It was a cold winter day in upstate New York as Ray and Bob crossed the hard frozen field. They had been exploring known caves in the area and had heard about Herkimer Cave, which had a vertical twenty-foot shaft that looked more like a well than a cave. Equipped with hard hats and army surplus belts with battery packs, they felt ready for what lay ahead.
The climb down was easy with the help of an old log that someone had dropped down the hole. At the bottom, a low but wide hands-and-knees passage lured them on. They made several turns before dropping a short distance into a small room with large animal bones scattered around on the floor.
“These bones look fresh to me.” Ray commented.
“I agree, looks like some sort of den. I hope we don’t meet up with who or what lives down here!” said Bob.
Ray led the way as they continued on, pushing the passage a little more until it got real low. “It’s too tight for me,” he groaned.
“Let out some air. You can make it.”
Ray pulled back and over to the side where there was a little more room and challenged Bob, “If you think you can make it, come on ahead!”
Bob edged past Ray. He removed his hat and pushed it out in front to light up the crawl, but forgot to remove his belt and battery pack. He pushed on toward the bend in the passage, determined to see what was around the next turn. He pushed hard, turning his head sideways to glance around, and thought he saw something move up ahead. Cramped in the tight confines between the rock above and the rock below, he felt his heart beat faster.
At last his head reached the turn, his hat with his light against the side of his face pointing in the wrong direction, in the semi-darkness were two big eyes looking back at him! Bob did not even take time to shine his light to see what it was; he just started backing up as fast as he could, dragging his hat and light by the cord. Quickly his belt and battery pack got caught and would not budge. The more he tried to move backwards, the more wedged he became. Exhaling helped him move a few more inches, but then he was completely stuck.
Fear and panic set in as Ray heard the groans Bob was making and saw his frantic kicks. Something was wrong.
“What’s the matter? The passage too tight?”
Bob, with one arm extended in front and the other stuck down by his side, felt something bite his finger. “Ouch! It’s eating my hand! Pull me out of here quick!”
Ray had both arms extended out in front. He tried to reach Bob’s legs, but he was able to grab only one boot. He pulled hard, and the boot came off. Now Ray felt like he was stuck too. “Can’t do it, too tight! I’m going to try to back up and go get help!”
“No! Don’t leave me. Ouch! He bit me again!” Bob slapped around in the dark, trying to fend off his attacker, his light now out of reach, and unable to turn his head, he could only yell and slap the air hoping to hit the beast.
After an hour of fighting, pulling back with his toes and exhaling, he at last felt the cave give up its grip.
He quickly moved back into a larger passage and took a close look at his bloodied and mangled hand. As Bob and Ray scrambled up the log and into the cold air, they heard growls coming from below. Shining their lights back down the hole they could make out the bob cat with his teeth showing, ready to jump. They threw several rocks down the hole and ran for the car.
Copyright © 2015 Hubert Clark Crowell
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