Day 6 – A Concrete Bridge

Friday, Nov. 24, 2017

With respect to temperature, each day of the week had been similar, which was a blessing to us since it didn’t rain and it wasn’t bitterly cold.   The mornings were cool and the temperature warmed up as the sun rose.

There were tools and materials we needed to complete the bridge so I had volunteered  the day before to leave before 6 am to go pick them up at the hardware store in Charleston, which I did.

When I returned to the camp site at 7:30, the others had finished breakfast and were talking together as they sat around the table, so I ate some breakfast while they prepared to leave.

When we arrived at the Nichol house, Beverly, Clinton’s wife had also just arrived and she greeted us with tears of joy and hugs.  She had been away all week with her children and grandchildren and she was over-whelmed by what she saw.

Before the concrete arrived at the Nichol house, there were a few items that needed to be completed, such as making vent holes in the bridge structure and and some cleaning and landscaping of the yard.

At 9 am, the concrete arrived, as scheduled and it was all hands on deck.

Justin and Bernie started filling wheelbarrows and dumping the concrete on the bridge deck.

We started at the house end of the bridge.   Wendel and I repositioned  the concrete with a rake and shovel.  Merle, Pat and Steve screened the concrete with a 14 ft 2×6 and Peter trimmed the house side of the bridge.

We were almost half finished, when Clinton, Beverly and their granddaughters put their hand prints in the concrete on the house side of the bridge.

The pouring and screening of the concrete was continuous and we rotated through the different jobs until the deck was complete.

While we poured the concrete, someone had to direct the traffic, which is not a fun job, however, Mary and Spencer did it without a word of complaint.

We completed the concrete deck in approximately 2 hours and it was a very bush and active time.

However, the young men didn’t get tired enough so they had a contest of chin ups on the bridge.

Susan, Mary ( Steve’s wife, who had been helping at the camp site during the week ) and Emily our cook, showed up shortly after we finished and Susan presented Beverly with a hand-made quilt signifying unity.

And of course, the newlyweds of 593 days, Pat and Mary Cash, had to take a picture in front of the bridge.

Each of us signed our names on the steel beams of the bridge.


We took a group photo in front of the bridge as a remembrance of our time together.

And finally, Emily presented Clinton with a birthday cake.

After finishing the cake, we drove back to the camp site, cleaned the vehicles, packed our bags and headed home at 2:30 pm.   We arrived back in Niagara at 10:30 pm having spend a wonderful week building bridges, literally and figuratively, as well as making new friends.

It was such a privilege to work together, in order to re-build the bridge for the Nichols family and we were blessed by having this opportunity, and taking advantage of it.

This journal doesn’t tell the whole story of our trip to West Virginia, but it gives one viewpoint of the many wonderful experiences during the week that we were there.

Day 5 – Thanksgiving

Thursday, Nov. 23, 2017

It was another cool morning and it turned into a sunny mild day in West Virginia.

After another wonderful breakfast we headed to Clinton’s house where he had a small fire going outside.   The frost was still on the ground but it burned off quickly as the sun rose.

We asked Clinton if he wasn’t going to meet his family for Thanksgiving and he told us that his wife Beverly was at their son’s house cooking for his family because his son was hunting.   However, he felt that he wanted to be with us and he didn’t want to be anywhere else.   This was his Thanksgiving.

Spencer, Justin and Bernie, started the day by tying the remainder of the rebar together.

Steve and I started removing the forms around the concrete at the house end of the bridge, while Merle, Pat and Mary removed the forms on the road side of the bridge.

After we removed all but some difficult pieces, Steve filled the Gabion Baskets with rocks using the track hoe, while Clinton  and Peter straightened them out and tied the Gabion Baskets.

Meanwhile I worked at cutting out the sheets of plywood that were jammed between the steel beams and the concrete and Merle assisted me with removing the last piece of wood.  When the forms had been removed Steve started to push dirt up to the concrete form with the track hoe and I compacted the dirt with Spencer’s help.   After that, Steve moved some rocks on top of the dirt.

With the rocks in place, he moved gravel on top of the rocks and then Peter and I smoothed out the gravel.

Steve, Spencer, Bernie and Justin moved a lot of the material on the yard, smoothed out the ground where we had driven.

When we finished for the day, the bridge was almost ready for the concrete.  I asked Clinton if he would let me take a picture of him in front of the bridge.   With his traditional beaming smile, he agreed and afterwards he gave me a big hug and thanked us for all our work.  He told us that Friday would be his 73rd birthday.

Clinton also told me that he was going to set up his chair in front of the bridge with a nice fire nearby.

When we got back to the camp site, we had a wonderful turkey dinner, after which we all shared about how each of us came to faith and what we were thankful for.   It was a wonderful time of sharing and relaxation.