The Long Jump…
Well, it wasn’t really the bridge itself that bothered me, it was the 40-foot drop to the water, and I’ll tell you why.
The cadre of friends I ran around with in high school was a pseudo-macho bunch. There was Edard, Kacir, Scotty, Paul Emery, Laurens, and several others who sat on the close periphery of our small group. They were all good guys and we were close, which made it even harder for me because I didn’t jump off of the bridge. I was going to until I looked down and heard someone say that submerged logs sometimes lurked just under the surface and if you landed on one it would break both of your legs.
“Let’s go,” they yelled, and all of them jumped, leaving me standing all alone on the asphalt. I couldn’t believe it. All of a sudden they were just gone and I wasn’t. How do you think that made a 16 year-old, 138 pound kid feel?
I knew what they were thinking “It was a test for toughness and Fenn’s tail fell out.” I could just see them telling every good looking girl in the whole junior class. It was a catastrophic moment for me and I felt terrible. My value shouldn’t be diminished just because those guys couldn’t see my real worth, should it?
It prayed on me, but for only a week or so. I felt my courage was only an inch too short to be long enough so I developed a plan that was indelible on my mind. I’d show those guys.
On a cold, moonless night about 3:00, I stole out of my bedroom window, jumped in the Bullet, and drove out highway 53. My mind was made up and nothing could stop me. No one was around so I stopped on the bridge and looked down. I couldn’t see the water but I knew it was down there somewhere. My pulse was tingling but without a seconds hesitation I climbed over the rail with all of my clothes on and jumped. I just did it and that was that. After what seemed like an hour I hit the water with a hard, cold splash.
When I surfaced my whole world had changed. I started laughing with an insane sense of empowerment. I really showed those guys, and ha, I did it at night. “Just wait’ll the news gets out,” I thought.
I was wet and frozen when I climbed in my bedroom window. Another idea came to me. Why should I even tell anyone? They probably wouldn’t believe me anyway. Besides, the power of what I did would be subjugated a little if they knew.
Looking back now, I think maybe I grew up a little on that dark night at the great Leon River Bridge, 68 years ago.
Through truss bridge over Leon River on FM 817 in Belton
Belton, Bell County, Texas
Open to traffic
Parker through truss
Length of largest span: 200.1 ft.
Total length: 412.1 ft.
Deck width: 24.0 ft.
Vertical clearance above deck: 15.7 ft.
Posted to the National Register of Historic Places on October 10, 1996
Waco Road Bridge
Approximate latitude, longitude
+31.06639, -97.44222 (decimal degrees)
31°03’59” N, 97°26’32” W (degrees°minutes’seconds”)
TXNBI 090140001505060 (Texas bridge number on the National Bridge Inventory)
NRHP 96001119 (National Register of Historic Places reference number)
Inspection (as of 04/2013)
Deck condition rating: Satisfactory (6 out of 9)
Superstructure condition rating: Satisfactory (6 out of 9)
Substructure condition rating: Satisfactory (6 out of 9)
Appraisal: Functionally obsolete
Sufficiency rating: 63.6 (out of 100)
Average daily traffic (as of 2011) 3,000