What happened next will be debated for all time. As we moved away from the opening and towards the far end of the cave there was something on the wall.
Now, if you looked at it from the right angle it would have seemed to have been put there by a human being. It in fact was a natural cave formation that appears to be milk. Well it appears to be a large number of gallons of milk spilling over the edge of a ledge in undulating waves.
At first of course we thought it was man made. We rushed over to examine the “formation” but found it was of course the milk style formation we had seen in other caves. That however, was when we noticed the smell.
It wasn’t an overpowering smell.
It wasn’t a get me out of here smell.
It was a sickly sweet smell that made you feel uncomfortable. We started following that smell deeper into the cave.
The opening to the cave, or the “hole” in the sink hole, was small enough that it was a squeeze for any one of us to make it into the opening.
Caves are often funny that way. You can enter the cave and it suddenly expands into a giant cavern. Or you can crawl on your belly for a 1000 yards only to find that you can’t stand up, you still have to crawl for another 1000 yards. Or, anything in between those extremes you just never know until you actually go into the cave.
Squeezing through the opening was the initial hard part. Beyond the opening the cave widened into a cavern that was fairly large and you could clearly see the where the ceiling of the cave had collapsed causing the sinkhole. The cavern itself was much wider than the sink hole and appeared to stretch out quite a ways. We spent the first ½ hour or so exploring that cavern. The goal for this was to report back to the adults about the stability of the town hall building.
At the far end of the cavern was a stream. It had a small amount of water flowing through it, and you could see where the water would go during rain storms. You could see where the erosion had slowly but surely carved out the cavern. There were “entrances” to additional cave at either end of the large cavern. We decided to head away from Town Hall to see where the cave would take us…
Tell someone, plan, double your supplies and oh yeah TELL SOMEONE what you plan to do!!!
The first, non-negotiable rule about caving is tell someone. However, we were in a bit of a pickle as any adult we told would say “no.”
So who do you tell? Each of us left a letter on our kitchen tables (figuring in that manner we were telling someone) and packed our stuff.
The opening to the cave was small – most adults would not fit through but for us, not an issue. We carefully slid through the opening and checked our flashlights. Each of us had two flashlights and of course double the required batteries for each flashlight.
We had checked the weather forecast carefully (this planning bug had really bitten us) to ensure there would be no rain. Caves are formed by running water over thousands or even millions of years so rain would increase the “wetness” of the cave. Since many caves are simply rivers that didn’t want to get a sunburn and went underground, you don’t want to enter a cave in the rain.
No rain, lots of batteries, ropes and food, we were all set to enter the future…
Structure, process, plan
We, my buddies and I, decided we were going to climb into the LA Pit was the sinkhole was now called. We had, with the last cornfestival decided to become the LA of the Midwest, by simply shortening our name to LA.
While it seemed at the time to be a great idea (as most of the former Mayor’s idea’s had been) it ended up being confusing. The first game we played as the new LA Lakers in HS basketball, was a sellout with people scalping tickets for 100 dollars in the parking lot.
Nobody even thought twice about why the LA Lakers feature the fantastic Kobe Bryant, would be playing a high school basketball game against a high school from Fort Wayne. The did, after spending 100 dollars to watch the Fort Wayne team beat the Lake Architectless Lakers by 76 points. We did hit our first 3 pointer of the year however sparking renewed hope of an eventual victory.
We decided we were going to go into the bowels of the earth and see what was “in” that sinkhole.
Caving or Speleology is a science. You carefully prepare for the variables, even though we could see the hole in the ground and could see about 5-7 feet into the hole you never know what is coming next. We had to prepare for nearly anything…
Today is the first day of the rest of your life
If you drive from Lake Architectless to Fort Wayne it takes about 45 minutes. It is roughly 30 miles, but the road isn’t very straight. My grandfather used to always say you could be in Fort Wayne a lot faster flying with the crows.
My grandfather used to say a lot of things. In fact he still says a lot of things. He is a very wise man. For most of his life he was a farmer. Northern Indiana is of course famous for tomatoes. The kind of tomatoes that grow best in the soil left behind by the retreating glaciers of 10,000 years ago.
Grandpa grew tomatoes on about 200 acres of land – with another 200 acres that he grew feed corn and another 200 acres that was normally in soybeans with the last 400 acres normally lying fallow. He rotated the crops, growing each of them for a year in one field, with two fields that he didn’t plant any one year. He had an apple orchard as well, but that was mostly for fun and had been planted by my uncle after he came home from Vietnam. Grandpa always said we should make a lot of noise around Uncle Rick – he wouldn’t mean to shoot us but he was jumpy since he came back from the war.
We used to play in the woods that bordered grandpa’s farm. From WWII to Pirates, there was enough space for us to play any game. I had friends who lived in the small town of Goshen which was near Grandpa’s farm.
And when Grandpa was in the mood to give advice, I always listened.
The path to salvation
“The lord,” Father Gary Thompkins said the following Sunday “has torn down our tower of babel. And then he brought upon us the babbling languages of change. Those who would take the lord’s clear message and change it to be about planning. The lord is our plan. The lord is our guide. The lord..” that went on for 32 minutes telling us everything the lord was. I didn’t realize the lord was a tulip and felt really bad for stepping on one. It was on the way from the car to the church and I didn’t see it until it was too late. Now I have stepped on the lord. What would happen to me?
“We,” Father Thompkins continued “have a chance to change the world around us. To listen to god’s message in that growing maw in front of our general town/town council utility building. Do you hear god’s message in the fallen tower?”
Of course most of us did not. We really weren’t quite sure how a sinkhole in cave country was the message of God. But, you never know so we didn’t say anything. Plus the sheer reality was that trying to stop Father Thompkins when he was on a roll, nearly impossible.
So we listened. With every phase the guilt was added. I wondered if he knew I had stepped on one of the church tulips. I am sure many other people worried about many other faces and thoughts and places and beings of god they had stepped on.
What we didn’t know was that god’s message was more about the confusing and probably dishonest stories being told by Buck and the Mega Computing team. God sought honesty in the world around us, not dishonesty.
The path to salvation was to find a way through the lies to the truth.
I realized why my father and Tom were talking about “what you see is what you get” the next Monday when we met at the downtown park. The paper was filled with all the various promises that Buck and his company “mega computing” had made.
Could they deliver the changes they promised? Stop lights and elevators, buildings that would fall over and a plan for our town?
As we sat on the park bench we began talking about the changes that would represent. No more CRM vendors wandering into town to sell their wares. No more ERP vendors with trucks sitting in the parking lot of the general store. What would happen to old man Wither’s engineering store? Would he be able to stay open? Much of our best summer adventures had been built with the bits of code and pieces of hardware we stitched together after a visit to his store.
We looked around our fair town (do you have to obey one way streets when you are looking around a bunch of one way streets?)
What would change?