Cave Dwelling Dude
My sister, Audrey, and her husband, Bill, hosted the Lanier family Thanksgiving this year at their home just outside of Cartersville, Georgia. Their property backs up to land managed by the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers with beautiful stands of hardwood trees, rolling hills, and shimmering Lake Allatoona.
Like other families, we all overindulged in all the magnificent dishes brought in by family members and friends. So we ate and ate and ate, and after we ate, we all fell back in our chairs and felt miserable and bloated.
“Let’s hike to the cave,” one of my nephew’s sons suggested. I looked up to see Lydda, 10, Andrew, 9, and Lawson, 7, waiting to see who wanted to hike a half mile through the woods to a lakeside cavern.
“What cave?” I asked. “Tell me more.”
“A man they call ‘One-eyed Jack’ lives in a cave near the water,” Lawson said.
I looked around at my brotherin- law, my niece, Savannah, and her husband, Tommy. It was obvious to me that there had been some tall tale telling in the house before we arrived, and that some of the adults had weaved together a story about a visually impaired cave dwelling dude to entertain the youngest members of our clan. “How did One-eyed Jack lose his eye?” I asked.
“It’s a mystery,” the kids told me. “Let’s go ask him.” A few minutes later, a small group of us were hiking the leafy trail toward the water’s edge. Along the way, we found some mussel shells.
“Maybe one-eyed Jack eats mussels,” I said pointing to several shells spread in the sand. “And maybe he drinks beer,” Andrew replied pointing to a faded Bud Lite can half buried on the shoreline.
“Look!” one of the boys shouted, stopping near a circle of large rocks and blackened logs. “I think this is where One-eyed Jack cooks fish for dinner.”
“And here’s his fishing line,” Andrew said, holding up a clear plastic line with a broken bobber.
“What does One-eyed Jack do for a living?” I asked the imaginative kids.
“He doesn’t have to work,” Lawson said. “He has everything he needs to live right here — in the wilderness.”
“I’m going to ask again — how did he lose his eye?” I said.
No one knew. No one would even theorize how the man lost his eye.
We walked a little more, and finally, we saw it — the cave. The kids, armed with head headlamps continued from page
and flashlights, paused at the entrance waiting for one of us adults to enter first.
Baby- step- by- babystep, we inched our way into the cave. We moved inward about ten or fifteen feet from the entrance and stopped. The kids were getting noticeably antsy, and I could hear their little hearts pounding. They were three nervous children who were all pretending to be brave and courageous explorers.
“Hello!” Lydda shouted. “One-eyed Jack, are you in here?”
There was no response.
“Hello?” the others yelled into the dark abyss. They took another step forward and turned their light beams toward an open area in the cave.
“What’s that?” one of them asked.
“I’m not sure, but I think it’s an old Christmas tree,” Tommy said.
And then for no apparent reason, all the kids screamed and retreated to the safety of the open air outside the cave’s entrance.
“What happened in there? Why did you guys get scared when you saw that Christmas tree?” I asked.
“I don’t know. It was just scary,” Lydda answered.
Sadly, we never found One-eyed Jack, and so we couldn’t ask him all the questions we had for him.
Years from now, I hope the three little Laniers will remember that day. I hope they remember the conversations and the cave and the Christmas tree. I hope they remember the mystery and the laughter. Most of all, I hope they remember that Thanksgiving is for being thankful for family members, and that everyone in our family is so very thankful for them. They remind us what it feels like to be little kids again.
As for me, I guess I’ll never find out how Oneeyed Jack lost his eye. Do any of you know?