Saturday, June 27, 2015

Drawn to Darkness - Preview

Drawn to Darkness  


Authored by Hubert Crowell Drawn to Darkness is fiction, drawn however from experiences as a child growing up in the 50's and living in the mountains. The cave along the Piney River is real and I explored it as I played there alone. The cave in the book is totally fictitious, but so much like the many caves found in the mountains of Tennessee. This book is about exploration and adventure, about young people having fun and getting to know each other.
I have always heard that true stories are stranger than fiction. The fiction in this book is biased on parts of true stories put together for Matthew, the main character and his friends, John, Clair, and Joann. Teenagers in a small Tennessee mountain town, growing up in an age of uncertainty and threat of nuclear war. But free to explore the world around them.

Publication Date:
Jul 16 2011
1463724012 / 9781463724016
Page Count:
Binding Type:
US Trade Paper
Trim Size:
6" x 9"
Black and White
Related Categories:
Fiction / Action & Adventure


Chapter 2
Courage to Explore
Summer vacation was almost here again and that meant no more homework. Matthew seemed to start each school year making good grades, but as the year progressed he would get bored and slack off on his studies, thinking more about the mountain, bluff, and of course that hole. This year like the year before, he just barely passed with C’s and D’s. The eighth grade would be rough next year and Matthew was already dreading it.
The late sun sparkled like diamonds on the water as they jumped, plunging into coolness, feet touching the bottom, pushing off the rocks, surging out of the water to their waists.
The iron bridge across the Piney River was a great place to jump and swim. Summer had just started and school was out. Matthew and Clair were thirteen, Joann was almost thirteen and John was fourteen. Matthew lived in a trailer park in the small town of Lippersville on the edge of the Cumberland Plateau, in western Tennessee.
Near the bluff back toward the crest of the mountain was a large pit about twenty feet across and at least sixty feet deep. There was a lot of trash and limbs in the bottom and no way to climb down. The four of them played around the pit and the large boulders found on the mountain, loving the narrow places between the large boulders and the hidden trails, a place called Rock Town. Their games of cowboys and Indians were getting old and they were looking for more exciting things to do.

Figure 1 Rock Town
“Let’s check out that hole up on the river bank.” Matthew suggested, tired of climbing the bank to the bridge.
Clair, “What hole?”
John, “You know where there’s a cave?”
Matthew, “It’s just a small hole, I doubt it’s a real cave.”
Joann, “If there’s a hole it’s probably a cave, lots of them around here. ”
They got dressed over their wet swim suits and started up river along the bank, skipping rocks in the river, watching for bears, the wind rustling the leaves through the trees, reaching the trail to the cave. As Matthew bent over, picking up, one more nice flat rock to skip, he noticed what looked like a picture on the half buried rock, picking it up, rinsing it off, he carried it with him as they climbed the bank toward the cave.
“What did you find?” Asked John.
“It looks like a carving or painting on this rock of a man carrying some strange things along with a dog.”

Figure 2 Photo of pictograph from rock
They tossed a few rocks in the hole to see if anything would come out, expecting a groundhog or fox, but nothing moved. Matthew’s parents always warned him about snakes and swimming in the river, but not about holes.
“On cold mornings I could see a mist coming out of the ground near here from the school bus.” John said.
“We see that all the time around here in the winter time,” Joann added, “it’s all that warm air coming out of caves.”
Clair found a long stick, “I wonder how deep it is?” waving the stick around in the hole that sloped downward. “It looks big enough to crawl down into, anybody got a flashlight?”
 “I can bring one from home and we can check it out.” Replied Matthew.
As the sun set, over the lake, a few bats flew out of the hole, causing them to jump. John started throwing rocks at them, then noticed someone up on the hill watching them.
“There’s some old man there watching us, lets get out of here.”
The cabin was quiet with shelves of Indian artifacts covering one wall, a musty smell of old wood and dust filled the air. Ed was in his late sixties, a World War I, veteran, missing his left arm from the elbow, living alone on the wooded lot he used as a hunting getaway when he was younger. He was obsessed with finding Indian gold, hidden in the mountains, of stories passed down for years in the area. People left him alone, thinking that he did not have all his marbles, although he did have a small leather pouch of gold, with several ounces, and one large nugget, that inspired him to keep looking. The legend was that when the Cherokees were rounded up for the Trail of Tears, the local Indians gave all their gold to a medicine man to prevent it from falling into the white man’s hands. The medicine man was never caught but was seen every now and then by the settlers, in the area, for years afterward.
When anyone came around, Ed would follow them, keeping a safe distance, trying to stay out of sight. He was sure that others were also looking for the gold.
Back home Matthew cleaned up the rock and took a picture of the pictograph with his Polaroid camera. That evening he took it to the Library to show the librarian and see if she could tell him what it was.
“That’s an Indian pictograph, where did you find it?”
“It was on a rock down by the river,” not mentioning the cave, “I took a picture of it.”
“I can show you some other pictures of them that have been found. I would guess that he has a cane torch in one hand, and a pouch in the other. No telling what that four legged animal is with him.”
Sunday morning on the back pew, the four studied the picture and tried to guess at the meaning. “Was it a marker?” “Did it have something to do with the cave?” “And who was that watching them?”
That afternoon they gathered again at the cave.
“Who is going to go first?” John asked.
“Well Matthew has the flashlight, We can pull him back out by the feet if he gets stuck.” Commented Clair.
 As he examined the entrance, cool air from the hole made chills go up and down Matthew’s arms. It was no larger than his body, slanting downward at about a forty-five degree angle. A cricket landed on the front of his flashlight and made him jump. A few others could be seen just inside the entrance.
Matthew recalled the last cave he was in. Before they moved to Lippersville, they lived for a short time in a small town southeast of Lippersville. Matthew and three other boys were riding bikes, on a dirt farm road, when one of the boys suggested they check out a cave he knew about. It was on a farm a few miles from town, on the side of a hill. The entrance was about five feet wide and went down to a dirt ledge. They didn’t have a light, so they could only sit on the ledge and wonder what was down below.
Then there was the time his mother took him to see Wonder Cave located on the north side of Mt. Eagle in central Tennessee. The commercial cave was short with narrow passages, plenty of formations, and a stream running along the tourist trail. He had also been with his mother on a tour of Mammoth Cave in Kentucky, but he had never been in an unexplored cave; only the few tunnels that he dug in the back yard.
As Matthew thought about how to best enter the cave, questions began to arise. “How deep was it?” “Could he back out up that steep muddy slope?” “Should he go feet first and not be able to see what was ahead or go in head first and take a chance on not being able to climb back out upside down?”
“I’m going in feet first so I can climb back out.”
He eased into the hole, sliding down the gentle slope, his feet dangling in mid air, he could not touch anything. Hanging there for a moment he wondered what was below, then without thinking anymore about the danger, he let go!
“Are you okay? What happen?”
Came questions from above, as he waited afraid to move, after dropping only inches. His eyes slowly adjusted to the dim light as he shook his old green Ray-O-Vac flashlight back to life.[i]
“I’m on a narrow ledge with a drop off behind me of about ten feet to a mud floor. This ledge is only about four feet wide and extends about ten or fifteen feet on each side. There is enough room for all of us but no way to get down.”
John spotted a log with broken limbs just up the hill. “I found a log we can use, We’ll drag it down and lower it to you. Hang on.”
He moved to the side of the entrance and found a comfortable place to sit while he waited.
They broke off the limbs to make hand holds and started lowering it into the hole. Matthew watched as it slid by and then plunged over the edge. It was just long enough for him to reach it and still pull himself back up onto the ledge.
“I am going to need a hand line to climb back up this slope.”
Clair offered to return home and get a rope. While he ventured down the log ladder. Her red hair blew in the wind as she ran along the river, crossing the bridge to her home, on the edge of town. Clair was a tomboy at heart interested more in baseball and exploring than playing with dolls. She was also a good climber. Her and Matthew got along great and were good friends.
Joann and John were dating, going to the movies together on Saturdays. They all were in the same Sunday School class and always sat together in church. John had an old Plymouth he bought from a group that entertained movie goers at the Drive-in Theater during intermission. They would buy old junks, crash them into each other on the clearing in front of the big screen, entertaining the teens. They could not get the old Plymouth started, so it was saved. John gave them fifty dollars for it and was fixing it up for when he turned sixteen and could get a driver’s license.
Clair found a twenty foot section of rope in the garage, threw it over her shoulder, like a mountain climber, and headed back toward the river, half running, then walking fast, eager to get back and rescue Matthew.
Matthew’s mind wandered as he waited, thinking about being trapped, not knowing what was going on outside, and about a poem, something he never shared, fearing someone would laugh at him, he could write about this hole along the river bank, trying occupy his time, ignoring the chill of the cave. At home he kept a notebook of poems he had written, sharing only with his mother, when she would inquire about he was keeping in the notebook under the bed.
 Mystery Along the River Bank
Feet dangling over the edge, what’s below?
Good hand hold, take it nice and slow,
climb back up, or drop on down,
come this far I wonder what I have found.
Along the river bank as a boy I played,
rocks and boulders wherever I strayed.
A dark hole, a cave, a difficult climb,
each day looking a little deeper each time.
Flashlight in hand to see what’s there,
was this a den, could there be a bear.
Alone, curious, not quite so brave,
like a mole I slowly entered the cave.
As I let go, it seemed like forever,
now I thought this was not so clever.
Everything still in place, no broken bones,
could I climb out as I felt for large stones.
What had I found, a nice little room,
where maybe a bear slept or met his doom?
Struggle and push against both flanks,
free at last to explore the Piney River’s banks.
The floor below was muddy, formations reflecting sparkles, as he slowly moved the light beam around the room, inspecting this new and exciting place. Drops of water broke the silence, with eerie echoes along with other sounds he could not identify, becoming more aware of his surroundings. The smell was strange, and refreshing at the same time. A few sticks and leaves on the ledge were wet and moldy, growing a fresh crop of mushrooms, like little solders marching in single file, on the rotten wood.
Matthew decided to wait for the rope and let the others come down and check it out before continuing down to the bottom.
“I tied the rope off around a tree, see if you can climb back up”
At first he pulled hand over hand up the rope, sliding on the slope, then realizing he could also use his feet, he began searching for foot holes. A protruding rock here and there gave him the needed foot holes. Matthew thought, “I will have to remember where they are for the next time.”
The last few feet were tight; with his arms over his head, pulling on the rope made his shoulders wider than when he slid in. Out at last, the smell of the trees and honeysuckle took his breath, along with other smells he had not noticed before. Birds and other sounds seemed to come alive after being in the quiet cave for so long. This new experience stirred Matthew and made him more curious than ever about this hole in the hill.
Next Clair took the flashlight and slid down the rope.
“I’m safely off to the side, Joann, come on down.”
Okay, here I come.” Now reassured that she could get back out.
John joined them on the ledge and Matthew again slid down the hole. All four now on the ledge and their eyes adjusted to the dark, who would be first to go down the log ladder.
“I don’t see any way to continue from up here.” Said Clair, “I’m going on down to check it out.”
The log rocked side to side and she climbed down to the bottom, steadying herself with one hand on the wall. The room was about the size of her bedroom at home, formations covering the walls, the floor sloping gently down to a pool of water, running along the back, disappearing under a rock ledge. Clair examined every inch of the walls and floor looking for some way to continue, but with no success.
She was about to give up when a stray bat flew out from above the water on the upstream side where the water emerged from under the wall, down on her knees, she peered between the water and the rock above with the light.
“There is about a half a foot of air space and a cool breeze making ripples on the water.” Informing the others, She tested the water, with her bare leg, finding out that it was at least two feet deep and very cold.
“I’m not quite ready for a cold swim.”
She put the flashlight back in her pocket and proceeded to climb up the log ladder to the ledge.
“We are going to need some more equipment if we continue on, it’s going to be wet going.”
The climb out was easer this time for Matthew, as he remembered where the rocks were and had the timing down just right, starting out with the left foot for the first one and then the others were just in reach, he felt he could now push himself all the way out just using his feet and his arms to keep off the floor. The others followed struggling a little more than he, until they found the foot holds.
They were all eager to see if they could get beyond the water. The hardware store had plenty of hunting headlights with D-cell battery packs that fit on a belt. And if anyone asked, it was for possum hunting.
They also picked up plastic bags with pull strings that would pull tight and keep the water out. They planned to wear their swim suits under their clothes and then carry the clothes in the bags as they got in the water. They also left a change in the entrance room to keep from going home muddy.
Excited about the new adventure, exploring a cave, sleeping was hard, Joann spent the night with Clair, and they planned to get started early the next day.
Ed did not see them enter the hole, but he cold tell that someone had been there, the hole was enlarge slightly, leaves disturbed, and the trail of something pulled through the woods. He decided to come out early the next day and watch the hole.

[i] Ray-O-Vac until 1988 now known as Rayovac is a brand of batteries and flashlights owned by Spectrum Brands of Madison, Wisconsin, United States.