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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Colossal Cave rocks (not really)

    Andi Berlinarts columnist
    Andi Berlin
    arts columnist

    It smelled like somebody took a dump in a sandbox, rubbed it around with their fingers, and then let it sit in front of a heat lamp for 300 years. The step entrance into Colossal Cave may have been man-made, but the stench definitely was not.

    “”As you travel down, you may notice a slight odor,”” said the uptight tour guide in khaki shorts that were just a bit too small, causing her stomach and legs to bulge out like swelling pieces of chicken underneath a Ziploc bag. “”The raccoons in the area use the cave entrance as a litter box.””

    As I plugged my nose and trudged deeper and deeper down into a long and thin corridor of towering shiny rocks and stalactites overhead, a burly biker twice my size tripped over an ancient landform and slammed into my back. Maybe taking the “”guided tour”” wasn’t such a good idea after all.

    “”This is the Bone Crusher,”” the uppity tour guide explained as she pointed at a towering rock when we were all too far down to escape. “”Those formations right there are the Skull Fracturer, Skin Peeler, the Tendon Ripper, the Hair Puller and the Knee Cap Popper. Any questions?””

    “”Has anyone ever died here?”” an anxious little kid with a green baseball cap called out.

    “”I’ll talk about that later in the tour. Right now, we’re passing the Bottomless Pit.””

    She summoned us on, and the group walked past a series of long white strips that looked like plastic jelly versions of Davy Jones’s beard from “”Pirates of the Caribbean.””

    The “”White Waterfall,”” as she later called it, was astounding in its sheer size and beauty, but I couldn’t give it a closer look because the group was forced to move at such a rapid pace that I had to stare at my feet so I wouldn’t trip. By the time we stopped and waited again so she could give us another pseudo-lecture, there was nothing to see.

    “”Now I want to talk about a very special man in Colossal Cave’s history: Frank Schmidt. He was one of the early tour guides back when the cave was being excavated, and he used to give guided rope tours where he would scare his followers by pretending he was lost.””

    The lady chuckled as if this was actually funny, and the little kid raised his hand again. “”Did anyone actually live in the caves besides that guy?””

    “”I’ll answer that later!”” she snapped. “”This is my tour and I’ve planned it out ahead of time. Let’s move on.””

    While we sidestepped through a corridor hardly two feet wide, sucking in our stomachs and stretching up to keep from suffocating, the guide finally decided to walk while she talked.

    “”A lot of people don’t know, but we actually put on a rope tour similar to Frank Schmidt’s way back when. It’s a bit longer and more dangerous, but you can hear lots and lots more stories.”” (A sigh from the back of the room.)

    “”RESERVATIONS ONLY!”” she added quickly, possibly to quiet the uproar, but more probably just to boast. “”The only thing is, you have to be at least twelve.””

    “”How old are you?”” the kid piped in.

    “”That’s a very rude question to ask.”” The tour guide stared him down as if he’d muttered something unmentionable about Frank Schmidt, and then through the dusty artificial light of the kerosene lamps, I could see her face turn bright red.

    After about thirty minutes of speeding around on my tip-toes, hacking and staring at different ways I could end my life, we began to make the trek back up to the front of the cave.

    “”Are there any last questions?”” the guide asked while we stood with our backs to the rail on a large set of steps while another tour group nudged past us.

    Everyone was silent, and then someone in the back finally ventured to ask who made the steps we had been walking on the whole time. Since the tour was finally over, she couldn’t ignore the questions anymore.

    “”Ummm. You know? I’m not actually sure.”” The guide flipped around and then walked toward the entrance light at the end of the tunnel. To most, the path in front of us just meant the end of the smell and a trip to buy some rocks at the gift shop. But to me, it meant salvation.

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