New Covered Bridge book authored by local woman

By Rozella Hardin

   When Lanette Depew started writing stories to make history more interesting for her students at Tri-Cities Christian School, she had no idea it would lead to a book. Her book, "A Bridge Spanning Time," which is a novelette about the historic Covered Bridge in Elizabethton, has just been released from The Overmountain Press in Johnson City.
   Depew, who lives in Elizabethton with her husband Michael and four children, is excited about her book. "I began work on the book in 1999, and it has taken all this time to get it together and printed. And, finally I have a published book," she said.
   The story is that of a fictitious character named Laurel, who lives in the quaint little town of Elizabethton and is celebrating her 100th birthday. Her home has a perfect view of the Covered Bridge spanning the Doe River. The setting was 1976 -- six years before the Covered Bridge would reach its 100th anniversary. It was Laurel's birthday and the old bridge would be re-opened that day after being closed for repairs. The re-opening of the bridge was Laurel's most precious gift. The book unravels into a tapestry of stories about the old Covered Bridge and its place in Laurel's life and that of her family. "Throughout the span of her life, the Covered Bridge had provided her many things -- a romantic setting when Joseph (her husband) had swept her off her feet, a refuge for her family as they escaped the May Tide, and a faithful link to her growing town, which now stretches across the Doe River," Depew writes in the opening chapter of her book entitled "Reflections."
   Although the book is a work of fiction, the events revolving around the bridge are historical in nature as are the landmarks such as the building of the bridge; riding the Tweetsie to Roan Mountain; spending a summer at the Cloudland Hotel, high in the clouds atop the Roan; visiting the mill with her father; the Soldier's Monument in Old Town; the visit of a presidential candidate to the small town, etc.
   Through the eyes and the life of Laurel, Depew tells a beautiful story of the historic Elizabethton Covered Bridge -- a story that will take the reader back in time. It's a story filled with love, the warmth and bond of family, the joy of being young and growing old in a small town, which has experienced so much history and adventure. Depew writes: "It's a journey that stretches through nearly one hundred years of growth, trials and memories of Laurel and her family in this reflection of the bridge that spans time."
   The 128-page book is divided into 21 chapters, and it's the perfect book to spend an afternoon reading. And, I promise that once you read it, you'll want to take a stroll through the historic old bridge which is often called "The Queen of the Doe." It's a fascinating love story between a woman and a bridge.
   Depew said the idea for the book came soon after she took her students to Cedar Creek in Greeneville to the old hotel on Yellow Mountain. "They weren't a bit interested. So, the next year I wrote a short story about a little girl that lived in the hotel on Yellow Mountain. Though the little girl was fictitious, the facts in the story were correct. The kids loved it," she explained. She then began writing stories to go with local history lessons to make them come alive and more interesting to her students. Out of those history writing grew the Covered Bridge book.
   "The history of the Covered Bridge is so rich. In fact, the history of Elizabethton and this area is very rich. It is fascinating, and something I think we need to share more with our children," Depew said, even agreeing that more adults need a good dose of local history.
   While she has taken leave from teaching to spend time with her three toddler children and 12-year-old, Depew says that eventually she will resume her teaching career. When time allows, she does volunteer in the library at Keenburg School, where her daughter, Lydia, attends school.
   Her husband, Michael, who she says encouraged her to write the book, is working on his master's degree at ETSU. The family attends the Elizabethton Alliance Church.
   Depew will be at The Coffee Company on Elk Avenue for a series of book signings through the Covered Bridge celebration. She will be at The Coffee Company Wednesday and Thursday from 10 a.m. until 1 p.m.; on Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m.; and on Sunday from 1 until 5 p.m.