The Albion Bridge

Our little corner of the world has been hit pretty hard lately.

Usually, it’s pretty uneventful here, and that’s the way we like it. So all these things happening in a town with an official population of 169 within less than a month really feels like a lot, even if the real population is, as I suspect, closer to 1,000 people.

A house next to the road my friend Jim lives on burned to the ground. Driving past afterwards, it was clear that it had burned fiercely and intensely and there was no hope of saving it. It was eerie and upsetting to see the charred remains, the brick chimney presiding over a heap of black.

Investigators discovered a badly burned skeleton that was later identified as one of the sons of the family who lived in the house. I didn’t know him personally, but he was a legendary wild man who grew up in Albion and was known for his outrageous antics, some of which can still be seen on YouTube. His was not an easy life, and it can’t have been an easy exit from it, either.

Speaking of exits, I unwittingly passed by the scene of a suicide a week or so ago. It was about 6:15 in the morning, and as I approached the Albion Bridge, I thought that the white SUV on it was driving really slowly. Getting closer, it was clear that it was parked on the bridge with the lights on. Fearing oncoming traffic coming around the blind curve there, and thinking it was a tourist admiring the view, I drove around it and kept going.

A few miles later, a highway patrol car passed me, and in another few miles, an ambulance. I didn’t make the connection with the car on the bridge until I heard on the radio that someone had jumped. It’s 150 feet to the ground (or the water) from the Bridge. The man who jumped did so facing the land rather than the ocean, much like suicides from the Golden Gate Bridge jump facing the City rather than the ocean.

He was an older gentleman and long-time resident who was recently diagnosed with dementia. I’m sorry to say that my landlord’s boyfriend, who had gone fishing early that morning, was the one to find him. My landlord told me that her boyfriend had a difficult home life and lived with the victim and his family when he was a teenager. It must have been so painful to find his protector like that. Heartbreak on top of heartbreak.

A few days after that, my former Ridge was closed for nearly six hours when a man from the South Coast doused himself and his car with gasoline after a long police chase from Point Arena, threatening to blow himself up. He was armed and apparently under the influence of drugs as well as having serious mental health issues. Together with the volunteer fore department, the Sheriff’s office was able to subdue him and take him into custody without any one being hurt or killed, a small but significant victory in such a situation.

In all the years my siblings and I have lived here, I don’t think I have ever heard of this kind of thing happening here, or of anyone jumping off the Albion Bridge. It makes me sad for our little town, and I wonder if the Wide World is now encroaching on our little haven here at the edge of the earth.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Losing a filling wasn’t as bad as it could have been.

TEN YEARS AGO: File under miscellaneous.