I’m sure most of us have seen a covered bridge…at least in pictures. Most people think of them as being nostalgic, and I do too. They remind me of times long gone, but why were bridges covered in the first place? It wasn’t to lend a romantic flair to the bridge, you know. No, the real reason for covered bridges actually traces back to what the bridge is made of. Wooden structures then and now are exposed to harsh weather and subject to wear and tear. Covering the bridge does two important things. The cover protects the wooden deck…the surface that people and vehicles travel on. It also protects the truss system, which is the lattice framework under and around the bridge that supports the deck, helping the structure last longer. The roof and side elements were replaceable as long as the support structure remained strong. If the support structure weakens, the bridge will have to be rebuilt, because rotting wood cannot be made strong again. This is one of the main reasons that covered bridges have slowly given way to steel bridges over time. Steel structures hold up years longer than wood.

A covered bridge is a timber-truss bridge with a roof, decking, and siding, so most covered bridges actually look like a building over water. They are an almost complete enclosure, with the exception of their two ends, and sometimes windows. Uncovered wooden bridges typically have a lifespan of only 20 years because of the effects of rain and sun, but when a bridge is covered, it could last over 100 years. In fact, the oldest covered bridge in the United States is Hyde Hall Covered Bridge, which is on the grounds of Glimmerglass State Park in Cooperstown. It was built by George Clarke in 1825 on what was then the private property of Hyde Hall.

Nevertheless, while covered bridges last a long time, in the United States, only about 1 in 10 survived the 20th century. It wasn’t because they were dilapidated, but it was due to deliberate replacement, neglect, and the high cost of restoration. Covered bridges have a long history, and they can be found throughout Europe and especially North America in places like New England, the Mid-Atlantic and the regions around the Great Lakes…mainly because these areas are very wooded, and so the building material there is plentiful. I think it’s rather sad that the covered bridges have almost become extinct…such a loss to history.

My son-in-law, Kevin has always been a capable home renovator. He has fixed up and beautified each of the homes he and my daughter, Corrie and their family have lived it. It was a big part of what made him feel useful. Since he became disabled, I worried that he would no longer be able to do the projects he wanted to do on their home. In some ways, that has been the case. He is in pain often, and that limits the activity he can do. Nevertheless, Kevin is a very determined person. When he sets his mind to a task, he sees it through, even if it takes him much longer than it would have years ago.

This summer found Kevin deciding to reside their mobile home. They sold their house and paid cash for this mobile home when Corrie went back to school. They knew that with school and Kevin’s disabilities, they would need to reduce the family budget, and since their sons, Chris and Josh, are now grown and living on their own, they could downsize and save money. They bought a two bedroom mobile home and paid for it in full. It was nice, but it was older.

Kevin has worked on the interior, whenever his pain level allowed, and it looks very nice now. Still, the exterior was very dated and dingy looking. It was not what they wanted it to be. Corrie worked a great deal of overtime hours this summer, and it allowed them to buy new siding. They were very excited. Kevin has worked off and on putting up the siding for several weeks now, and the results have been amazing. Kevin even surprised Corrie with a cute floral “Welcome” sign for the front of the home. She had no idea he was doing that. The siding looks very professional, but that is how all of Kevin’s work looks. He doesn’t like to do a job half way or sloppy. That’s just not Kevin’s style.

We are all very proud of the beautiful job Kevin did on the siding. We know the sacrifices he made to get this done…and done right. We know the aches and pain he went through, and we are very proud of his accomplishment on the house. Once again, with determination, he persevered; and the work he did is just beautiful. Today is Kevin’s birthday. Happy birthday Kevin!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

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