Not Cavers

Spelunkers are dicks. God it felt good to type that although it's probably just a little bit pathetic. Growing up I wanted nothing else but to be a caver, I'd play at it for hours under our trailer, studied and learned everything I could about caves and the people that explored them. I worshipped the bastards. I joined a cavers club at the community college where I studied journalism - had some fun there and right after graduation landed my dream job. Writing this, the 'In Caving" column for newly funded Extreme Explorer magazine which is of course how I met my first honest to Jesus group of serious cavers. Never in my life had a met a more self absorbed group of narcissistic asshats: Every one of their orthedontry cost more than my college education. Two weeks with them in Wakulla-Leon pretty much ended my love affair with the darkness below as it were.

I spent the next few years running around the globe as publicist and paid hanger on for these pricks until I’d pretty much had it. Six months ago I’d typed my letter of resignation for the 8th time certain I was going to go through with it…then it happened. It didn’t get much publicity but most of my regular readers probably know what I’m talking about – The Galt disaster.

If you hadn’t heard the story…a group of cavers managed to overhear another group planning to hit Galt caverns, no one’d been in them for decades not since Lazarus Galt bought the land and sealed it off. So they decided they’d ride in on the coattails – let these other guys take some of the heat and knowing that there was another team in the hole acts as a bit of a security blanket if things got dicey.

Anyway no one knows for certain what really happened down there but of the ten cavers that went in only 3 came out. Galt hushed it up as best he could – paid off those three to keep their traps shut, has the authorities still working on the “official” report – you know the drill. We’re never going to know, except that my editor gets a bug up his butt about it…”I don’t care what it costs, get one of the guys to crack.” I’d have to be a moron to turn down a blank check so I tear up resignation number 8 and begin looking.

Which brings us nicely to last night and Duane Barton. I finally tracked him to a bar in Xtopa. Only took half a bottle of Tequila to get him talking – He walked me through getting in and tracking “the other guys”, I got some good stories about his dead buddies but whenever we got close to what happened he clammed up hard. Sometime around bottle 3 he breaks down and begins weeping and he tells me about fire and smoke that smelt of rotten eggs and how he cradled a dying man in his arms asking if there were other cavers further in that needed help…He gets real quiet after saying that, He tells me the guy said three words before he died. I’ve been thinking if I only had three word left what I would want to say. I guess everyone has three last words we just don’t know which three they’re going to be. This guy had to know these were his last, so Duane asked this guy about other cavers and with his last breath he answers, “Not Cavers…Hellcrashers"

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