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Bridge Spitting in Old Bastrop

Reprinted with permission from Ken Kesselus, author of “Bridge Spitting in Old Bastrop,” Bastrop According to Ken, Volume 2, Part 1.

 

It all began in 1961 with a classic episode of the Andy Griffith Show in which Opie’s young female cousin came to Mayberry to visit. His job was to entertain her. Not good! He wanted to play baseball; she wanted to play with dolls. She suggested playing house; he preferred cowboys and Indians. The entire episode revolved around this terrible dilemma. Finally, Opie hit on a magic solution, asking with those big, excitement-filled eyes and that smiley, freckled face, "Wanna go spit off the bridge?” she agreed and off they went, happy as could be.

 

This drama made a big impression on me as a young teenager, and continued to possess me with considerable power. Inexplicably, it surfaced to consciousness on my first date with my future wife. A Poor college student, I took her for a cheap dinner, and then to the bus station downtown for some even cheaper pie. After that, I was out of money and out of ideas for what to do next.

Walking out on Congress Avenue, it hit me like a tidal wave, “Wanna go spit off the bridge?” I asked hopefully. Toni apparently decided I might be worth the risk, so she played along and answered, “Ok.” 

Long before it was named “Ann Richards Bridge,” we walked out and spit into the Colorado. Shortly after we moved to Bastrop, we had a tentative first social get-together with June and Alan Pape whom we had just met. Not knowing what to do after supper, we got to talking about how it looked like the city might build a park around the old Main Street iron bridge across Piney Creek. It had recently been replaced but not torn down. Somehow that flash of insight from Opie returned, and I took a chance, asking this couple I didn’t know well, “Wanna go spit off that bridge?”

In Bastrop, Texas, even proper southern ladies aspire to be bridge spitters.

They agreed, and we did, and we four became fast friends. It was an easy step from that   moment to using the technique to break Bastrop boredom whenever necessary. The young adults we got to know in the mid-1980s often met at the 1832 Tavern on Main Street for a birthday bash or other celebration after a toast or two, someone inevitably would suggest spitting off the old river bridge. We’d ramble in a group to Chestnut and then head for the attached walkway, dodging cars and trucks in those days when the bridge still took a full load of traffic. It was a little dangerous, but, still, a great adventure.

 

It wasn’t long before I invented an official organization I called the International Society of Bridge Spitters. I fashioned a spiffy “suitable for framing” certificate to give to all who ejected saliva off the historic 1924 Bastrop river bridge. After a couple of years, the look of the certificate greatly improved when Gary Grief let me use his wonderful drawing of the bridge to give it proper imagery.

I signed each one as the “Bastrop Chapter Cuspidorist,” but the true value of the certificates came from the fact that Opie Taylor himself signed them under the title, “International Chief Expectorator.” (Truth be told...Opie didn’t really sign them. He would only agree to do it for a celebrity fee I could not afford. So, I asked five-year-old Hillary Fritz to write out Opie’s name in typical child-like printing. I’ve been Xeroxing her original forgery for 25 years now, and so it seems an appropriate time to reveal her revered role in history.) During one spit, Robbie Sanders proposed singing a song she learned as a child. Instantly, she became the song leader and now we sing “Dirty Lil” at each event. Learning it is an integral part of each initiation, which begins with established members standing near the bridge entrance. Candidates hear the “telling of the lore,” followed by an explanation of how the society came to be. Next they are taught the song and proper etiquette for spitting. The aspirants line up at the downriver rail along with the members and all spit in unison, to officially become certified SOBs*.

 

*Members of the International Society of Bridge Spitters.

2014 Texas Challege Geocachers Spit off the Bridge!

 

On March 22, 2014, during the annual Texas Challenge Geocaching Association event sponsored by the Bastrop County Historical Society, hundreds came to spit off the old bridge to receive their certificate naming them official members of the International Society of Bridge Spitters (SOBS International, for short.) 

 

Many thanks to our wonderful volunteers: Dee Bristol, Barbara Clemons, Bill Crawford, Chester Eitze, Belinda Goertz, Rick Gullikson, Mark Gwin, Mike Helmick, Mary Hoffmann, Ken and Toni Kesselus, Bob and Pat Malerk, Gloria Perkins, Eugene Piña, Ann Tankersley, Terry Moore, Joe Newman, Robbie Sanders, Libby Sartain and Barbara Vana for volunteering to assist with the Bridge Spitting Ceremony on March 22, 2014! Thanks, also, to the City of Bastrop.

 

Special thanks to Joe Newman for providing the great photos of a memorable day on the old bridge.