Photo of a covered bridge in Winterset, Iowa.
Photo of a covered bridge in Winterset, Iowa.

Weekly Gem #263, Slicker'n goose grease


Location: This Hidden Gem is located in Winterset City Park, in Winterset (Madison County), Iowa (see the Clue Me! Map). 

Even though it may be obsolete, the old Cutler-Donohoe bridge (one of the “Bridges of Madison County”) draws you in. Same for the many other covered bridges that are scattered around the U.S., from New England, through the Midwest, and clear over in Oregon.

There’s something about a covered bridge, how each seems to be a work of art. You can feel the care and craftsmanship that went into their construction, exposed to the elements, but built to last.

These pieces of public art also served a very important function, which has been lost to history with the advent of rubber tires and horseless carriages. Most of these bridges were built in the mid to late1800s, when horse power was the go-to choice for transportation. You’ve seen the signs about how the “bridge ices before road.” Imagine a horse trotting along, carrying a load, and suddenly going from good traction on a gravel road to an ice-covered wooden bridge that is slicker than goose grease! This is a horse’s worst nightmare, with many injuries to horse and rider. Put a cover on the bridge, and the frost, dew, rain and snow stay on the roof. Even better, the horse stays upright, reaching home happy and healthy.

Photo of a covered bridge in Oregon.

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