I’ve written about the carnivals and all the circuses coming into town and even had a few lines about the hobo “jungle” where the guys who hopped on board the freight trains camped out at the big culvert under the rail tracks down about E Street.
That’s where Bob, JW and I met so many of those “lonesome travelers.” Believe it or not they all seemed to be very nice folks, and even today I can hear the whistle of a train coming into town and immediately think of them riding all over the country mostly in an empty box car on the railroad to somewhere, usually south for the winter and back up north in the summer.
But we never got to the point of trusting those gypsies as we did the hoboes. Maybe it’s because we heard so many bad and spooky things about how they behaved. Kidnapping little children was the worst of the things we had been told they did.
We never knew firsthand anything bad like that they did. In fact, they were very good to us when they camped here and we boys enjoyed their music and the dances they did every night in their camp, especially when they were just about two or three blocks from where I lived on East Broadway.
There are so many, many things to tell about what was going on in those good old days but regardless of what I say it never seems to be enough said. Anyway, I hope it reminds you of those days and the kind of times we had back then.
One hot summer morning, Bob, JW and I decided we’d go back out to Eblen’s Cave just to have something to do. So about 10 o’clock we took off.
Like I’ve told you before, cars were not as thick on the roads in them days as they are now. Best I remember, we caught one ride down into Roane County after walking all the way out past Eaton’s and it was after noon before we got to the cave.
There was a man and his wife with three little kids at the mouth of the cave. None of them had ever been there before so the man asked if we knew anything about how the cave was laid out inside. Using a stick to draw a map in the dirt, Bob proceeded to show him the three openings inside the cave, how they connected one at a time to each other again deep inside and therefore you could go into one underground opening and come back out either of the other two.
But we all three warned the man it was easy to get lost if he didn’t do his exploring little by little at first. We waited with his family as he went into the center opening headed back to first just to look around. After nearly an hour went by and his family was worried to tears, we told the kids we would go looking for their dad.
JW found him barely out of sight and still in the center opening. The man had lost his bearings and, even with his flashlight still in working condition, he could not remember how he had gotten as far as he had. He didn’t know how to get back to the entrance. JW led him back to his wife and family and all turned out very well. The man told us he would never be back and his wife quickly agreed.
These memories come back to you if you just sit and think quietly to yourself for a little while, but I hadn’t thought about this particular trip to Eblen’s Cave in many years. I’ve told you before about some of our other trips to the cave, but this one had slipped away a long time ago. I’m glad I remembered it.
Until next time, be careful.