Who knows why we went to see the Natural Bridge. I must have seen a picture of it somewhere and been enchanted. It seemed like a natural wonder, but an uncomplicated natural wonder. I thought we would drive over, see the wonder of nature, be suitably awed by the wonderfulness of nature, and then head off on the Blue Ridge Parkway.
It didn’t quite happen that way.
You can’t just look at the Natural Bridge because it is privately owned and the owner has devised it so that you cannot even see the Natural Bridge without entering through the gift shop and passing through the gauntlet of gift shop, basement filled with arcade type games (and tragically dubbed “Jefferson’s Playground”). Then, because the Natural Bridge is privately owned and not a National Park as yours truly thinks it should be, you have to pay a rather steep (think exorbitant) fee to see the Natural Bridge. The cheapest ticket you can get is $20.99; the cashier will tell you that this gouging fee includes the Fake Indian Village and the Wax Museum and the “Drama of Creation”. But I do not want to see the Fake Indian Village, the Wax Museum or the “Drama of Creation”; in fact, you would have to pay me to see them. Our fee is not reduced and so, since we have come so far (etc. etc., all sorts of ridiculous rationalizations) we pay and head off.
Past the gift shop, you head downstairs and pass by the previously mentioned tragically named “Jefferson’s Playground”. Yes, Jefferson did once own the Natural Bridge, having bought it from George III for about $9.00. Then you exit the building and descend a paved walkway (You can also take a shuttle bus) to the small structure at the ‘entrance’ to the Natural Bridge. We approached, and the ticket taker emerged.
Ticker taker: How are y’all doing today?
CSB: Fine, except that we were a bit shocked to learn that this natural beauty is privately owned and costs money to see.
TT: It costs money to operate.
(What I should have said, my esprit de l'escalier: Operate what? It’s all rocks.)
CSB: We heard up above that it’s for sale.
TT: So it is.
CRL: I think the owner should give it to the National Park system so it could be appreciated by all.
TT: [Harrumph.] The owner offered it to the government but all they wanted to give him was credit for 17 years of back taxes.
(What I should have said: You mean he hasn’t paid his taxes for 17 years? Like the rest of us? And we’re supposed to feel sorry for him?)
TT (continuing): And you can’t give it to the government because the first they would do would be to get rid of the light show, and it’s a religious light show, and you know about government and religion, they just don’t mix.
CRL: Nor should they. That’s the Separation of Church and state. Freedom of religion.
(What I should have said: Something about Jeffersonian ideals.)
TT: Oh, and every religion in the world can get away with everything they want, but not the Christians. Christians can’t get away with anything.
CSB: Ahem. I think we need to go see this Bridge.
At this point- that is, before I get really incensed about the tyranny of the radical Christian right, as well as the “drama of Creation which is all about the seven days according to Genesis, as interpreted by the very literal-minded – CSB tugs at me and we head off to see the actual bridge. Which is lovely. But I am still fuming.
The Natural Bridge, painted by Frederic Church in 1852.