I thought I would share with any readers of my blog the Prologue to my upcoming book, The Bridge Builders, book one of a trilogy of books…
The Bridge Builder
An Old man, going a long highway,
Came, at the evening, cold and gray,
To a chasm, vat, and deep, and wide,
Through which was flowing a sullen tide.
The old man crossed in the twilight dim;
The sullen stream had no fears for him;
But he turned, when safe on the other side,
And built a bridge to span the tide.
“Old man,” said a fellow pilgrim, near,
“You are wasting strength with building here;
Your journey will end with the ending day;
You never again must pass this way;
You have crossed the chasm, deep and wide
Why build you the bridge at the eventide?”
The builder lifted his old gray head:
“Good friend, in the path I have come,” he said,
“There followeth after me today
A youth, whose feet must pass this way.
This chasm, that has been naught to me,
To that fair-haired youth may a pitfall be.
He, too, must cross in the twilight dim;
Good friend, I am building the bridge for him.”
I come from a family of bridge builders who spent their lives trying to create a better world in which to live, work, and play — not only for themselves, but also for those around them. Men and women, black and white, lawyers, ministers, professors, artists, farmers, politicians, and school teachers – scores of folks from all walks of lives were touched by these stalwart bridge-builders, who saw education as a life-long pursuit and shared their knowledge with those around them. Their classrooms were not only books of all sorts on all variety of subjects, but their own homes and gardens – from the rolling, stonewalled estate of a English duke to the simple cottages and flat, sandy soils of coastal North Carolina. Indeed, much of what they learned had some basis in the land – in planting and growing things from the soil.
My grandparents — the Bells from Brough in Yorkshire, England, and the Prices from Elizabeth City, North Carolina – were part of America’s great “melting pot.” Papa and Grandmother Price were U.S. citizens of several generations. Equal parts Scottish, German, and Irish, they put down deep roots in eastern North Carolina and struggled to raise seven children, one of which died at childbirth, another as a teen. Yet four of those children lived to see maturity and old age. And one of those was my mother.
My father’s parents were British immigrants who followed their young, adventurous sons to North America where they fought the ice, snow, and rock on a land grant farm in Canada until they were ready to move anywhere as long as the weather was warm and the soil was fertile.
Like a 20th century colonist, my father paved the way. He bought a piece of this “paradise” in Elizabeth City, and, in 1921, married my mother. My grandparents soon joined them. Together, they began raising an “American” family of boys: Richard Chevalier, born in 1928; Roger Quinton in 1931; and Albert Quentin in 1937.
My father’s work in Manteo, North Carolina, looms large in all of my childhood memories. I watched through young eyes as he used his self-acquired knowledge of design and construction to recreate many of the original 16th century structures and erect the famed Waterside Theatre on Roanoke Island where the “Lost Colony” outdoor drama has been performed since 1937. I believe I recognized even then the irony – that we, too, were “colonists” in a “new world” made of sea, sand, pine trees, and fresh air.
Paving the way, braving the elements (natural or otherwise), creating something from nothing, and always, always learning — this was my birthright. And even as a child, I somehow knew that this was the legacy I was destined to carry on throughout my own life as one in a long-time of bridge-builders.
I hope I will be able to convey to you, my readers, the sheer joy of learning from my family and friends and the many episodes that changed me from a child to a man ready for my own work. This book is, therefore, about preparation. – Richard C. Bell