Hi, Diary. It's Gordy again.
"Don't look down," Bobby Kell yelled.
"I'm trying," I snapped back.
"Don't try. Just do it. If you keep looking straight ahead and put one foot in front of the other, you'll have no problem."
"I am putting one foot in front of the other."
"Yeah, as slow as molasses in winter."
"I'm not going to run if that's what you think.'
"Did I tell you to run?"
"I don't like this, Bobby."
"You don't like what?"
"The river. It's moving."
"Didn't I tell you to not look down?"
"Yeah, but I can't help it."
"You can, too. If you look straight ahead and keep walking as I told you, you won't have any problem."
I turned around to face him. "I can't. I'm afraid of even walking back to you."
"You're such a Scaredy Cat, Gordy."
"I know. I can't help it. This is the Green Bay and Western railroad bridge, not a people bridge like the Grand Avenue bridge."
"What's the difference?"
"I don't get scared on the Grand Avenue. It's made of concrete and steel. It's a car and people bridge. It has sidewalks I can walk on. It has guardrails I can hang on to. That's the difference. Even if I look down at the river on the Grand Avenue, I don't get scared."
"Well, don't just stand there, then. Come on, back."
"I'm afraid of even doing that. It isn't easy, I tell you."
I tell you this, Diary, I was scared witless as I nervously returned to where Bobby was standing. "Whew," I breathed out, followed by a sigh.
"We'll have to take the long way," Bobby complained. "If you kept walking as I said—without looking down—we could've been in those paper piles already. Let's go."
That's what we did. We walked by the Samson Canning Company. Sammy Samson's my age. His dad owns it. Next, we walked by the city swimming pool with its stinky, brown river water. After that, we walked along the Wisconsin River wall on Second Street but stopped to look at the carp that were sucking in sewage coming out of a huge pipe and draining into the river.
Bobby kept moaning and groaning. "We could've been there already if it wasn't for you looking down."
"I start out okay," I explained, "but when I go so far, I think my next step won't be on a tie but in the space between. I might fall in between them and into the river. If I didn't break my neck, I'd drown. That's for certain."
"You can't fall between those ties, Gordy."
"Why can't I?"
"Cuz the space is too small. You can't fit between them."
"It's impossible. You can't."
"Anyway, I was getting dizzy watching the river. I could stumble and fall sideways. That bridge has no railing for me to hang on. Splash. Down I'd go. Broken neck. Or drowned. That's for certain."
"It doesn't have guardrails because it's a railroad bridge."
"That's what I've been trying to tell you. It's not a bridge meant for people to walk on."
"I walk on it."
"But you're different."
Oops. I forgot to tell you, Diary, that Bobby and I were heading to our secret, free magazine and book store. Well, it's not exactly a store. It's Consolidated Paper Mill's baled paper piles stacked alongside the railroad tracks. Those piles are twenty feet high, maybe more, and hundreds of feet long. Each bale weighs at least a ton, maybe more.
If you could, but you can't, you might ask, 'How did we find that magazine store?' Well, one day, while Bobby and I were walking on the rails, making believe we were circus high wire walkers, our arms outstretched, going up, going down, first one to fall is the loser. Suddenly, it started to rain. Real hard. We jumped off the track and ran for an open space between some bales. Ducking, we entered a hole.
"It's kind of like a cave in here, isn't it?"
"We'll stay here until it stops," said Bobby. That's when he started pulling magazines out of a nearby bale. "Hey, look at this." Bobby pushed it at me.
"It's a 'Life' magazine."
"Why'd you say that?"
"Would I fool a fool?"
"Guess not," I said, giggling and rifling through the magazine. That was only one of the many free magazines we took home with us that day. That night on the bed while using my flashlight, I read a story in 'Hot Rod' about Bonneville Salt Flats. It's in Utah where drivers run their cars on land that used to be the bed of an ocean millions of years ago. They drive their cars as fast as they can on the salt in attempts to break speed records.
Next up was 'Mechanix Illustrated.' I especially liked Tom McCahill. His picture was above his written new car test. He's kind of fat and has a black mustache but he's funny, kind of.
I also read some stories in a bunch of crime magazines. "True Detective," "Inside Detective," and "Police Detective" were a few.
So, since Bobby and I had finished with the first batch of free magazines, we agreed to go back to the baled paper piles and look for some more, those that we didn't get the first time.
That's why Bobby suggested crossing that railroad bridge. I thought I might be able to cross it. After I chickened out and while we watched the carp, Bobby said again, "You can't possibly fit through the ties."
"Well, it seemed like I could. Anyway, I was getting kind of dizzy watching the river. I could've fallen sideways."
"There's no railing for me to hang on."
"That's because the railroad's owners don't want anyone walking on their bridge."
"They don't have to worry about me."
We crossed the street and stopped at the fire station to talk to four firemen sitting on leaned back chairs against the brick outer wall. "Hi," Bobby and I said together.
"What you kids up to?" asked a bald fireman with red face, but not as red as the firetruck we could see.
"We're going to get us some free magazines," I said.
Bobby punched me, shaking his head.
"Free magazines, you say," said Bald Red Face. "I betcha you kids are going to Our Record Store and steal some magazines. Better watch out or the cops will get ya. They'll lock you up and throw away the key." All four men began to laugh.
"Did I say 'free'?" I asked.
They laughed some more.
"Let's go," urged Bobby.
"See ya'," I told the four men.
"Hope you don't end up in the hoosegow," a skinny fireman closest to us said. All four men started laughing again.
"You and your big mouth, Gordy."
"I'm sorry. I won't say anything about those magazines again."
"You better not."
As we made our way to the motherlode (Thank you, Reader's Digest) of free magazines the long way, we began to walk on a railroad track when I spotted a bright yellow stone. I stopped and picked it up. "I've never seen a stone like this before."
"That's not a stone. That's sulfur. If you touch a lit match to it, it'll burn blue, stink like heck, and melt at the same time."
"Neat. I'm taking this home." I put the sulfur in a pocket.
"There's a lot more because the mill uses sulfur to make paper."
When I got home, I put the magazines under my bed. Then, I went outdoors, put the sulfur down on the front sidewalk, and lit the sulfur. Bobby was right. It burned blue, melted, and stank like heck. That night, I looked at a 'Collier' magazine plus a 'Saturday Evening Post' plus crime magazines. I get a kick out of their pictures, showing detectives smoking cigars as they hold on to the bad guy wearing handcuffs. Crime doesn't pay