Scrapbook Eighty Nine…



The Long Jump…

bridge04It was a huge monster of an iron looking thing. The bridge I mean, and I hated it with a passion. It crossed the Leon River on state road 53 about 6 miles west of Temple where I was born and raised.

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.


from google maps

“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?


from google maps

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.


© 2011 Larry D. Moore

Through truss bridge over Leon River on FM 817 in Belton

Belton, Bell County, Texas

Open to traffic

Built 1939

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

Also called
Waco Road Bridge

Approximate latitude, longitude
+31.06639, -97.44222   (decimal degrees)
31°03’59” N, 97°26’32” W   (degrees°minutes’seconds”)

Quadrangle map:

Inventory numbers
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


82 thoughts on “Scrapbook Eighty Nine…

  1. That’s a cool story I liked it. You knew you had done it. Jumped off the bridge. As long as it was Important to know you had jumped and even at night. I really don’t see anything to gain by telling them . They surely wouldn’t believe you anyhow because they didn’t see you do the jump. I bet you had fun knowing they didn’t have a clue when they teased you./ After you had done the jump. All that mattered was it made you feel good about doing it.

  2. They’re all around Mapsmith, except Paul. He was a golf pro and had a stoke while playing golf in Aspen. That one really hurt because we were close, but fierce competitors on the tennis court. I’m still in touch with the rest of the gang.

  3. Well Fenn, this pretty much establishes the fact you were born crazy. Kinda gives a whole new meaning to the term “Look Before You Leap”.

    If that had been me I would have been splattered all over some guy’s bass boat that just happened to be fishing under the bridge that night.

    I wonder how many searchers will be jumping off bridges, jumping into wells, or off of cliffs in the middle of the night……Don’t laugh, an IQ test is not required to search for the treasure.

  4. Mr. Fenn always said he had lots of guts…so where do you think country boys get their guts? By testing themselves and doing epic stuff! I like it and I would’ve jumped at night w/you Mr. Fenn!

    • Country boys AND country girls.. I jumped from a dam. That was scary. Three guys and two girls.. The other girl didnt jump. Like Forrest.. You never forget.

    • I think I hear you saying that your qualifications in life didn’t have to be known by others. Your life has pretty much proved that.

  5. Great story sir. You took me back to Salmon Falla Bridge in El Dorado Hills Cali when I was a kid – but we’d shimmy up those steel beams and jump from the top ;). How dumb we were…. although running and hurdling the rail was pretty fun too.

  6. Wowza, Forrest. Jumping from a tall bridge…at night…with all your clothes on? That’s kinda like playing hopscotch…blindfolded…with rattlesnakes on the squares. You crazy, Bro.

    • There is a bridge like that not far from Santa Fe that some youngsters jump from. Some of them go down in the water so far that the undercurrent pulls them down and they are not seen again until they are lifeless. F and his friends were lucky to see another day.

  7. What a great story. We can do anything when we make a plan and take action. Keep jumping into the darkness. Isn’t that living a courageous life?
    Aka. Princess clothes horse.

  8. Nicely done Mr. Fenn. Bet that launch removed the heavy brown color from your britches put there by that slide-down fire escape…only to perhaps leave behind another form of heavy brown color in your britches behind…or maybe just de ja vu all over again. Wonder what Miss Ford would have thought of this little manuever? Maybe this time it’s not you, but Miss Ford “don’t even suspect anything”.

    Very much fun…thank you for the story…glad you are still alive, but not sure how you have managed it.

  9. I like the bridge. Thrre are many like it that I have seen in my days. Never have I had the urge to jump off of one though. The structure appears sound. I shall take a picture of the next bridge I cross that looks similar to the one in the picture. I find it comforting to know ff follows us… Amy. My thoughts are a little confused, but I do feel a bit lost without my caged beast being near. I hope to get my beast out of the beast hospital next weekend. I will be back up treasure hunting about a week later so the beast can rest before we go at it again. This hospital thing is just another bridge we have to cross. Thanks for posting a photo so well in focus.

  10. Maybe it takes someone who would jump off a bridge to have the guts to become a pilot in the war like you did Forrest! I think pilots are a special breed, just like you. 🙂

    • Jumping off bridges and the like rites of passage, Amy. Those feats…and sometimes defeats…mark stages of accomplishment and progression along life’s path.

      The closest thing to it for girls…I reckon…is buying a nice, new pair of shoes. You feel good about yourself…and perhaps walk a bit taller when it’s done. Of course, it’s always nice when others take notice, too. Right? 🙂

      • I know, Deb. I admit my comment might be perceived as “sexist” to some people…male and female. However, others might not see any problem with a woman being beautiful at all…and I know you weren’t making that point.

        In my defense…to all the haters out there…I try to put myself in other peoples’ shoes and see the world through their eyes. Wearing lipstick and miniskirts doesn’t bother me very much…but walking in stilettos is an art I haven’t mastered yet…although I give it my best try every weekend. 🙂

        (No…not really.)

    • We use to drive about 35mph and jump off of the hood of out Chevy. Yeah I would agree it is a guy thing but enjoy every minute of it!

    • That would make me a girl then… snif snif.
      I wonder if my wife and daughter feel the same about me. I think I’ll ask them tonight, but it’s going to really be embarrassing.

      My daughter jumped off a cliff in Kootenay Lake BC, from about 50ft . She was 19 years at the time, and only “hurt” herself while crawling back to the top of the cliff – minor scratches on knees.

      Made me feel a little mad at her and very proud at the same time… go figure.

  11. Growing up in Temple I never jumped off that bridge. I went across it a few times.
    We use to jump off the cliffs at Lake Belton but that wasn’t there when you were a teenager.
    The good ole days. 🙂

  12. Forrest,
    In 1992, Belton and Stillhouse reservoirs saw serious flooding. As a seasonal park ranger for the US Army Corps of Engineers, it was my duty to undo some of the damage done to the parks and trails surrounding the lakes. I used to fantasize about what that beautiful valley used to look like before they built the dams. I figure you got a first hand look when you were a young man, living in Temple. Was it a meandering stream complete with live oaks and white pines?

    Anyways, one of the dilemma’s we came across while clearing trails were huge timbers from washed out bridges. There was no way the seven of us on the crew could move those timbers without equipment. Or could we? I began to gather perfectly round pieces of driftwood of similar diameters of about four inches. As I laid them down like railroad ties in front of the log, my crew leader caught on to my idea and began ordering others to do the same. Once we had enough driftwood laid out to extend beyond the length of the log, it was just a matter of all of us picking up one end of the log, and placing a few pieces of driftwood underneath it. Admittedly, we ran into steering issues, and the log got stuck a few times on some little rises, but we moved that log like a locomotive along its tracks! I was so proud of myself for coming up with that idea. My crew leader commended me in the field, but got all the credit in the office. But I didn’t care! My idea had worked!

    Another duty was trimming up all the trees in the parks, which were dead from about six feet on down from being submerged for so long. I remember standing under the shade of a large oak tree lopping off dead branches in 100 degree heat at about 70% humidity thinking it couldn’t get any worse than this, when I felt a sharp sting near my hip, right at the belt line. Before I could even move, hundreds of fire ants bit and stung me all at the same time! It was like the first one gave the signal, and the rest of them acted in unison. If you’ve ever experienced these guys, you will understand my reaction. Without hesitation or shame, I shucked my drawers in the middle of the park, hollering the whole time about how my mother was a female dog.

    If you watch fire ants during an attack, they bite with their mandibles, and sting with their backsides. So they look like an upside down horseshoe as they inflict their damage. The next day I had little white pimple like blisters all over my lower body.

    Being from Idaho, I wasn’t used to all the new flora and fauna I was to experience in Texas. Now, I say I am from Idaho, but in fact I was born at Fort Wolters Army Hospital in Mineral Wells. But I left there as a baby, and grew up in the Idaho backcountry. So when I came across this beautiful little copper colored snake about the size of a very large earthworm, I thought nothing of picking it up and placing it in a mason jar I had found along the ditch. The jar had no lid, so I covered the top with my leather glove covered palm. As I approached the crew leader with my discovery he gave a little shriek and promptly asked me what in the heck I thought I was doing. After I regaled him with my tale, he told me what kind of snake I had captured. It was a baby copperhead, whose venom was about five times stronger than an adults.

    I enjoyed that summer in Texas. I am a direct descendant of David G. Burnet (on my mothers side) and had to visit Burnet, TX. I also went to Austin, Temple, and San Antonio. With air conditioning and a good pesticide I think I could really enjoy living there.

    Michael D

    • Love your stories, but a bit of a quandary. I agree, the Corp. of Engineers have altered every river bank across this country big or small that in turn altered memories of the old into well heeded new warnings. As a GIRL in Missouri, I have jumped off
      many a trussed bridge and 500 ft cliff bank in the early 70’s. If you must jump, follow the locals…(.) the end. Water levels have been over diverted and well posted at Park websites.

      Experienced Missouri River Floater for over 30 years and it’s dangers. Like people that know the mountains, take heed.

      Ants, they are older than roaches. Red Ants…are dangerous. If you have been unfortunate to be stung by two or three… it hurts.

  13. What I get from this story is not what Mr. Fenn is saying, but what he is whispering. I see a story that Mr. Fenn wanted to tell us, but at the same time this story has a little information about the treasure chest, and where to begin looking for it. Does anybody else see that? I have been there, but have not been able to figure out the rest of the clues.

    • The story is one of maturation and realization of self worth that every teenager has to deal with. NOT a story of passage into adulthood. Oh, no. “I’d show those guys”, “Just wait until the news gets out”. Then after the change, “My whole world changed”, Why should I even tell anyone” and “The power… would be subjugated a little if they knew.”

      The real lesson he learned is summed up in the beginning : “My value shouldn’t be diminished just because those guys couldn’t see my real worth.”

      The editor in me points out that “prayed” should be spelled “preyed”. But I have learned from f, whose story is it anyway?

      The correlation to the poem is implied, (this is no place for the meek), reference to logs (in the wood), directly stated in “wet and frozen” and a very slyly direct hint about one line in the poem, “moonless night”. Confirms to me that I was right about that line, Mr. Fenn !

      The storyl of the morry is : It ain’t a bridge !!

      All IMHO,

      Alan M.

      • Calculated risk is much better than wistful thinking. If I watched eight other people jump, particularly all at one time, I’d say that it would be calculated risk for me to then jump.

        If it were eight of my friends encouraging me, then it’s an issue of my trust in them, not only in my own judgment.

        Don’t call me out for ignoring the ‘young teen player’ (adolescent sixteen year old) factor. I think we know a very young age, when we shouldn’t be doing some particular thing. As if it were part of how we are wired; that somehow we know what’s right, but other feelings, emotions and perceived needs, win out. The phrases ‘just do it’ or ‘It’s just business, it’s not personal’ are two ends of the same string; a structure for rationalizing a need for power, be it peer influenced or selfish behavior for the young and old respectively.

        This story is one of motivation. He denied the external motivation and realized an internal motivation. Is that maturation and realization of self worth? Maybe.

  14. An interesting tale of your leap of faith (literal and figurative at the same time.) Glad you neither crossed paths with lurking submerged logs nor that pesky troll under the bridge. As always, thank you.

    • Earlier today I left a comment with the “boseman” article. I pointed out calling ff’s memoir a “hunt”.

      Then I noted that the author several times said the treasure was “buried”. It is this kind of poor reporting that causes some people to go dig where they aught not.

      Now I saw where all comments following the article have been deleted. Tsk, tsk!

  15. What a beautiful bridge! Reminds me of one in Oklahoma. It needed some restoration, repainting. The two painters somehow were completely orange like the primer coat. Later they were completely silver like the final coat. Ha!

  16. Very brave! You’ve shared it’s possible to second guess one’s self and return a victor for one’s self (most important) without having to make much of it to others. Valuable advice given this week. I admire your style Forrest, you are your own man like the The Virginian.

  17. We used to jump off the four mile bridge over the lower elk. Definitely not 40 feet above the water, more like 15 or 20. Still a thrill to jump and the water was not much above freezing so it had to be a hot day for sure! The bridge was replaced and now the old one sits and overlooks the highway. I am not sure that people even know that it was once a bridge or if they even notice it when they drive by.

  18. if f said to take a flashlight and a sandwich it might be wise to do so

    maybe it actually helps you find the correct location of the chest more than i realized

    remember that adam sandler movie where the guy is yelling at him from the crowd, you can doooo iiiiit !!

    i think ill be yelling that to myself on my next search as a personal motivation technique

    i can do it ! i can do it ! ….lol

    • Just posted my vote for favorite story. Good stories by all. The stories l have stirred my imagination. I even tried to bend spoons.

  19. Here we are at the bottom again looking and searching.
    I know it’s here somewhere I have never given up on my location 🙂 !!!!!

  20. I just keep hearing my mom say, “if all your friends were jumping off a cliff, would you jump too?” Don’t be a lemming, use your brain.

    • When my husband was a little kid and his mom asked him this question he responded: “Of course I would jump, why would I want to go on without any friends?”

      • LOL.. Chris…he has three daughters, my father has three daughters and we as a whole are much smarter, because we are gracious and listen to our father’s and mother’s. We are the gifts in life, compassionate and understand their purposes in life. You don’t know me, but my father is the same age. I can maybe only assume, but I understand my own father because I took the time..

  21. Reminds me of that great scene in The Last Crusade when Indiana is standing on the precipice and needs to take “leap of faith”. The result was unknown to him, but known to anyone who had taken the leap before him. Like the last line from Omar Khayyam’s poem when he says that “Not one returns to tell us of the road, which to discover we must travel, too. ”

    Clearly each of us has made leaps of faith that, once taken, we cannot share because they are so personal as to have relevance only to us. And although each person must make the same leap, the gained experience will be different for each person because each person takes their own set of previous experiences and lessons learned into the abyss.

    Not sure if this has relevance to the TC directly, but no matter. The real treasure is that Forrest convinces each of us to think about it.

  22. Be proud of yourself Forrest. You possessed the intelligence it takes to assess risk before jumping. At 16 I thought I would show off to a bunch of boys and jump off a 60 foot cliff into Lake Helena. I went first not realizing how much it hurts when your feet slap the water without shoes. The guys thought I was quite brave and laughed at my stupidity. Today I hiked 14 miles with my son into Pioneer Falls and the Lee Metcalf wildereness beyond. We nearly ran into an enormous bull moose. No treasure at the top of the falls, but nice to know I could still hike the steep WM gravel maze and marvel gaze at the falls. We’re exhausted, retiring from treasure hunting, and driving the canyon down to site see Yellowstone Park tomorrow.

  23. Daughters are powerful in life through history….as are the the right wives that encourage and forgive peoples history? Indian wives.

    We in Missouri, the kindest of Indian Nations through era..forgiveness, wives controlled every aspect of humanity.

    As a Cherokee descendant from the 1740’s of North Carolina, were the first people west of St. Louis. Every ancestor of mine, female into Texas was born of of Oklahoma, daughter of or attributed of of the 5 Nations, daughter of the Love Nation of Cherokee. One of 5 Nations. Princess.

    In my family history, we married into the James and Younger’s they came with us from Kentucky. Even Carson was a child when he came to Missouri. We never claim Boone, only because our family was over the mountain 10 years , and 30 years in North Carolina prior to his history in North Carolina at Piedmont.

    My great, great grandfather married the niece of Robert E. Lee, that my aging aunts, Confederate daughters of America….who actually in their archaic tea parties…in their 80’s, invited me to join!

    Is it right of me to carry on a century belief that a definition of a gentleman or woman is a person who is gracious?

  24. Wolf and Will brought up some good points with me. Used to have such passion about this. Spent the better part of yesterday sorting it all out.

    This isn’t a normal working relationships with other human beings.

    Since meeting Fenn my trust will always be may or may not with him. He may have jumped off a bridge, he may not have.
    He might have hidden a chest he may not have.

    His own wife said to Tony (Newsweek reporter) that Fenn was a mystery to her. Either she’s in on that fix or it well may be true.

    The word community means a common unity. This here is a community a broken one at that, due to competition. The word diversity means unity through diversity. All yeah there are all kinds here……..People I generally don’t hang out in real life. Really people wouldn’t want to hang out with me anyways I’m a mean flippant paranoid SOB.

    In 3 years have yet to meet anyone here to develop a working relationship. In most cases it’s not them,it’s me.

    It seems though people hurt and want to hurt others in life. As a result have to put up massive barriers. it’s funny I only trust kids 8 and down and animals.

    My best friend is my niece……….and a raccoon.

    Do I think I found the chest? NO. Have I tried ? YES:)

    If anything didn’t want top leave all of this being bitter and having upset people, like yourself Will:)

    Other people you can never please and they don’t change. Those are the ones you don’t give a xhit about.


    • Rick – there may be more common unity here than you think. Most people on the chase team up with family and friends who are a natural fit to search with. Getting family to buy into a fairy story and help you on the ground is an excellent example of non-competitive unity. Additionally, some of the best help sorting out clues has come to me via great people on Dal’s blog who graciously gave help and solutions. I always try to offer assistance if I have any to give; ie today I drove 200 miles to honor a promise and search on behalf of someone on this blog. Nothing in it for me at all but tired legs. Healthy competition pushes people to think and excel. My son pushed me to hike over 20 miles in two days, a fair amount up steep hills. I couldn’t have done it without him pushing me to compete against my own expectations.

  25. I think I will go take the Civil Engineering Test! 🙂 I had no idea there were so many options when designing and building a bridge…….

  26. In reading all of Forrest’s stories, I have begun to wonder which he used more when going in and out of his house… the front door or his bedroom window.

      • The bedroom window useage follows a bell curve (also known as Gaussian function). It started with little use, then by the time he was a teenager it reached the peak and back to low levels when reaching adulthood… although recently it pick up again, as he has to slip by everytime he checks on the treasure chest (probably weekly).
        That’s how he knows it’s still there.

  27. So conspicuous- all the detailed latitude- bridge #- other many numbers. I haven’t seen that before. It is obviously something, but what? It took me a year to ‘get’ the ‘biddies’ (if I got it right). and I still haven’t gotten the ‘Border’s’ story- which again screams CLUE or HINT (ya he was seriously so hurt and embarrassed- sure he was). Wow, I don’t get the 8 white St. Bernards and 200 white doves either- a definite beer in the purse hint. Jeez, I’m really not getting a lot of these hints……

  28. Regarding Latitude/Longitude – Poles

    45th Parallel or 1/2 way point between Equator and North Pole runs through Yellowstone Park near Soda Butte.


  29. You can analyze the numbers all you want.. its a bridge and just tells where its near as a reference point. Its not a major clue but an area one. I fly fished under one just like it and it was a great experience. FF is a master at dropping hints, just like he was dropping bombs I am sure as a fighter pilot!

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