I don’t know exactly what it is about the sound of hard heels pounding on a wooden boardwalk, but I do love that sound. I like it even better when I am wearing my cowboy boots. I guess part of that pleasure is that it takes me back to my childhood-cowboy days. No, I was never actually a cowboy, but I did play one many times in my backyard. I also spent time watching Matt Dillion, Festus, Doc, and the others as they strolled through Dodge City. They were on my family television each week, on Saturday evenings originally, and later, on Mondays. Now, I could watch reruns of Gunsmoke every day of the week, and I do sometimes. Dodge City, Kansas; Tombstone, Arizona; Virginia City, Nevada; and Lonesome Dove, Texas; to name a few, all had wooden sidewalks, otherwise known as boardwalks. Cement had been invented by that time, but those rustic cowboy towns of the West didn’t have such luxuries.
The earliest recollection I have of actually walking on a boardwalk is when I was around six-years old. It was not on a boardwalk in some Wild-West town, but in an everglade swamp in South-Central Florida. My oldest brother was living down there at the time, and he took us out there for a stroll through the swamp. Since I couldn’t walk on water, I was thankful for the elevated boardwalk, especially since there were alligators in the water. According to my brother, little boys were the favorite appetizer of those gators. Since I survived that outing without being eaten alive, fried gator is now one of this big boy’s favorite appetizers!
There are a number of well-known boardwalks across our nation. At Coney Island, in Brooklyn, you can walk the boardwalk while eating a Nathan’s Hot Dog. If you’re brave enough, especially after eating that hot dog, you ride the Cyclone Roller Coaster. Other famous boardwalks include the Santa Monica Pier, the Atlantic City boardwalk, and the boardwalk in Ocean Springs, Maryland, which was first constructed in 1900. In 1964 The Drifters recorded a hit song called, “Under the Boardwalk.”
There is another boardwalk that is not quite as famous as any of those, but I do love it. This boardwalk is my very own, located in my backyard. I had a wet area back there, right beside my shop, and where I needed to walk. I had acquired several wooden-shipping pallets to tear apart so I could use the wood to build craft items. One day I laid a few of those pallets across the wet area, so I wouldn’t ruin my shoes. I considered getting enough pallets to line them up for a sidewalk until Jean gave me one of those, “You-aren’t-going-to-leave-those-there-are-you?” looks. So I decided to do something that was a little more pleasing to the eye. Drew and I began taking the boards off the pallets. We put down pressure-treated runners and nailed the boards across them, to build a sidewalk, or boardwalk. Eventually, we nailed down 106 pallet boards which covered a span of around 30 feet. Oh, and we broke that many or more trying to pry them off, but that’s good for small crafts! Our newly constructed boardwalk has now passed inspection. If I still had a couple of cap-guns and holsters, I’d strap them on, put on my boots and cowboy hat, and strut down my boardwalk! I would even try to talk Drew into playing too, but he’s getting too big for such foolishness.
Boardwalks and bridges rise above muck and even danger sometimes, and help us reach the other side safely. The most important one ever, across the largest chasm, was shaped like a cross.
— Bill King is a native of Rainsville, where he and his wife graduated from Plainview High School. King is a director of missions in Opelika, a writer, musician and author. His column appears in the Times-Journal weekend edition. Visit brobillybob.com for more information.