"If we'd known what we were getting into, we may not have done it," Moses, "Mose," Borntrager admitted, as he looked at the old bridge which has found new life on the South Fork. "It took a lot of figuring and labor, but it worked out. It looks like the good Lord was helping us as we went."
Borntrager lives on a farm along Ridge Road, off Highway 395. Other Amish families have located on adjacent land across the river. They have been interested in a reliable river crossing to make it easier to travel within the community.
"At first, we wanted to put a low water bridge in, a concrete bridge with culvert pipes. The Army Corps of Engineers said we couldn't do that, but we could put a bridge here on higher ground, by running it from bank to bank," Borntrager explained.
Sturkie resident Tommy Carr told the Amish community about an old steel bridge that had been replaced in Mendon, Missouri, which was sitting unused on the land of a farmer who had purchased it for scrap.
Amish leaders were able to buy the bridge and hire an Ash Flat company to haul it on a long flatbed trailer from Mendon to Borntrager's property, a 306 mile journey.
Once the bridge arrived, Amish workers pitched in to cut it down, from 18-foot wide to 12-feet. They then added beams to lengthen the 70-foot long bridge to 92-feet.
"It took about 65 hours of welding to get the bridge back together, like we needed it," said Borntrager. "We also had to pour 40 yards of concrete on both sides of the river to sit the bridge on."
On the southern bridge abutment, a stamp was put into the wet concrete leaving an outline of the state of Arkansas with 12-1-11 in the center, marking the estimated date of the project's completion.
The final steps taken the week of Dec. 12 involved putting the long, heavy bridge in place across the river.
Paul Carter of Cave City came to the site with a large crane.
"He said he had picked up and moved 90-foot box cars before and didn't expect any trouble with the bridge," Borntrager said, "but he later said it was the hardest thing he ever set."
First, the crane was used to pull the bridge across the pasture to the river. Carter then picked up the bridge, as workers used ropes attached to the bridge to help maneuver it into place on the abutments made to hold it.
"It was a pretty major project," Borntrager said. "The bridge was so heavy it was lifting the back of the crane."
With the bridge in place, work shifted to putting down a floor of oak planks that John Shetler cut at his sawmill - 12-tons of lumber from trees felled on the community's property.
A private contractor also began to build a road across the pasture and ramps up to the bridge. That job was finished late last week and the private bridge is open for use.
"I've tried it out a couple of times," said State Rep. Lori Benedict, who lives nearby. "They did a great job, as usual."
"The bridge will make it easier for us to get around," said LeRoy Borntrager, who lives across the river from Mose and has built a country store on his property. "Now, if the river's up, we have to travel four or five miles to go around to reach Mose's house."
Horse and buggy traffic and commerce is on the increase in the growing Amish community.
Besides farming, Mose makes harnesses and other tack. LeRoy, the store owner, a blacksmith, a cabinet maker, a produce grower and the sawmill operator are also in business.
With other families expected to move into the community, Amish leaders and Rep. Benedict argued at an Oct. 19 public hearing that the Sturkie Post Office should remain open.
They pointed out revenue has increased at the post office, and that Amish residents are big users of the post office, and they should not be forced to make the dangerous journey to Salem by horse and buggy for postal services.
The study of the proposed closure of the post office is still in progress and, to date, no recommendation has been made.
Rep. Benedict envisions the Amish community eventually becoming an attraction, which will draw people to the area for Amish food and products, bringing in visitors who will benefit the entire business community.