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Sunday, Sept. 25

Meeting in St. Louis

Gateway Arch on the Mississippi River. St. Louis, MO

This week I’m writing from the Am. Christian Fiction Writers Conference in St. Louis.

The Elephant Test

Right outside my St. Louis hotel window is the Mississippi River.  Just north of the Gateway Arch is the Eads Bridge.

Eads Bridge St. Louis, MO

When it was built in the late 19th Century, it was longest arch bridge in the world and the first built with majority steel construction.  The builder, James Eads, was famous for this first bridge to cross the Mississippi as well as the father of Mississippi River navigation.  You can learn more about this fascinating man in the book, Rising Tide. It tells the story of Eads as well as the Flood of 1927.

St. Louis residents were scared to cross on the Eads bridge as it neared completion. They feared that it was unstable.  Eads procured a “test elephant.”  This elephant, led by its trainer, crossed the bridge as citizens on both sides watched.  It was believed that elephants had an inner sense on if a structure was safe and wouldn’t go forward if it wasn’t.

Of course the test elephant crossed safely and the Eads Bridge passed its test.  Next Eads sent trains across on its center tracks.  Soon folks became comfortable with the new bridge and crossed it with no thought.

The railroad tracks have been removed.  The bridge has been resurfaced.  It’s still carrying traffic across the Mighty Mississippi.

What lessons do you see in the test elephant story?

What spiritual story is hidden there?

I’d love to hear from you.

About Curt Iles

I write to have influence and impact through well-told stories of my Louisiana and African sojourn.

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