Covered Bridges of
New York State

Rick L. Berfield
(Syracuse University)
There are still covered bridges in New York State. At one time, there were more than 250 --- but "progress," plus the forces of nature, have brought the figure down to twenty-four.

Berfield has visited each of these, taken their pictures (some quite colorful) and --- he is an engineer --- includes in the description of the bridges,

  • Location
  • Year built
  • Truss system
  • Roadway
  • Waterway
  • Weight limit
  • Number of Spans
  • Length
  • Clearance
  • Truss design
  • Builders
  • Ownership
  • Portals

In addition, in the introduction, the author includes other information, more than you or I might want to know about "bearing blocks" and "purpose of the structure" and the design and the "glue-laminated chord" and the "flying buttresses." (As at Notre Dame, flying buttresses were used to keep these structures from dissolving into dust).

But you ask, why, other than to give us a dark place to drive through (and toot the car horn), did they build such bridges in the first place? Wood was cheap, explains Berfield, and was used to build most early bridges. Exposure to the weather meant that these wooden structures deteriorated quickly.

    Bridge builders found that flooring and siding were easily replaceable, but the trusses were not. Covering the trusses with a roof became the solution --- hence the birth of the covered bridge.

If you have nothing to do on a hot Sunday afternoon, it might behoove you to head up to Ulster or Delaware Counties to visit a few of these, observe the signs 25 Dollars Fine for Driving on this Bridge Faster than a Walk. Or, perhaps, like many of our forebears, nip inside for a bit of coolness (or a kiss).

--- R. J. Saunders

The Fox
D. H. Lawrence
Henry has just returned from the trenches of World War I. He comes back to the farm where he lived as a youth. Two women now live there --- March and Banford --- trying to raise chickens. It is 1918. It is cold and wet. England is poor, and there is little food.

When Henry first sees them, Miss March is dressed "like a young man." Her eyes are large, and dark. Henry is smitten with her. Not so her friend Banford. She, thinner, with her glasses, sees Henry as nothing more than a "beastly laborer."

When he proposes to March (after two days on the farm) Banford is appalled. "'She doesn't know what she's letting herself in for,' said Banford in her plaintive, drifting, insulting voice."

There has been a fox destroying the chickens. Henry stays up one night, sees the fox crawling towards the hen-house, kills it with his rifle. The next morning, they go to see it, "hung up by the heels in the shed:"

    March said nothing, but stood with her foot trailing aside, one hip out; her face was pale and her eyes big and black, watching the dead animal that was suspended upside down. White and soft as snow his belly; white and soft as snow. She passed her hand softly down it. And his wonderful black-glinted brush was full and frictional, wonderful. She passed her hand down this also, and quivered. Time after time she took the full fur of that thick tail between her hand and passed her hand slowly downwards. Wonderful sharp thick splendor of a tail! And he was dead! She pursed her lips, and her eyes went black and vacant. Then she took the head in her hand.

Henry returns to his military unit. March writes to say she cannot marry him, that she cannot give up caring for Banford. He returns immediately to the farm. They are preparing to cut down a tree. Banford is standing nearby. Henry takes the ax in his hands, feeling himself "filled with power,"

    And his heart held perfectly still, in the terrible pure will that she should not move.

The tree topples down on top of her, killing her at once.

§     §     §

Well, there's the story, and a fat lot of good it is going to do you. Because this one is pregnant with feeling, underground passion, and my precis doesn't begin to sketch in the unspokens, and the unexpressed, the fine tension of it. Where does the boy get his power? Why does he create a puzzled love in March, and only loathing in her friend? What does the fox have to do with it, anyway? And are March and Banford lovers?

There are hints about this last: Lawrence repeatedly refers to Miss March's queer look. When Miss Banford speaks, March listens "in her distant, manly way." Banford is said to look like "a queer little witch." When March finally marries Henry, "He would have all his own life as a young man and a male, and she would have all her own life as a woman and a female. She would not be a man anymore."

Doris Lessing, in her introduction, says this story is not about woman love. "They shared a bed, but women often did then. They were solicitous and careful of each other...." It was wartime, and men were gone. "Many a female couple kissed and cuddled because of that great absence."

Yet much of the power --- and feeling of dread --- come from the hints that Henry and the witch-woman are jealous over a competing love for March. Banford cannot conceal her distaste for Henry. And after he receives the letter of rejection,

    Deep in himself he felt like roaring and howling and gnashing his teeth and breaking things... One thorn rankled, stuck in his mind. Banford. In his mind, in his soul, in his whole being, one thorn rankling to insanity. And he would have to get it out. He would have to get the thorn of Banford out of his life if he died for it.

Thorns... and rabbits.. and foxes. Is March "the March hare" --- the crazed rabbit, according to English folklore, that in the month of March goes mad with rutting? When Henry returns to the farm, she sees him and her eyes turn "wide and vacant,"

    her upper lip lifted from her teeth in that helpless, fascinated rabbit-look. The moment she saw his glowing red face it was all over with her. She was as helpless as if she had been bound.

§     §     §

The Fox runs less than ninety pages, but those pages are crammed with love-tension, animal images (cats, deer, rabbits, geese, the fox, "beasts"), an underpinning of deep sensuality that cannot be articulated by the characters, but cannot be avoided by the reader. Here we have Lawrence at his craftiest --- not the flowers-in-the-pubic-hair nonsense of Lady Chatterly's Lover --- but a world of unspoken passions that take one over, give one no relief, hinting at "spells," witchery, black magic.

There are a myriad of subtle tensions between Henry and March and March and Banford and Banford and Henry. He comes in like a fox (March comments on his "snout of a nose.") When she looks at him, she is "spellbound." When Banford lies dead, Henry thinks of "the wild goose he has shot." And when March and Henry are married, will she be happy?

    But the end of the rainbow is a bottomless gulf down which you can fall forever without arriving, and the blue distance is a void pit which can swallow you and all your efforts into its emptiness, and still be no emptier.... Poor March, she had set off so wonderfully, towards the blue goal. And the further and further she had gone, the more fearful had become the realization of emptiness. An agony, and insanity at last.

The Fox revels in sensual contrast to the soppy novels of Edwardian England. This is not gentlemanly courting. Rather, two women and a man are locked in a combat which will, for one of them, be mortal. It is love and war, a war to the death: the witch who loves the manly woman who loves the boy who hates the witch. Round and round it goes, with the sensual, furred fox, "the fox in the hen-house" as the catalyst.

And even after the witch is dead and the March hare has been topped by the fox, there is a hint of madness to come: "An agony," says Lawrence, "an insanity at last."

--- R. van der Poole


Birney Imes,

(University Press of Mississippi)
They were called "juke joints" or "jook joints." They were the seedy places along the back roads that sold beer and set-ups --- in states with regressive liquor laws you could not buy booze over the counter so you brought your own, in a rumpled paper bag. The set-up was usually a cup, three ice cubes, and a bottle of Coca-Cola or Seven-Up.

The booths had been slashed, the chairs were rickety, the pool table had gouges and cigarette burns in the felt, and the table was canted so that you had to make a scientific calculation to take the angle of the dangle into account.

The bathroom smelled of piss, vomit, and those little white candies that they dropped in the urinals along with the butts. The floors were trashy with stuff you didn't really want to examine too closely.

The regulars were a lewd lot. There was usually a brawl that was going to take place, or had just taken place, or was going on upon your arrival. Half the ceiling lights were burnt out, dead flies hung months old from ribbons of fly-paper; moths circled the few lights that survived. The tables were scarred from a hundred burning butts, the juke box had three-year-old 45s that were so scratchy that the music could barely be heard above the hiss and poppings. The beer signs were the only lively, up-to-date accoutrement in the place.

Beer was a dime and set-ups were a quarter. The bar-keep didn't care how old you were as long as you could reach the money up onto the bar.

There were always hand-lettered signs on the wall. In the men's room, it was "We Aim To Please You Aim Too Please." Behind the bar it was something about not being able to get a beer in the bank, so why would you expect credit here. The one in the picture above, Fig. 1, reads

    Attention Please We Appreciate Your Business No Pot (double lines under the "o") Smoking OR Sale (double lines under the "a") in Here. Lucille Turner Thank You

The notion of pot is about the only change we can recognize in this gorgeous volume of photographs. It's oversized and sports almost sixty shots taken at Juke Joints in the delta area of Mississippi. Opening this was not unlike Proust's madeline. I was back there again, and as I turned the pages, I could smell the stale beer and piss, I could hear the Rock-Ola thrumming the wooden floor, I could feel the cigarette smoke burning my eyes, I could taste the ancient pickled pig's feet resting pinkly in the five-gallon jar on the counter, next to the punch-out board where for 25¢ you would stick in a metal spike, pull out a tiny piece of evanescent paper from underneath and learn that you had lost your chance to win a thousand dollars (but you got another free "you lose" punch).

Juke Joint made me pine for those hours that you and I spent in such places when we were young and rutting --- places where the music was off-key (often the 45s were not centered, Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson went "wow-wow-wow") and the smoke was so thick you didn't even need to light up.

The jook joint ambiance was the best in the world for those of us who were fourteen or sixteen or eighteen, just getting out of the house, out for a night on the town, all the menace and thirst and lust running us so our glands would be popping, overflowing with the juices that were just beginning to control our days, surge through our bodies now filled with needs and wants and fantasies and angers all barely formulated, so weird and new and strange that we would do anything: get blind drunk on Seven-and-Seven, start a fight with some guy just because he looked funny at us, barf our guts out in the bathroom, pass out on the floor, face not far from that tacky residue under the urinals, where nothing and no one aimed to please.

--- S. W. Wentworth


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