Mile 136, The new Vantage Bridge, Washington State.
Driving to Butte for Kelly and Pat’s wedding. Backseat of Uncle Jim’s car. 2012.
My Great-grandfather Aboo was one of the workers who built the original bridge over the Columbia River at Vantage. Before there had just been ferries. They had to put in the new bridge in the 1960’s when the Wanapum Dam was built and the water level changed. He and many of those same workers had also helped build the Smith Tower in Seattle. As a kid I always heard a legend were the workers had all signed their names inside the top of the pyramid of the tower. It turns out that is a true story. I saw photos a few years ago, but couldn’t find Aboo’s even though I know he signed.
I have always wondered about the reason he built tall things, up high over the river or concrete. My theory is that it relates to his working in the mines in Butte at such a young age. Maybe he hated being under the ground and went for the other extreme.
Sometimes when I drive over the Vantage Bridge I think of those workers and am amazed that anyone could have done that work. It must have been scary and also exciting. It’s hard to reconcile that sort of dare-devil life with the old man who would show up unannounced at our house when I was a kid. But maybe not, someone who leaves Butte without letting anyone know and then shows up on his grandaughter’s porch without warning must have been pretty free-wheeling.
Uncle Jim in the doorway, Aboo surrounded by his daughters: Frankie, my grandma Margie, Lois, and Uncle Stevie.