The Bridges of Baltimore County


They're making a movie from the book "The Bridges of Madison County." Even as I write, Clint Eastwood is off on location somewhere, looking into Meryl Streep's eyes and saying things like, "I am the highway and a peregrine and all the sails that ever went to sea."

Oh boy.

This book has sold a gazillion copies and has everybody talking about Robert Kincaid and Francesca Johnson, the Eastwood and Streep characters. Kincaid is a photographer on assignment to shoot the covered bridges of Madison County, Iowa. Francesca is a farm wife of Italian extraction. Her husband Richard is off at the state fair for a few days with the kids -- a teen-aged boy and girl. Kincaid stops at her farmhouse to ask for directions, and that leads to a torrid four-day love affair.

This book has special meaning for me. My name is Richard. My wife is Italian. Her name is Francesca. We have two teen-agers -- a boy and a girl. We live in a farmhouse where people tend to stop and ask directions.

I'm afraid to leave the house. How do I know when some hard-bodied mystical poet is going to pull in the driveway, and the next thing you know I'm being played by some nobody while my wife -- played by Meryl Streep -- is hopping in and out of the sack with Clint Eastwood?

Now, what did this poor schlump Richard do that was so awful that his wife would fall for the first blue-jeaned wanderer with a tight butt to come along? His major sin appears to be, he's dull. He's not a philanderer or a wife beater or a drinker or a gambler. In fact, he works hard, he's a World War II vet, faithful, a good provider, a good father, but, he's dull. This is not good news for those of us who are not network anchormen or globe-trotting photo journalists.

Evidently, the way to counter this shortcoming is -- get ready, fellas -- poetry. I've actually tried this myself, using passages from the book. Just the other night at the dinner table -- yes, right in front of the children -- I leaned over the stringbeans, looked deeply into Fran's eyes, and I said, "Like two birds flying the great prairies by celestial reckoning, all of these years and lifetimes we have been moving toward one another."

My daughter said, "Good idea, Dad. Scoot over, I need more room."

Fran, however, looked puzzled.

I pressed on. Fixing my eyes on hers, staring into the very depths of my true love's soul, I said, "There are old winds I still do not understand, though I have been riding, forever it seems, along the curl of their spines."

Fran looked back at me intensely. I had reached her. I had touched her in some unknown, secret place. She reached out and touched my face tenderly, and said "Thank you . . . Clint."

I said, "You're welcome, Meryl. Pass the biscuits, will ya?"

Dick George writes from Baldwin.

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