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Pastor Al's bridge is work of salvation

People who know Pastor Al Brucklacher know that he is a talented carpenter who likes to have a project or two underway.

What they may not know is that one of his recent projects was a big one. Brucklacher has built a bridge across the Bad River at his place west of Philip. We’re not talking about a footbridge, either. It is seventy feet long and sturdy enough to drive a vehicle across, although he hasn’t driven his tractor across it yet.

In a 2001 interview with Pioneer Review reporter Sue A. Pulse, Brucklacher explained that his name means “bridge builder” in German.

The materials in the bridge are almost entirely recycled. The bigger items Brucklacher used include a 65-foot mobile home chassis that John Heltzel gave him, bridge decking salvaged from the county, and some pig nursery flooring from his brother.

“A lot of things were timely,” says Brucklacher, like the concrete he salvaged from the construction project at the hospital. He used items from his collection of thirty years of gathering iron, bolts, scraper blades, and whatever else seemed like it could be useful someday. “I probably used up everything I saved,” he says.

The only new items used in construction were the lattice and some fasteners.

Building the bridge from used materials has great meaning for Brucklacher. “There’s a lot of discarded things in the world today,” he says. He believes in putting things back to use, in the way that Jesus had his disciples pick up fragments to feed the five thousand. He sees salvage as being connected with salvation and saving souls.

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Pastor Al has had this project in mind for a long time, he explains. “From the beginning I didn’t know how I would do it,” he says, “but the Lord inspired me.”

In addition to “the Great Designer”, Brucklacher gives credit to his John Deere tractor, his family, and to Glenn O’Connell. O’Connell came out with a tractor and boom truck to help push the bridge decking across the iron framework. The crew pushed the decking from one side while pulling from the other.

Brucklacher says he built the bridge so as not to interfere with the river flow. He doesn’t think the water will ever reach the bridge surface, which now is twenty-two feet above the river. “I had to build it strong to face the high water of the river,” he says, although that hasn’t been a problem lately.

“One of the things that kept me going was the young people who might some day use this,” Brucklacher says. Under the north end of the bridge is a small amphitheater. He pictures the secluded, shady area as a place for youth groups to meet. He plans to build bleacher seats on the bridge framework so the seats extend over the water.

Brucklacher has been working on the bridge for about a year. He says it was basically finished in time for vacation Bible school this June. Aside from the bleacher seats, there is one more thing he has to resolve. He is waiting to hear from a student at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology on the bridge’s load limit. If he can drive his tractor across the bridge, he can use it for his current project, a gazebo near the river’s edge.