OLD TIMERS EARN STRANGE NAME
By Norris Chambers
Clifton and I were not that old back in the early years of the thirties. We were drifting along in the seventh or eighth grade and had already enjoyed a few class field days. The field day was normally a trip out of our community and was intended to familiarize us with ‘“unnecessary but nice to know” information. We usually learned something on one of these trips and we always had a lot of fun. We didn’t know about the destination of this trip and were a little surprised when the teacher announced that we were going to the Richland Springs cavern. I had heard of Richland Springs but I didn’t know they had a cavern. About the only caverns we knew about were occupied by coyotes and served as their homes. These grottos were much too small for even small kids to enter. Even if we could have crawled inside, we were not inclined to do it.
The Friday morning designated for the trip finally arrived and we filed out of the class room and seated ourselves in one of the school buses. The passenger section of these conveyances had a lightly padded bench along each side and a similarly padded bench between the two. This arrangement left very little room for feet and there was constant complaining from the sides and from the straddle seats about toes being stepped on. Many of the daily passengers were still enjoying the summer’s bare feet. That is why there was so much complaining when the kids wearing shoes did a little stomping on the bare toes. But we didn’t have that problem. There was enough room on the side seats by the windows for our group. We didn’t have any complaints and looked forward to a pleasant trip. Our teacher had brought a bag full of goodies to supplement our sack lunch meal!
Richland Springs was about a two hour bus trip south of Cross Cut. We were nearing the town when a sign indicated that we should turn off of the main road and head west along a two rut, sparsely traveled road. This road soon brought us to the cavern. I had expected at least a few store buildings where the visitors could relieve themselves of surplus change while waiting for a tour to begin. There was nothing there but a small shack that I supposed was the opening to the cave. An old Chevvy sedan was parked by the side of the building.
By the time the bus stopped and the driver had opened the door a tall teenager dressed in overalls approached the exit door and spoke briefly with the teacher and the driver.
The group unloaded and assembled in front of the cave entrance. T
he guide delivered the usual welcome address and a brief definition of the viewing treat awaiting us. He concluded his address by explaining that he would start the generator and we would be ready to go. He walked inside the shack and we soon heard a small engine start. Since there were no electrical facilities available the generator permitted a few light bulbs in an otherwise very dark interior.
The cavern tour was typical. The guide told us about the different types of caves. Some were formed in limestone, some in lava, etc. This particular one was formed in limestone by the continuous flow of water for a long, long time. There were spear-like protrusions hanging from the ceiling and similar ones rising from the floor. He explained how a slow drip from the rock ceiling evaporated, leaving a small deposit on the bottom of the protrusion. The water that passed off onto the floor evaporated and left its tiny deposit of calcium. Eventually it grew taller and formed the upright dagger. Those hanging from the ceiling were called stalactites and those rising from the floor were stalagmites. Occasionally the ones from the top met those from the bottom and formed a column Most of the wide floor was littered with these fragments except for about a four foot path that had apparently been cleared for a better walking surface. Of course there was a period when the lights were extinguished and we were in complete darkness. Later we were told to remove our shoes and wade through a shallow lake. Those not wishing to wade could go around it. We were told that many small caves on the sides were inhabited by bats and other animals before the entrance was closed with the shack.
I have visited several caves since then and I believe this little cavern is as genuine as any of them. Our trip was an interesting break in the monotony of the daily school grind.
As we were loading on the bus for the return trip we heard some loud shouting and some foul language near the bus door. Clifton and I pushed through the group to see what was happening. Brad Bounds, one of our group bullies, had apparently hit the nice tour guide. He was lying on the ground rubbing his hand across his face and attempting to rise. Brad was shouting at the driver, who was trying to keep him from stomping the young guide.
“He told me that I was now a spelunker. I told him he was ten times double it and hit him. That’s all that happened! Nobody calls me a name like that without a fight!”