Bridge Stories 


Finn Slough

- Photo of Jesse and Sashi by MaryLynn Harvie -


Bridg' In Reality.  by Nikki Hainstock

THE BRIDGE  by Margaret Dragu

Arlene’s Favourite Bridge Story:  Kevin Moving her old M. Crymble Irish Piano  by Arlene Hewitt


The bridge over Finn Slough conjures up many a thought to various people viewing it or using it.  I’ve seen dear little old ladies with horror written on their faces as their son or perhaps their husbands try to convince them that the bridge is safe and to come across.  Others are young devil-may-care explorers that want to see what's on the other side. Others, like my brother-in-law in a wheel-chair, would prefer not to cross the bridge at all, even to get to our house.  But he puts his faith in God and his husky nephews to keep him safe and upright across the bridge and down the path!  And then we have the residents of the Island (Gilmore).  This is the life line to shops and services, schools and churches, and, of course, your vehicle.  Everything in the homes on the Island had to come across the bridge, or at high-water, by boat.  Now, one of those items in my home is a Heintzman Upright Grand Piano weighing about 900 pounds.  About 30 years ago I decided I wanted it back from a chum who was looking after it for me.  He, I, and another friend loaded it into my pickup and brought it from Ladner to Finn Slough.  Here, with the help of some neighbors we unloaded it and took it down the wee hill to the bridge.  With about 5 of us pushing and pulling we started over the bridge.  As we got to the center of the bridge, someone on the front of the piano, pulling it, decided we were too close to the edge and we moved it over, completely forgetting the back end of the piano that had moved the other way.  Billy Barr, a neighbor, was on that side of the piano that swung out over the Slough, and there he was, holding on for dear life and dangling 6 feet above the water.  This got the rest of us laughing so hard we almost let the piano (and Billy) fall.  Billy berated us and we finally pulled the piano ahead and Billy was able to get back up on the bridge.  After that, with much humor we continued until the piano was safely deposited in my home.

Bridg' In Realityby Nikki Hainstock

The day we moved the piano was calm and clear and the kind of warm that hints at further warmth to come. Unbelievably nice day really, if one considers what was anticipated. I say anticipated because the concern over moving a one ton piano over the battered bridge and down the calamitous pathway to my home in Finn Slough was not mine only, but what came to feel like a concern of many people distributed through my life, throughout the lower mainland. I mean if the day had gone as anticipated, we should have encountered Katrina force weather and survived the perfect storm to reach my little home 200m from what felt like safety, normalcy, sanity.

You see, there was a reason so many people were in the know. I had wanted a piano in my home since I'd moved in one year prior and had started asking my more knowledgeable neighbors, slough veterans, and friends, questions about the possibility of the bridge and path holding the weight of a piano. What was perfect is that I got a whole range of answers to those questions. Some people didn't even need to use words, they just looked at me in such a way that the lunacy of the idea was made apparent. However, having recently adopted an optimistic outlook on life, and my mother having sold her B&B business that hosted the beautiful Heinztman family piano, put what was a crazy idea and dream really, into steamrolled reality. I was getting the piano and along with it more advice than I've ever had on one subject in my life. I was also privileged to hear every moving horror story that has taken place in this fine region of ours. Every one of my mother's friends was in on it due to the high stress the whole subject brought up for my mother. Every one of my friends knew about it due to the high stress the mother brought to the whole subject. And all my neighbors seemed to know too, providing advice, good luck, shakes of the head and comments on sanity.

The weather had been awful, unpredictable as only spring in the lower mainland can be. And the weather matched the moods of my nighttime dreams. Dreams that played through my slumber like old school cartoons, where, as the piano moved over the drawbridge, all the boards gave way. Dreams that had the resonance of death, mine in particular, (what's it called when a mother kills a child?), in which the piano rose tombstone like, under the bridge I had to walk over every day. Those dreams turned to daytime fantasies of never, ever, ever hearing the end of it from a British mother with a long memory. I could imagine the tale of " The Death of the Hainstock Piano in Finn Slough" growing to mythic proportions, I could see the book and movie deals that would arise from my subsequent murder-by-mother. All of this horror and drama occurring so I could just have a little music in my life!

I considered hiring friends to move it, as I had heard that it had been done successfully before. I had conversations with every piano moving company in the lower mainland. I accosted my neighbor Harry from behind piles of wood and under walkways. And when it all came down to it, I decided to suck it up and pay the huge amount of money that the professionals required, and hope that the pro's could handle it.

Harry had plywood that we were going to lay over the walkway, passing it over the piano as we rolled. It's amazing how context can change an object. A simple piece of plywood became as important to the safety of this piano as a machine gun to a marine. I reinforced the bridge with double planks. I had warned the piano moving company, not once, but twice, giving a precise and detailed description of the lay of the land. But that didn't do much to assuage the concerns that the movers had once they saw what they were in for. One guy had twenty-five years experience moving pianos and other obscenely heavy things and he almost left the piano roadside. But I walked him through it, showed him areas of concern and drew out the battle plan. They finally agreed to give it a try as long as I was game for whatever outcome might occur. And so we were in, 200 meters was all we needed to make it to safety. 200 meters and the voice of my mother inside my head would be silenced on the subject. 200 meters and I'd be committed to my life in the slough for as long as it took to build up the motivation to ever deal with moving the piano again.

And so we did it. Momentum built on the short sharp drop of gravel roadside, and the piano hit the bridge with controllable speed, the movers orchestrating all with the dexterity of surgeons. Harry and I shuffled the plywood over the movers heads as they crept at manageable pace, foot by foot closer, bringing the keys to my little house on stilts. When we turned the corner, as smooth as a snowboard carves through powder, surviving the bridge chapter, I could feel my breathing change, as days of anxiety started exhaling themselves. Now we just needed to survive the pathway, the piano shaking as it made its way through the narrow clearing and over the plywood that I prayed would distribute the weight enough to prevent a collapse. And finally, despite all prior drama, we reached my little home, quite easily, rolling the piano onto the deck and sliding it into the house through the sliding glass door. Just like that, bit of bing, bit of bang, and we were done. From curbside to riverside in under ten minutes. Surely one of the most dazzlingly smooth productions I have ever witnessed. The movers left, still a little shocked by where they were and how easily all had not fallen into slough. And once they had gone, I sat down at the piano I had spent ten years of my childhood playing, and really played it for the first time ever. I played it to hear whatever sounds were made by the action of my fingers hitting keys. I played it to hear it sing. I played it to hear how I felt inside.

I watched the sun set not long after that, over the little bridge that leads me to my home, over the backs of ducks dipping into their dinner, over the grasses that change their hue depending on the season and the inclination. I watched the colours of the sky, as I said goodbye to the house that my mum sold, goodbye to a time and a way of life that had past it's expiry date. And as I sat there I realized that moving that piano was no different than life really. The stress was created, the moment, just being in it, was easy. All the thoughts and dramas and soap-opera themed conversations did nothing other than create a couple stressful weeks of uncontrollable concerns about the future. None of these stresses helped, they just made everything seem way more complicated than it actually worked out to be.

My piano welcomes me every time I arrive home. She is a beautiful reminder to let go of stress, live in the moment and to constantly work on bridging realities. She rests in peace on the river and not in it.

THE BRIDGE  by Margaret Dragu

I don’t remember ever being afraid of the bridge.  I could be wrong about this.  I am, after all, a LIFELONG COWARD.  I am afraid of bats, spiders, and snakes. I worry that electricity is leaking out from electric sockets.  I get seasick on moving docks.
Ladders give me anxiety attacks.

And don’t get me started about my experiences on airplanes.  So it is pretty stunning that the bridge at the slough has never fazed me. 

I had heard the bridge stories.  Apparently, almost everyone who lives at the slough falls off the bridge. At least once.

Tommy (the most respected, loved, & deeply missed Village Elder) used to drop by for tea with my partner Jim.  They would talk about fishing, ecology, and politics. Sometimes Tommy told very funny stories about slough residents falling off the bridge.  I laughed at all these stories but it never worried or stopped me from hauling food and other stuff by hand, by wheelbarrow, and by bicycle across the slough bridge.  To and fro.  Forward and back. Several times a day.

Even when Jim’s and my daughter Aretha was born, I never worried about the bridge.  Playgrounds, super markets, escalators – yes – these were dangerous negotiations.

But not the bridge.  Jim and I progressed from carrying Aretha in the infant front-carryall, to the backpack baby carrier, to the baby seat on the bicycle, to the stroller, and finally holding hands with Aretha the toddler as we criss-crossed the bridge again and again.  Slough kids are nimble.  They are sure-footed goats on the footpath that connects the houses.  They are excellent tree climbers and generally really fit specimens.  And they’re cautious about the bridge because they, too, are told all the stories about people falling off the bridge.

When Aretha was perhaps 3 or 4 years old, I dressed her in her new and favourite leggings made by our family friend Tsuneko.  Stretchy white spandex with big red roses, green vine leaves, and tendrils.  The kind of pattern you see on sofas or curtains.  I remember those leggings very clearly.  I dimly remember Jim wearing new sandals or perhaps it was new sunglasses.  The next thing I remember is the door being thrown open and Jim standing in the doorway with Aretha in his arms.  They were both coated in mud and dead leaves.  Jim was frantic.

“One moment she was right by my side,” he said, “and then the next she was gone!

Not a splash.  Not a shout.  I didn’t know where she was.  And then I looked down and she was in the slough.  She just … fell off the bridge…”  He had not looked to see if the tide was high or low.  He just jumped in – feet first – into the Big Muddy-- and gathered up our daughter and staggered to shore and ran home.

We gave Aretha a hot bath and dressed her in clean clothes.  Then it was Jim’s turn for the hot bath.  I remember sitting at the kitchen table and Jim looking like a man frightened out of his wits about what had just happened and what might have happened.  I remember Aretha, though, looking like she had been on an exciting ride – a merry go round or whirly-gig – smiling and tired.  It was a happy ending as there were no injuries.  Merely a pair of lost sandals (or sunglasses). 

The story of Aretha Falling off the Bridge is now one of our family stories.

Each of us has told it so many times that perhaps by now Aretha cannot tell if she actually remembers it happening or she just knows the story so well (heard and told it so many times) that it is the story that is part of her personal history more than the actual event.  Hard to say.

When visitors come to the slough and I walk them across the bridge, they often ask if the bridge is safe.  “Oh yes,” I always say.  “Totally safe.  You see.  The planks have to be free so we can pull them up so boats can pass at high tide.  It is really a brilliant design.  And the bridge is safe.  In life one must always be careful.

In the bathtub.  At traffic intersections.  On ladders.  Gravity is everywhere.

Arlene’s Favourite Bridge Story:

Kevin Moving her old M. Crymble Irish Piano  by Arlene Hewitt

Visiting our Finn Slough neighbours, Captain Bill and Mary Lynn Harvie, Kevin and I had heard the incredible story of how several men had risked their lives moving Bill’s beloved piano over the Finn Slough bridge.  We knew all their efforts had been well worth it though, as Bill had entertained many a party goer with his lively piano tunes, accompanied by his colourful lyrics for adult ears only!  After marrying Mary Lynn, Bill’s wild parties turned into elegant evenings of romantic piano music, with Bill serenading her with tender love songs!

It’s no wonder I had the nerve to ask Kevin if he could possibly imagine moving our piano over the bridge to our Finn Slough cabin at THE VERY END OF THE PATH! Kevin’s first reply to my first request was just a facial expression that I read,  “I just knew you were going to ask me that!”

A couple of weeks later I got up the courage to ask him again, and this time he said “I think I can do it.” I asked him how many people he would need to help him and he said he had a plan, and he could do it himself.  I asked him about his plan and he said he was going to build a trolley and use four wheels from the two handcarts we owned. That was all the information I could get out of him.  He told me not to worry and he didn’t want to talk about it any more!

The week before the piano was to be moved I really started to worry! I woke up a couple of nights in a sweat wondering what kind of person I was to even have suggested this whole thing to Kevin. I started pleading with him not to do it, to let me either hire several men to bring it over or take it back to the old antique store where I’d bought it.

It was too late…. Kevin made up his mind he was going to move it on his own, he had a plan, and that was that!  The move was to take place on a Saturday, so I asked him to please wait until I got home from work at 2:00 pm so I could at least be of some help to him.  However, in my heart, I didn’t trust him to wait that long to move it, so I asked our dear neighbour Dave Dorrington to keep an eye out for Kevin that day.

Well, not long after I left for work, Kevin began preparations for the move. He went down to the bridge and as he was laying down some plywood over the planks, our good friend Dave Dorrington happened to look out his window. As soon as Dave saw what Kevin was up to he said to himself, “That bugger is really going to move that piano all by himself!”” In the meantime, Kevin had headed back to the roadside cabin where he had placed blocks under one end of the piano, and was preparing to slide it onto his homemade trolley.

Dave managed to get there just in time to help Kevin slide the piano onto the trolley. The trolley proved to be more than strong and steady enough to carry the piano as Kevin pulled from the front and Dave pushed from the back and kept an eye on the piano remaining steady as they moved it along the road, over the bridge and along the wobbly path to its final destination!

The one area that Kevin had been concerned about had been the steep decline from the road to the bridge, but just as Kevin and Dave got to that point, another neighbour, Jim Munro, happened to pull up in his car and gave them some welcome assistance, until the piano was rolling along nicely on the bridge.

I had been worried sick at work that morning and rushed home to help, but of course, found the piano had disappeared from its original location at the roadside cabin.  I ran down the road, over the bridge, and down the path hoping I wasn’t too late to help, but of course Kevin and the piano were nowhere in sight. I finally got to the end of the path and ran up the ramp into the cabin and THERE WAS THE PIANO SITTING COMFORTABLY IN ITS NEW HOME!!!

I found Kevin alive, and comfortably resting on the couch.  He seemed so nonchalant about the whole experience, couldn’t understand why I had gotten myself in such a fluster! He explained how the move had gone, and although he was grateful for the help he received from both Dave and Jim, with a wry smile, his last words on the subject were “I could have done it myself.”

Looking at the piano, I was just spell bound and began congratulating it on its successful journey.  It was originally from Ireland so it was no stranger to great adventures, but its remarkable travels with Kevin and our neighbours down the road and over the bridge and wobbly path to our home was a hint of its Irish magic in the midst of SISU, the great determination which created Finn Slough and has allowed it to withstand the test of time.

Thanks, Kevin 

With lots of love, Arlene

P.S. I know you could have done it yourself.