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Certain Signs of Civilization
Bridges and Rest Stops

by Everett Wilson
August 27, 2005

Certain Signs of Civilization_Everett Wilson-Bridges and Rest Stops There are many theories about the meaning of civilization, and many certain signs of its presence, but two of them are getting my vote this time around.

We are on the last leg of a 2700-hundred mile journey that was originally going to be a 1500-mile swing to two weddings and a baptism; then another family call filled in the five discretionary days and accounted for another 1200 miles.

The day before yesterday we crossed the Missouri River on a bridge that wasn't there the last time we were in the neighborhood. It is near the mouth of the Niobrara River, not far from where my parents moved themselves, their horses, and their wagon across the Missouri on a ferry some 79 years ago, and where Donna and I took our car on the ferry about forty years ago.

We only used the ferry once, though, because the wait for it was long and tedious. We skirted it a long way around, either through Yankton, forty miles dowriver, or across the Fort Randall Dam at Pickstown, about the same distance upriver. Since Donna's ancestors settled in that corner of Nebraska, the lack of a bridge has made a lot of extra miles for us in the last four decades,

Before we crossed the bridge, we also viewed it from a distance. It is a thing of beauty. Most bridges are, if you really look at them, but they are not built to be looked at. They are built to be crossed.

Rest areas have other uses. The states that provide them (Minnesota is a shining example) make them not only functional but beautiful. For their primary use, they do not have to be beautiful. That they so often are, when the same basic service is supplied by convenience stores at most exits, is a sign of civilization.


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