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

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Part IV

Luckily, we both had Zippo lighters for smoking “Rum River” cigars, starting fires, and other juvenile nonsense. I pulled my lighter out and crawled on my hands and knees into the opening. After about 50 feet on our hands and knees, we found the narrow passageway opened up to one that we could duck-waddle through. The narrow passageway looked like it continued further into the cave.

When both of us sat down to rest, I said to Tom,

“What do you think, should we go further? My Zippo lighter is almost out of fuel.”

“What’s plan B?” Tom asked, knowing that with me, there was always a plan B.

I thought for a moment and then said,

“Let’s go outside and see if there’s something laying around for us to make a torch.” So we duck waddled and crawled back through the opening in the cliff.

As we stood up outside and looked around, I knew what we could do.

The sun was directly overhead. Because the sunlight reflected off the cut limestone, it was hotter than usual--about 80 degrees. We found some sticks along the cliff side that could be used as mounting for the torches. The only thing left was to find fuel that would be slow burning. We found a small tar pit along the rails, left over from the repairs on the railroad. Each of us took off one of our socks and rolled the socks in the tar until they were covered with the gooey stuff.

“Perfect!” marveled Tom, as both of us, with torches lit, crawled back through the opening and moved forward on hands and knees. About 100 yards in, we found a narrow passageway, spiraling downward into the belly of the mountain. We made our way down. At the bottom, we found ourselves in a small chamber with a domed roof surrounding an aquamarine colored pool of water. It was a slow-moving underground river, flowing underneath the limestone walls surrounding the pool. As we looked closer, we saw movement in the water. A school of albino catfish—a school that had probably never seen the sunlight, darted out of the small openings in the limestone to float, lazily in the slow moving underground river.

Back up at the top of the spiral passageway, we could see to the left, a dim light that was the opening to the cave entrance. To our right was nothing but darkness; black as obsidian.

Looking at Tom as we squatted in the dark, I asked,

“Well what you want to do?”

“Well, I think we need to re-fuel.” He nodded at the torch in my hand,

“Yours seems like it’s running low, and mine has about a half-hour on it.”

“I say that we duck-waddle back outside and take our remaining socks, roll them in the tar-pit and then come back, and explore the rest of this cave.”

“Ok Hewett, let’s do it!” said Tom.

This was the one thing I remember about Tom, and probably the main reason he was my best friend. He was always ready to rise to the challenge.

Ten minutes later we had duck waddled to the same spot, only this time we went deeper into the cavern, beyond the spiral passageway, further into the mountain.

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