Since our arrival at Selah Springs, we had heard adventurous and intriguing stories about a recently discovered cave chamber on the Ranch’s property.
Phil had promised to schedule a time to take us to this underground lair of fascination, and on the 3rd and last day of our stay, he followed through and picked up the willing participants – Mr. Gore, Gideon and my Daddy (and me, with my camera) – and drove us to a location on the map that I could never get to by myself if I tried. A lodger at the Ranch had come across this hidden hole in the ground while exploring the property, and Phil had become obsessed with digging deeper and deeper into the chamber. His exuberance was catching and I was actually quite excited to see this marvel with my own eyes.
Pulling the pick-up to a stop in the middle of the road, Phil instructed us to unload and then challenged us to point in the direction of the cave’s whereabouts. Each of us squinted into the distance, looking for clues, and not surprisingly, the 4 of us pointed in 4 different directions.
None of us were right.
“Follow me!” said Phil, and off we tromped through the wild Texas wilderness, dodging cacti, ducking under mesquite trees, eyes roaming about looking for the hidden cave.
When we least expected it, Phil came to a sudden halt, and pointed at the ground. “Here it is.” he said.
There, right in front of us, was a rock, and in that rock was a triangular hole about the size of my generous hips.
Well…maybe my hips aren’t that big. Still yet, any thoughts I had entertained of following the boys into the cave morphed instantly into a rock-solid resolution that I wasn’t budging from my place safe above ground. I later told Phil “the cave might be fun for you, but for me, it is a collection of too many things I have problems with: claustrophobia, bats, worms, ladders, heights…to me your cave is nothing more than a hole of horrors”.
The men, however, were intrigued. It was a study to watch them, iffy at first, curiously peering into the hole, then unable to quelch their curiosity with what I would call good common sense (just kidding, guys). One by one, they would disappear beneath the ground, first Phil, then Mr. Gore, and then even my Dad, who had retreated to this Texas getaway to rest his ailing back. He had been sitting like a good boy next to me while Mr. Gore and Phil explored the cave, but finally said “I’ve got to go down there,” and soon, he, too, was in the cavernous hole underneath my feet, throwing rest and recovery to the wind.
But as nervous as I was about the ones I loved being trapped underground, I relished hearing their voices and laughter float up to my safe perch on a rock nearby – this was to them what a day of shopping at Fredericksburg was to me, and it was great fun observing their boyish delight at their adventure in uncharted territory under the earth. I even sent my beloved camera down the hole with Mr. Gore, who took a pretty cool photograph from inside the heart of the earth:
But Gideon was holding out.
“I’m not going in there.” he had been saying since first laying eyes on the cave, and had been sitting resolutely on a bucket near my rock.
But he was acting kind of weird, talking a bit like a baby, repeating his mantra of refusal, even though no one was pressuring him…or even talking to him.
“I not going in dere.” he kept saying to me.
“Okay, Gid…” I kept replying, “you don’t have to.”
“I NOT going in dere.” he repeated.
“Okay…” I said once more.
And I soon came to the conclusion that he was waging an inner war with himself. As much as he didn’t want to go in there, he wanted to go in there; therefore, he wasn’t really talking to me as much as he was talking to himself.
Thankfully, I have learned, after 5 years of playing mindgames with this most complex of children, that sometimes it is best to just leave Gideon be and let him work out the conflict that is coursing through his brain and causing him to use bad grammar and vocabulary.
I sat quietly on my rock, knowing that if I pressured him to give it a try, he would step up his refusal, and that if I babied him about it, he would eventually become just that…a baby. And not just about caves, but about life, in general.
Finally, after saying “I not going in dere” one more time, he meekly and quietly asked one question: “Mama…will you ask Papa if he will help me get down there?”
I hopped up, before he changed his mind.
“Chris!” I beckoned through the hip-sized hole, “Gid wants to come!”
We all sprang into action, lest we lose our window of opportunity. It takes a village to raise a Gideon, and the entire family has learned to work fluidly with his quirks and foibles.
Mr. Gore and Granddaddy came to the bottom of the ladder.
“Come on down, Gid!” Mr. Gore exclaimed with what I assume was a huge smile on his face.
But the nearer Gideon got to the hole, the more afraid he became of it. His hands were clinging to my legs.
“I can’t do it!” he cried.
“You can do it, Gid! I won’t let you fall. I’ll hold on to you the whole way,” his Papa continued to encourage him.
“Come on down, Gid!” my Daddy said.
Gideon began to cry. “I don’t want to go!”
“You don’t have to!” Papa assured him.
“But I want to go!!!” he wailed.
“Then come on down!” Papa laughed.
After what seemed like 15 minutes of encouragement and discussion, I’m so happy to report that…he did it.
My baby boy played the man and entered into a secret cave chamber. Now, menfolk are a bit of a mystery to me, but as a sympathetic observer of all people and an avid reader of Christian fiction books, I happen to know that this (cave-mongering) is the stuff of dreams for little and big boys alike. And if I didn’t know that already, I knew it when I saw Gideon beaming up at me from the ladder that took him to his adventure.
With his Papa, his Granddaddy, and a really great guy named Phil, my son spent the afternoon digging in previously untouched dirt and even unearthed a rock that had never been held by anyone else in the history of the world. As far as vacation attractions go, this was pretty stinkin’ awesome.
It is a beautiful thing to watch a little boy – step by step – become a man, and I think this day will go down in Gideon’s history as a very big step indeed.
The last to go down, Gid the Kid was also the first to come back up for air, but he emerged energized and confident. Rather than returning to his bucket of shame, he began to work, pulling up buckets of dirt from the cave and dumping them in the nearby pile. I can’t imagine how it felt to his little heart to contribute to the tunneling process of the Selah Springs Cave. This was important work!
Before too long, the big boys said goodbye to the cave and joined us aboveground. It was really quite strange to see a human head poking up from inside the earth, and was rather reminiscent of a dream I had when I was a child. (Except those heads belonged to aliens. And they were cartoon characters. And there wasn’t any cactus or mesquite trees and we weren’t in Texas..but everything else was exactly the same).
Our cave adventure was over, but I am fairly certain this will be a memory we will cherish for years and years to come, a highlight of our stay at Selah Springs Ranch.
On our drive home, I looked down and noticed that Gideon and his Papa were holding hands, and my heart melted a little at the bonds they are growing as father and son, bonds that I pray remain strong and Christ-centered for the rest of their lives. May the adventures they share be varied and happy and frequent, and may they always love each other as they do now.
Oh, and thank you, God, for not making me go down into that cave.