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December 29, 2016: Raudi’s Skookum Bridge to the High Country

We did it. We finished constructing my long-awaited bridge. A huge suspension bridge could have been put up in the time it took to get this project done, but no matter. It’s complete. Pete and I left home at 12:30 p.m. He rode Tinni and I rode Raudi to the construction site. We dismounted, tied each horse to separate trees, and in a prompt and efficient fashion, put in a bridge.

It’s Raudi’s bridge because it was she who refused to jump from one side of the creek bed to the other. Skookum means strong, which is what this bridge is. And it leads to the high country, rolling hills that lead into the nearby Talkeetna Range. (We can’t ride far up into the range because the terrain becomes increasing steeper, rockier, and brushier.) Still, this bridge, in its entirety, is Raudi’s Skookum Bridge to the High Country.

It took about an hour to put the bridge in. I began by piling brush up at one possible entrance, thus keeping the riff raff out. And Pete laid the wood cross pieces on the rails and with square in hand, made sure that they were an equal distance apart. He then nailed the boards in place. I assisted some with this endeavor.

If a horse and rider want to cross this bridge, they must cross a downed log, make a sharp left, go down a very slight incline, and walk across what is now a very narrow bridge.

Pete setting boards on bridge

Pete and Tinni approaching bridge

The question that hung in the air as we worked was, would Raudi, when she saw the bridge, willingly cross it? Or would she plant both feet in the snow at the base of the bridge and refuse to move? I suspected that she’d do just fine, for she has not in recent memory refused to go across any other bridge. I decided to walk her across because if I was on her, and she backed up, she’d take me into low lying limbs. This would be a reverse decapitation.

I untied her and lead her to the bridge. She looked down, placed her left foot on the first plank, and then hesitated. I kept going. I did not look back. Rather, I listened for what I then heard, the clump, clump, clump, clump of a horse’s hooves on wood. Once across, I rewarded Raudi, giving her a three fer. That’s three treats. It’s the most treats a horse may earn in doing something right. Clump, clump, clump, clump, this was the sound of Pete leading Tinni across the bridge. Once across, Pete rewarded Tinni with a one fer because Tinni had not done anything out of the ordinary.

We mounted up and rode in the direction of the bench, a flat area with a fairly defined trail. We didn’t go all the way to the bench, but did go about a mile up hill. In some places it was steeper than others. Neither horse had any problem with this. Going down, I was a little nervous, although I ought not have been. Raudi was feeling energetic due to the fact that we were riding in a differing area, but not unduly so. Still, I rode behind Tinni and Pete just in case she got a wild hair up her ass and decided to bolt.

When, finally, we arrived back at the bridge, I took the lead and rode right across that sucker. Pete followed on Tinni. I was right in thinking that given that both horses were heading home, that they’d be cooperative.

I consider the bridge to be my Christmas present from Pete. There were many other things he could have chosen to do – his list is long – but he did this knowing it would make me very happy, which it has. Now I have a somewhat new riding area. (We have ridden in this area limitedly. Raudi’s crossed the creek a few times in the past.) The icing on the cake is this – the bridge is in a brushy area off the beaten path, so it’s not immediately visible. At the same time, it’s quite narrow, so ATVers and snowmachiners can’t use it.

A winter storm warning is now in effect. We’re supposed to get a dumping tonight and tomorrow, so it may be some time before we’ll again be able to head for the hills. I’m of course itching to ride more in that area. If weather does not permit, I won’t be able to do this. Well, I guess Raudi and I will cross this bridge when we come to it.

Next: 117. 12/30/16: The Writing Life: An End of the Year Ideas Day

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