By Norris Chambers

             In the latter years of grade school our class had at least one field day, a day when we visited something that we ordinarily did not see and were able to observe how other towns and communities displayed their progress. One year we traveled to the cavern at Richland Springs and enjoyed a nice long tour underground. In Brownwood we were conducted through the Pecan Valley peanut butter factory. We were amazed at how quickly the roasted peanuts were converted to labeled jars and buckets of ready-to-eat peanut butter. We were even offered peanut butter and cracker sandwiches at the conclusion of the tour.

            There was only one thing that some students considered an unnecessary and unpleasant conclusion of an otherwise nice experience – the teacher required a medium length theme be submitted describing the experience.

            The theme didn’t bother me. I had been very successful in producing themes and essays since my dad bought me a typewriter when I was in the fifth grade and an obliging uncle taught me how to use it in the proper manner. I think the teachers liked my writings because they could read them without a lot of deciphering. My handwriting suffered because I didn’t practice enough on my penmanship. I expected an “A” grade on most themes and usually received it.

            I believe I was in the sixth grade when our field trip was to take us to Lake Cisco. Cisco was about thirty miles northeast of us and a few years before had constructed a dam and created a recreation area that was well recognized in the area. Neither Clifton nor I had seen the dam and we looked forward to the trip.

            It was Friday on a nice spring day when the school bus drove up and our class boarded it for the big trip. The journey was without incident and about ten o’clock we rolled into a large parking lot almost full of all types of automobiles. We saw several buses similar to ours from schools in the area. A large crowd had gathered at what appeared to be the end of the dam several hundred yards from where we had parked. A large body of water was on our right as we walked toward the crowd at the dam.

            A man with a large megaphone was near the end of the dam. He pointed the horn toward our large crowd and began to explain the details of the tour. “This structure,” he began, “is the world’s largest hollow core dam. It is built of concrete and has three cores from end to end. The top corridor is well lighted and is a nice hallway through the dam. The second corridor is a little cruder but is an interesting excursion. We will cross the lake in groups of fifteen or twenty using the top story and will return by the second story route. The first corridor, or the one at the bottom of the dam is unfinished and tours will be open for that trip when you return. Only the bravest should attempt the bottom journey!”

            After waiting for about twenty minutes our group reached the entrance and began the excursion inside the top hallway. The talkative guide pointed out pictures and decorations along the walls and told us about all the other attractions around the lake. When we came to the end of the corridor we climbed down some long, wide stairs and arrived at the middle hallway. He explained to us that this walk was noisier and not as well finished as the one we had just walked through. This walkway was poorly lighted and the sound of the water splashing on the wall was very noisy. In some areas the wall on the lake side was wet. It was a little scary, but we had seen worse areas.

            When we arrived at the site where we had first entered the guide told us that those who wished to experience a real adventure could make the trip through the bottom corridor and back. He suggested that those wishing to go should remove their shoes. Clifton and I and about half a dozen more of our group decided to go. We removed our shoes and left them on one of several tables at the entrance. The trip was a real experience. There were very few lights and a big portion of the floor was covered with water that was up to four or five inches deep. There was the sound of water running and the pounding of the waves on the wall. Any noise was echoed several times, producing a very eerie effect. I was glad to complete the trip and retrieve my shoes. Clifton had no comment, which was unusual for him after an experience such as this.

            We enjoyed the rest of our outing in the amusement area and boarded the bus for the return trip. I finished my trip theme and waited for my usual “A” grade.

            You can imagine my shock and disappointment when the papers were handed to us and mine had a big red “A minus” marked in the left, upper corner. There was also a red line under one of the sentences about the middle of the first page. When I complained to the teacher she told me, “You wrote that the structure is one of the world’s largest hollow core dams. Actually, we were told it is the world’s largest. Your statement is incorrect!”

            I argued, as usual, “It could be the largest and still be one of the largest.” She wouldn’t argue any further and told me that the “minus” stayed on the paper! You can’t win them all.