Monday, October 19, 2015

Touching History (Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Challenge)

A few years ago, my spouse's family and some of their childhood friends planned a group trip to Washington state. Specifically, they planned to meet at Mt. Ranier Park. The wealthier members of the family would stay in the pricey lodge, while those of us with smaller budgets would camp in the park's campground.

We loaded up the "ugly truck" with a tarp canopy over the pipe-rack, an inflatable full-size bed, folding chairs, and other camping equipment, and set out to drive from Sonoma County, Califonia, to the park in Washington.

Early in our trip, we discovered the joys of Oregon's favorite treat, the Olallieberry Milkshake. Each time nature called during this section of the drive, we strove to break our journey at a place that offered them. (The olallieberry was developed at Oregon State University, a hybrid of loganberries and youngberries, which are themselves hybrids of raspberries and blackberries.) 

At last we crossed into Washington, and with that, the olallieberry milkshake signs disappeared. We regretted it, but we were close to making another planned visit, to the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, site of a famous engineering failure that had featured in Mines lectures for us both. The "Galloping Gertie" behavior of the bridge as it fluttered in winds blowing down Puget Sound was the topic of a famous early newsreel movie that documented its breakup on November 7, 1940.

I was reminded of what happened as we left the highway in Tacoma on our way to visit the bridge by this week's Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Challenge:

October 14, 2015 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that reveals or explores a moment of serendipity. How did it come about? What did it lead to? You can express a character’s view of the moment or on serendipity in general. Use the element of surprise or show how it is unexpected or accidentally good.

This incident is just another proof of the phrase that gave Ken Cumming's work-in-progress memoirs its title: "We were meant to be here."

Touching History

Up ahead, the exit from highway 16 had two signs posted. "Tacoma Narrows Bridge" sat above the "Shake Shake Shake" restaurant sign advertising "Olallieberry Milkshakes."

In line to buy our first olallieberry shake since we left Oregon, we chatted with the nice woman ahead of us, mentioning our purpose to visit Galloping Gertie next.

"You know the film of the bridge breakup? The guy running off, the last man off the bridge?"

Sure we did. It was iconic!

"Well, that man was my Dad," she said. Solemnly, my spouse and I reached out to touch her shoulder, touching history.