I read the article in The Great Bend Tribune “The Bridges of Barton County.” I have always enjoyed seeing old, native or natural limestone houses, barns, and even bridges in Barton County. My great-grandfather, Rudolf Riedl, was said to have built a house of limestone after a tornado completely demolished his old wooden house. Plus, my mother’s first cousin, the late Ben Bahr of Olmitz, lived in a similar limestone house which was constructed due to similar reasons. I have personally been inside that home. Its walls were incredibly thick; and it weathered many a winter and many a summer just fine.
When it comes to old stone bridges, I enjoy seeing the unique designs, especially the delicate spirals and intricate inner arch-work. Being a history buff and a member of the Masonic fraternity, the delicate stone at the top of an arch is called a keystone. It is absolutely essential that the keystone of any arch be kept in good repair. It holds the whole structure together. And, it is only natural, that after some 70 years, that some deterioration would occur with any bridge’s aging. Therefore, it is only logical that some appropriation of funds take place to implement needed restoration. I am happy it is taking place now. Not, only will it reinforce a part of vital infrastructure, it will give somebody a meaningful job to do!
My late father, John William Marples, was hired by the Works Progress Administration back in the 1930s to do various tasks. One of their projects was building a stone fence around the school football field in Phillipsburg. Amazingly, that wall is still there and it is holding its age well.
During the Great Depression, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt had a vision in creating the Works Progress Administration (WPA). Granted, it had its detractors, but many positive and enduring projects arose from it. Critics nicknamed the WPA: “We Piddle Around” department. I can assure you that men of my Dad’s generation worked plenty hard. What items they built outlived themselves. That is a far cry from today’s mantra of manufacturing a shoddy product designed for planned obsolescence, which is a polite way of saying it’s a cheaply-made product that you will soon have to buy a replacement for. We must quit being a disposable society and build things again for the long haul, like the stone-bridges of Barton County.
I am a bit concerned that President Barack Obama, tries to tell Americans that he has a similar jobs program as FDR’s. I am not so sure of Obama’s true mettle in seeing a project through to completion. I worry that Mr. Obama utters statements gleaned from history-books, instead of looking at real American scenarios and real American needs. Until we relearn how to “buy American” again, we won’t have a lasting recovery. Our blood, sweat, tears, toil, and purchasing dollars belong in America.
I am happy to hear that the bridges of Barton County are being restored. Now, if we could just get actor Clint Eastwood to come here and make a movie by that name: maybe the local Economy could rebound even more. I wish the bridge restoration much success. Even if the bridges aren’t heavily used, they are still works-of-art and their lasting endurance proves that they are built sturdy, to last the test of time.
James A. Marples,