Home News/Press Blog Contact Us

The EDEN Blog

The Mystery of John Brown’s Cave, Harpers Ferry West Virginia: A True Story

Page 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8

Part III

As we walked back down off the hillside, we stopped to load up with provisions for the day. In the last building at the foot of Market Street, we found a General Store, where we purchased some chocolate bars and sodas, before heading for the railroad tracks. After walking up the railroad tracks for about an hour, we noticed that the grade was getting steeper. Nevertheless, we labored to keep up our pace. Sweating hard, we stopped to drink from a spring, running out of the face of the cliff. The water was good and cold. It ran through the gravel beds in the railroad ties, between tracks, before washing down about 150 feet below, into the broad wetlands that ran alongside the bottom of the cliff.

“You can’t even see the town from here,” I said. “What if a train comes through here while we’re on this narrow ledge, and there’s nowhere for us to go? And the steep cliff rising 100 feet above us is not safe to climb.“

Tom got up and walked across the 6-foot wide expanse of track to look over the drop below. He spoke as he peered over the edge,

“Not a lot to hold onto from this ledge, and it’s a 150 foot drop to the bottom.” Then he leaned down and put his ear to the track.

“What in God’s name are you doing?” I yelled.

Tom smiled at me and said,. “It’s an old hobo trick. The rails start to “sing” when a train is coming, even if the train is more than a half-mile away.”

Then he got up and started to shuffle- dance while singing a Johnny Cash tune. “I hear the train a-coming. It’s coming down the track…”

Tom laughed, and I laughed too.

“Well, we’d better be sure to stop every once in a while and listen to the rails for the song of the train coming.”

“You betcha we will!” he reassured me.

Some time later, we heard a train whistle behind us. Tom and I looked at each other and yelled, “RUN!”, both at the same time. We could see that the locomotive was gaining on us, as we frantically looked for a place to shelter from the oncoming train.

The engineer, meanwhile, leaned on the whistle.

“Why doesn’t he stop?” I yelled at Tom.

In about 30 seconds, I looked back. Sure enough, the train was steadily gaining on us.

Tom was running on the cliff side, looking for anything: a bush or a low-hanging spar, something that we could hang onto while the engine passed by. He jumped up to grab a spar. It held briefly, then, broke off. Meanwhile, I kept running.

Suddenly on the cliff-side of the tracks, I spotted a narrow opening in the cliff. I turned around and yelled.

“Tom, I’ve found something! Run! Run!”

Meanwhile, the locomotive was about 50 yards behind Tom and closing fast. My heart was pounding. I pictured myself in a black suit at Tom’s memorial service trying to explain to Tom’s parents that I had done everything possible to save their only son.

At that moment, Tom ran off the track and bowled me over, just as the train passed. We shielded our eyes as the train passed, covering us with fine dust—and then it was over.

It was a short train with a locomotive and just a couple of boxcars. We sat still for I don’t know how long to let the gravity of the situation sink in. Then we jumped up and hugged each other before we fell down again, laughing at our dumb luck of finding this gash in the cliff-side.

Finally, we stood up and took a good look at the gash. It was a narrow opening in the side of the limestone cliff that looked like it might lead to something more…

Now consider what had just happened. We hopped a freight to get to the Virginia town of Harpers Ferry. We had breakfast, were waited on by a good-looking waitress—just about our age; walked about a mile up a narrow grade cut into the cliff; and nearly got killed by a train.

I ask you. Be honest now. Would this be enough for you to just call it a day? Pack up your tents, and go home? Yes, you say!

Well, for us, the show was just getting started.

“Let’s go in,” I said to Tom. “I want to see where this goes.”

Page 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8

Stay Tuned...

© Copyright by D.C. Kuhns