In 1899, Meeker County built a bridge,
steel and angular and strong,
over the North Fork of the Crow River,
where Big Woods and Big Prairie met.
Year after year,
the Salisbury Bridge watched the river,
tumbling and foaming over rapids,
dark and mysterious over holes
where fish lay hidden;
The Salisbury Bridge
saw deer and rabbits and squirrels,
blackbirds swaying on the cattails,
meadowlarks, blue birds, blue jays,
ducks and geese and herons and swans,
and crows, of course.
Neighbors crossed the Salisbury Bridge,
hauling wheat to the Kingston mill and flour home again.
They crossed the bridge for house parties,
fiddling, dancing, into the night,
maybe a little tipsy, but no matter:
the horses knew the way home.
Grandpa rode across that bridge
going to some Johnson Olson Nelson party,
where he made eyes at Swede girls.
Aunt Lena walked across
to a one room school
where she taught reading, writing and arithmetic,
and big boys put dead gophers in her desk.
Not that gophers or big boys either
could ever scare Aunt Lena.
For years and decades and centuries,
nineteenth into twentieth,
on to twenty-first,
the Salisbury Bridge watched over the river,
saw people on the river,
fishing with bamboo poles and worms,
growing up to rods and reels,
canoeing and canoodling,
and now snowmobiling.
Watching over the river and the people and the land,
the Salisbury Bridge saw
trees cut down and fields plowed and planted,
and horses giving way to tractors and Model Ts.
Big Woods and Big Prairie gave way to
Big Ag and Big Turkeys.
Today, half a million turkeys a year
pass through ten metal barns on eighteen paved acres
just west of the bridge.
Turkey feathers drift
like summer snow
along the shoulders of Highway 24.
The Salisbury Bridge still watches.
Blackbirds and blue herons,
milkweeds and monarchs,
canoes and canoodling.
The North Fork Crow River still runs on,
joins up with South Fork, and on to the Mississippi
and the Gulf of Mexico.
Life and hope and rivers do not die.
The Salisbury Bridge is registered as a national historic place, and the North Fork Crow River is one of Minnesota’s six Wild and Scenic Rivers, and a state water trail.
Back about a century and a half ago, Jonathan Salisbury, a government survey man, looked at the land and found it good. He staked his claim, brought his family and settled in Kingston Township on the Crow River. Where Jonathan Salisbury farmed his land, the county built the first Salisbury bridge. In 1885, the newspaper called it “a substantial bridge.” That substantial bridge was replaced in 1899 by the current Salisbury Bridge, constructed by the county at a cost of $3,397.