The Kentucky Caver Quarterly Proceedings of the
Bluegrass Grotto: the North Central Kentucky Area Chapter of the National Speleological Society
page 12  [contents] (< prev) (next >)
 vol. 40. iss. 1, December 2005
on the brink of freedom. 

Finally I rounded the last elbow; the bars of the gate appeared like phantom sentinels, partitioning the moonless night into blocks of phosphorescence before me.  Dark as the night tried to be, it was shimmering radiance compared to the black velvet shroud of the cave interior.  I stood for awhile at the locked gate,
drinking in the summer night air and feeling mighty damn proud of myself.  Bats fluttered all about me, startled by my unexpected hulk obstructing their exitway.  I listened to the happy, unintelligible prattle wafting up from the pavilion below.  But the opera isn’t over till the fat lady sings, and I knew I had one swansong aria remaining before I could strike set and call it a rap. 

I am told that it was easier to make out my yelling far down the hollow than it was within the pavilion directly below.  Still no one had found my absence remarkable.  Nearly two hours had elapsed.  Rising above the chatter of the pavilion crowd like a distant siren, Bill McCuddy heard “Bill Blah Blah Blah Blah Cave!” keening overhead.  He initially ignored this, thinking I was up to some prank of my own and he was more than content with his present circumstances.  Then when he heard this string of nonsense syllables repeated with heated emphasis, he decided he should check it out.  Why did I sound angry, he wondered?  As he ascended the stairs to the cave entrance he finally heard in unmistakable clarity:  “Bill, I’m Locked In The God Damn Cave!!”, each monosyllable a sonic monument of frustration.  I had been yelling for fifteen minutes, easy. 

When the true nature of my predicament had been revealed, the news traveled like the gossip of succubi.  Pat Johnson was roused from her tent for

the keys; but even more urgently, Jim Davis was told to go get his camera, quick.  Bill wanted documentation of the still imprisoned explorer locked behind the gate of Great Saltpetre before anyone set me free.  My anger from yelling for a quarter hour unanswered quickly cooled upon seeing grinning faces and jingling keys, even if it meant being the brunt of jest for months to come.  Photos were taken and I was released into the fragrant, euphonious night.

The light of the pavilion seemed painfully bright after my sojourn in the oubliette.  Laughter and affection quickly made up for my abandonment, however.  Lacquered in cave mud, my arms were nearly the texture of stucco; my fingers were raw, cuticles bleeding, nails white with scratches.  But I felt great and, after a night of sleep, eager for the final stint of the conservation project.  I could not suppress a grin for the remainder of the evening, having succeeded in finding my way out in complete darkness—an accomplishment that even a non-caver can appreciate (though doubtful they would consider it within the category of “fun”).  In the final tally, I believe I am the only one who really played the game. 

No cheating and solo to boot!  And although I was the last one out of the cave, once reunited with my friends and fellow conservationists, I no longer felt like the blundering fool forgotten in the darkness.  I felt like a winner. Nice game, Pat.  But next time...let’s do an accurate head count!

(the author behind bars thanks to those meddling kids, click to biggin')