bridge. With chunks of asphalt missing from the honeycomb metal flooring, it is–in both appearance and driving feel–the most disconcerting bridge across which I’ve ever driven. Every traverse made me wonder if that particular moment might be the one at which the rest of the structure might decide to join all of those sacrificial chunks of pavement that had already plunged into the river below. The tallest and broadest of the bridges is the one still not quite completed.
We watched for a while as a man worked sixty feet above the floor of the bridge, moving about in the lift basket. From our distance, we could not tell exactly what he was doing, but Randa was convinced that he had the best vantage point in the vicinity.
“That would be fun,” she declared as I chewed another deep fried onion. My wife has no fear of heights, a fact most firmly revealed in 2001 when we obliged ourselves to a parasailing adventure six hundred feet above the bay at South Padre Island. “You know what kind of view he has up there?” she queried. “Well, yes,” I responded, “You could see Saint Joseph and Kansas City from up there.” I said this with some awareness that there might be a bit of exaggeration but I thought it good to acknowledge her point emphatically.
We couldn’t see either of the other cities from our seat on the wooden deck, but we could see families strolling along the river, some walking their dogs. We could see the ripples of water surging southward and the birches and cottonwoods in early leaf on the opposite bank. And, as the last bit of sunstreak faded from the western sky hidden behind us, we could see soft streaks of pink brushing the eastern clouds beyond the river.
While we ought to always keep in mind and seek that higher perspective of greater distance and discernment, we should not overlook the wonder that is around us. Especially when it comes with onion rings.