Founded 1901

Royal Purple

Founded 1901

Royal Purple

Founded 1901

Royal Purple

Building his own bridge

Back Home by Chris Hardie


Last week I wrote about the remaining covered bridges in Wisconsin but I missed one that has a story to tell.

Ted Behncke of Fennimore contacted me after reading my story in the Jefferson Daily Union. Behncke – who is president of St. Coletta of Wisconsin – lives on a farm near Fennimore and built his own covered bridge.

Behncke said in 2007 when he was 47 and just retired from the U.S. Army, he took on a project with his then 67-year-old father when they disassembled a 32-foot by 50-foot barn in Grant County that had a rainbow roof – named because of the convex slope that gives it a rounded appearance.

“It was a physical challenge,” Behncke said, as the barn was mainly dimensional lumber. The wood was then repurposed into the construction of a 30-foot by 15-foot lattice style bridge.

“The inspiration came from a series of bridges on the east coast,” Behncke said, and the lattice style was preferred over a burr truss because the materials better supported it.

The bridge was finished in 2019 with its pegged lattice design, a barrel vault truss and 9-inch by 12-inch corner posts. “It is at work every day on our farm,” Behncke said.

The farm of 33 acres is used to raise American Cream Draft Horses, the only draft horse breed that is native to the U.S. Behncke said there are only about 400 horses left but there is a determined effort by the American Cream Draft Horse Association to save them. Behnke said they have four mares and two of them foaled last year.

My construction skills would never support building a bridge, much less one with sufficient support. My compliments and admiration to Behncke for being able to achieve that.

My covered bridges story also failed to mention some famous bridges in nearby Iowa and Minnesota.

Iowa is known for its Bridges of Madison County and the 1992 novella of the same name. Six of the county’s covered bridges remain. The Imes Bridge – built in 1870 – is 81 feet long and is located in a small town park.

In Minnesota the Zumbrota Covered Bridge dates to 1869 and was covered in 1871. The 120-foot long, 15-feet wide bridge spanned the Zumbro River and was replaced in 1932. It was moved twice – first to the Goodhue County Fairgrounds in 1932 and then in 1997 to what is now Covered Bridge Park, an 80-acre parcel that serves as the trailhead for the Goodhue Pioneer Regional Trail.

A website compiled by Dale Travis of Minnesota Covered Bridges also lists a 30-foot private bridge located in the rural Houston County hamlet of Reno in Jefferson Township.

Harvest update

I thought our fall vegetable harvest was nearly concluded with our recent large squash haul, but I had underestimated the bounty of our beets and other root crops like onions and carrots.

My wife Sherry froze 24 quarts of beets with half of a row still to be dug. While many of the potatoes were puny, there are still turnips and rutabagas to be excavated and the kale to be picked.

I guess it’s a good thing that I have a new wheelbarrow.

Chris Hardie spent more than 30 years as a reporter, editor and publisher. He was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize and won dozens of state and national journalism awards. He is a former president of the Wisconsin Newspaper Association. Contact him at [email protected].

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