The Kentucky Caver Quarterly Proceedings of the
Bluegrass Grotto: the North Central Kentucky Area Chapter of the National Speleological Society
page 07  [contents] (< prev) (next >)
 vol. 40. iss. 1, December 2005
We slipped under a shelf into a hole I would have assumed impassable. Desperately, I tried to keep up with the squirming legs ahead of me.  The different moves were a dance step.  One spot it was best to be on my right side, another spot on my back.  To me or at least in my current state, the moves were unintuitive and a secret code I followed religiously in the belief that it kept me safe.  The squirming legs disappeared around a right hand turn.  Flip on your left side and bend around the corner.  I followed the code.  And I was stuck.  My femur was too long.  I cursed the rigidity of my boots and their heels that were obviously millimeters too long.  Without thinking, I shifted my hips up to change the angle of my leg and my knee popped past the rock edge.  At this point my mind had the high-pitched whine of a Japanese motorcycle.  I rolled onto my belly and shot forward, trying to catch up to the feet.  Speed is not a friend in a crawl.  Nor are size 46 shoulders.  I was pinned.  There was no time for analysis and I stupidly pushed hard and luckily popped out. The rest was salamander dash to the end.

Finally I came out into a tight twisted room where we could be upright if not stand.  “I don’t think the big guy’s going to make it,” I said breathlessly, referring to Rick Baker who was behind me.  Art laughed at my wild-eyed exclamation.  Naturally, I hated him a little.

Above me I could see flashes of light where James Dixon was scouting.  The waving rock and the promise of undiscovered layers reminded me of what I’d seen in the keyhole.  James Dixon called down “it looks like it might be passable.  I don’t know how to get through though.”  That statement was wrong in so many ways.  Then from back in the tube we heard, “Ma’ ahms a’ pinned (My arms are pinned).” The big guy wasn’t making it. 

Despite his position in his voice I heard none of the panic I felt.  I admired him. Jerry went off to meet him and I stewed in that twisted room, pondering what we would do if we couldn’t get Rick out.  Were we to take might-be-passable toward the I-don’t-know?  It took about twenty minutes before he was free and Jerry got back.  Rick had been missing the same vital piece of information I also missed, that keeping your arms above your head gives you an extra foot or so.
Jerry started talking about the next step.  What madness!  I was ready to go back, yet I struggled with whether to say anything. I didn’t want to ruin anyone’s trip.  Trying to speak as calmly as possible, I told Jerry “I think, I’m ready to turn around.”   Thank God for those who can read subtlety.  He knew I meant “Get me the hell out of this cave.” With some discussion, we turned around.   The first glimpses of light, however dull they may have been, were gorgeous.  As soon as I could, I turned off my light.  It felt like victory.

We entered the outside and it was shocking. The cave strips the world down until only texture and form remain.  The sun was still a sharp yellow and the richness of the Kentucky summer never seemed so lush, the sky never so deeply blue.  For the next two weeks all my dreams were in caves.  They were not nightmares but not pleasant either.  It would seem that the world I discovered in a cave was also one I discovered in me.  The underworld.  A place you tread carefully with soft steps and extra batteries.

Blind Man’s Bluff: A Tale from the Dark Side (first appeared in "The Kentucky Caver" Vol. 31, Nos. 1 & 2 in the summer of 1997) John LaMar Cole (BGG)

The collection of cavers gathered beneath the pavilion at Great Saltpetre Cave Preserve did not appear eager to leave their spots of repose, having spent the entire