During my high school years, of which very little will be said in these writings, one spot that was a favorite for overnight and week-end trips was the mouth of Lost Creek.
We fished with cane poles, trot lines, and bottles. However, the catching of fish was not paramount on these expeditions, it was the thrill of being on our own and away from parental guidance. On overnight trips we camped on the huge gravel bar at the mouth of Lost Creek and during the day we would dig holes and cover ourselves, all but our heads, with the sandy gravel.
Not only did we go there to fish we (meaning my high school chums and me) spent a lots of our time exploring the hills up above the high bluffs on the San Saba River.
On one such exploration trip we located a large cave with a rock bound entrance that opened into a small room with another opening which we hoped would lead to caverns below. Not having string to guide us back to the surface nor flashlights to light our way we decided to explore this cave on another trip when we had the proper equipment.
I am not exactly positive of who was involved in this cave expedition but I am sure of two others—Hugh Cox and Jim Bob Pool. So the next week-end, armed with string, flashlights and candles we entered that cave with great expectations and never gave thought to the fact that we might become the Floyd Collins of the Southwest. Floyd Collins, for those too young to remember, was a young man, who, upon exploring a cave was trapped by a cave-in and was never rescued. This tragedy resulted in so much notoriety during the 1920’s that a song, “The Death of Floyd Collins” was written and became very popular. So here we were, three idiot kids, who thought this exploration trip might lead us to discovering a cave as large and famous as The Carlsbad Caverns entered into an escapade that chills my blood even now when I think of it.
Although I do not recall the exact year this adventure happened I am guessing that it was somewhere around 1928 or 29. At any rate we entered into the first room and tying our string (fishing cord) to the entrance of the second level we descended through an opening guarded by a huge rock that would have blocked the passageway if it fell. Undaunted by the legend of Floyd Collins we took the chances that he took, never doubting that our Lord in the heavens would take care of idiot kids.
My recollections of this cave are not vivid enough for me to describe our entire journey through those cave passageways but I do remember that when we started into that cave I was filled with intense excitement and a huge bag of courage that forced me to become the lead explorer. In the beginning the cave passageway was large enough to walk but the further we went the smaller the passageway became. Soon we had to crawl and the fun of this exploration trip began to diminish as the passageway became so small and wet that we had to wiggle our way through them .
At this depth into the cave I noticed that I had developed a leak in that bag of courage I had started out with and that the adrenaline which generally accompanies excitement and fear was beginning to choke me. Into my mind came the words to that tragic song of Floyd Collins: “His face was fair and handsome, his heart was true and brave, but his body now lies sleeping in a lonely sandstone cave.”
At this point I uttered a prayer asking our Lord to take care of his stupid children and then I said unto my faithful followers “Fellers, let’s get the hell out of here.” And with no protest from the ranks we slowly began to wiggle backwards and out of that narrow wet passageway and towards the safety of the open skies.
Now I have been in lots of situations that induced adrenaline flow but never have I been in one that produced nearly enough to drown me as did this one. And, having been raised by church going parents, immediately upon crawling through that rock bound entrance to the upper level of that cave I thanked the Lord of the heavens and the protector of ignorant kids for his love and mercy.
In all probability had someone asked us why we would undertake such a dangerous mission we would have given them the answer used by most kids in similar situations : “I don’t know”.
While I did make a vow never to enter that cave again I broke that vow, to some extent, some five or six years later. This time Hugh and I had taken two girls to the mouth of Lost Creek to go fishing and we told them about that cave up in the hills and being women (with the curiosity of cats) they expressed a desire to visit that cave. Being quite conscious of my vow but at the same time wanting to show off for the girls we located that cave and took them down into the first room. After showing them the entrance to the lower level I assured them that there was not enough gold in the pot at the end of the rainbow to get me into that second level again.
That was my last trip to that cave but Hugh told me that in later years when he was unable to locate the cave he learned that the rancher owning the land had covered the entrance to keep his stock for falling into it.
Thus ends another episode in the life of a boy seeking relief from what at that time was looked upon as the boredom of existence in a country town.
It could be that others have gone further down into that cave than did we, but, if so, they carried a larger bag of courage than did I—and one that did not leak as did mine.