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Reviewed by:
  • Bridges over the Brazos
  • T. Lindsay Baker
Bridges over the Brazos. By Jon McConal. (Fort Worth: Texas Christian University Press, 2005. Pp. 302. Foreword, illustrations, maps, appendix, list of interviews, works consulted. ISBN 097565312X. $19.95, paper.)

Bridges bring people together. They enable travelers to cross bodies of water that they cannot ford or wade. These structures attract people almost the same way that ankles attract mosquitoes. They definitely attracted Jon McConal of Granbury.

In his Bridges over the Brazos author McConal has prepared a fascinating travelogue that covers much of the Brazos River valley. His uniting theme is the quest that he and friend Eddie Lane pursued in seeking out the highway bridges that span the river from near Knox City all the way to its mouth on the Gulf of Mexico at Freeport. [End Page 430]

McConal employs his search for the bridges across the Brazos as a uniting theme in spinning yarns about the people and places he found. The search led him to big cities, small towns, and remote rural locations. He beautifully chronicles the life stories of the people who live and have lived around these structures. The narrative approaches being a folk history.

For heritage tourists desiring a guide to cultural resources along the Brazos River, the book provides just such a front-seat companion. Users wanting to learn about the histories of the bridges spanning the river, however, will be a little disappointed. Only in some instances did McConal even note the dates of construction for the bridges he visited, except in an appendix at the back of the volume. Maybe I have too much of a technological bent, but I found myself wanting to learn more.

McConal began his hunt for bridges spanning the Brazos in Knox County, on the Rolling Plains, but the Brazos and its bridges start much higher in its drainage. He does not explain the omission of the bridges spanning the upper reaches of the main (Double Mountain) fork starting in Lubbock County or the combined Runningwater Draw/White River/Salt Fork of the Brazos that flows from the New Mexico state line in Parmer County eastward. These dozens of structures remain in the field waiting to be discovered by other "bridge searchers" questing for the same pleasures that McConal and Lane found in hunting the unknown farther downstream.

Bridges over the Brazos is a fascinating and enjoyable read that I recommend for anyone interested in bridges, the Brazos, and heritage tourism. It opens readers' eyes and ears to the multiple layers of the Texas past waiting to be found associated with these ever-interesting structures.

T. Lindsay Baker
Tarleton State University


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pp. 430-431
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