LEFT OF THE TRAP

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Historical Fiction  |  House: Find Your Way
Left of the Trap is a real passage in Crystal Cave that few have explored due to it's size and length. Floyd did explore it further than anyone, however this trip is fiction. How I imaged it would have been.

Submitted: May 02, 2017

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Content

Submitted: May 02, 2017

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Rain fell softly outside the kitchen windows as Floyd Collins packed food for his next caving trip and refilled his kerosene lantern. He often spent several days at a time exploring his newly discovered Crystal Cave in central Kentucky. His family knew how much he loved exploring caves, so they would not be concerned if he did not return right away.

“Where you headed today?” asked Homer, Floyd’s younger brother, as he entered the room.

“Remember that long crawl to the left after you go down through the trap? Well I aim to check it out and see where it goes. Want to come along?”

“Sure!” said Homer. He quickly wrote down a note for their mom and left it on the table. He was ten years younger than Floyd, and he had gone on several caving trips with Floyd before, so he knew what to expect. He checked out the food Floyd had packed and said, “Do you think we will need that much food?”

“Yep. Better add to that note that we will be gone for a few days.”

Floyd was looking forward to exploring the crawl that headed in the same direction as the last one he had explored. He was determined to make Crystal Cave the best tourist attraction in the area, even if it was the last commercial cave on the road. Most visitors came to see Mammoth Cave, but Floyd hoped to make some discoveries that would lure the tourists to Crystal Cave. “Homer, all we need is one spectacular find to make this the top attraction in Kentucky.”

“Do you think this crawl might be it?”

“We won’t know until we check it out,” Floyd said excitedly.

Inside the large cavern they followed his previous path for several thousand feet. The area was covered with gypsum crystals, which were crusty sharp, like coarse sand. Finally they reached the huge boulder that blocked the passage. Under the boulder a small hole, which Floyd had named The Trap, led to a crawl. Floyd dropped through the hole feet first to the floor six feet below. Homer slid down behind him. After a short crawl, they came to an intersection and turned left. To the right was a big cave passage, but Floyd was curious about what he might discover down the other way. He had explored it only a short distance before, just enough to know that it had a long crawl. He wanted to find where it led.

“Okay, you know the drill,” he said to Homer. “Leave some rocks on the floor like an arrow pointing down this canyon so they know where we went in case we don’t get out.”

After Homer left some rocks signaling their direction, they traveled along the bottom of a narrow canyon passage with walls covered with gypsum. They had to walk sideways since the passage was only a foot or two wide in places. Finally it changed to a low crawl through dry sand. After crawling and sliding the length of a football field, pushing sand aside as they went, they at last were able to stand up in a narrow fifteen-foot room. This was as far as he had come on previous trips, when he had tried without success to chimney up through the small opening at the top.

Since Floyd knew they couldn’t make it up through the opening, they had no choice but to get back down on their bellies and continue the low crawl in the crunchy white crystals on the floor. When their knees started to bleed slightly, Floyd pulled out the rags he carried just for crawls like this. He and Homer wrapped their knees with the rags to protect them from the sharp crystals.

Floyd’s tall height made it tricky to crawl for long periods, especially when he had to keep his legs spread far apart to keep from scraping the ceiling. If only the ceiling were a few inches higher, he thought. Homer was shorter and was able to crawl better and move a little faster. He took short breaks while Floyd moved slowly ahead, then Homer would crawl quickly to catch up while he could still see by Floyd’s lantern light.

The passage continued straight with only a small side pocket now and then where you might be able to turn around. It had been at least ten hours since they were last able to stand up or get off their knees. They allowed themselves small sips of water now and then, knowing it would be a long dry journey back if they did not find any water.

They continued on for a long time, driven by the thrills of exploration and discovery. Floyd and Homer loved the wonder and excitement, never knowing what was around the next bend.

Finally Floyd called for a rest break. Eighteen hours of crawling left them exhausted. They opened a few cans of food and settled into cramped positions for a nap. After a few hours, the damp coolness of the small, low room woke them with a chill.

“Homer, it’s time to keep moving on. Wake up,” Floyd said.

After continuing another ten hours, even Floyd knew that it was hopeless—the passage would never end. With his kerosene and water running low, he scratched a big X on the ceiling, then rolled over to start the long twenty to thirty hour crawl back to where they could stand up again.

As he turned around, a small opening caught his eye. The opening was just large enough for the lantern to pass through. Floyd positioned the lantern on the floor just inside the opening and watched as the light sparkled on white crystals covering the walls of a large room. He estimated the room had to be more than a hundred feet long, but he couldn’t tell just how big it was since the lantern light failed to illuminate the farthest wall. The room was at least twenty feet high. Floyd tested the opening with his head, but it would not fit through, he could only move the lantern around with his outstretched arm through the opening.

“Homer, check this out! It’s the best room I’ve seen yet! Just look at the size of those crystals! They must be a foot or more long and as big as buckets.”

“Floyd? Just how are we going to get in there?” asked Homer.

“It’s going to take a lot of money to open up this long passage for a walking trail and to cut into this room, but I think it is what Crystal Cave needs to put us on the map,” said Floyd.

Until then, Floyd had another cave in mind to explore—Sand Cave!

 

 

Author’s Note: For the readers who may not be familiar with Floyd or Homer Collins, Crystal Cave, or Sand Cave, Floyd became famous when he was trapped for seventeen days in Sand Cave in 1925. The rescue attempt was broadcast live each day on radio, and it grew to become the third-biggest media event that occurred between World War I and World War II. My mother remembered the event well and told me stories about it. At one point it was estimated that tens of thousands of people crowded the entrance of Sand Cave, with vendors selling everything from food to souvenirs.

Prior to his death, the Collins family operated Crystal Cave as a tourist attraction. Floyd had been searching for new attractions to draw more visitors. His accidental entrapment brought the national attention he had wanted, but he paid the ultimate price. The Collins family sold Crystal Cave not long after his death.

Homer caved a lot with Floyd and was heavily involved in his rescue attempts. He worked hard to raise the money to have Floyd’s body removed from Sand Cave. Left of the Trap remained only a faint memory for Homer Collins.


© Copyright 2017 Caverhubert. All rights reserved.

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