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  • Writer's pictureLee Weaver

“Beautiful Exiles” is a novel, a book of fiction, by Margaret Waite Clayton. It is an intimate look at the professional and marital relationships of Ernest Hemingway and his third wife, Martha Gellhorn; “a riveting novel based on one of the most volatile and intoxicating real-life love affairs of the twentieth century.”  

Martha Ellis Gellhorn was born November 8, 1908. She became Hemingway’s third wife in 1940, divorced in 1945, and she died February 15, 1998.  I don’t think Gellhorn was trying to compete with Hemingway in number of liaisons, but she was somewhat free-spirited.

In this writer’s opinion, in this book Ms. Clayton gives Hemingway a disproportionate amount of ink; yet this is understandable when one compares Hemingway’s and Gellhorn’s long-term reputations as writers. I illustrate this with my own experience – I was reading Hemingway 75 years ago; bu, only came to know Gellhorn within the past year.  

 Martha Ellis Gellhorn was one of the great war correspondents of the 20th century. Reported on virtually every world conflict that took place during her 60-year career (Wikipedia).  As well as her worldwide work in covering the news and in writing stories and columns for Colliers, Gellhorn published eighteen books.  

Ernest Miller Hemingway born 7/21/1899 Oak Park, Ill; died 2/2/61 Ketchum Idaho.      Four wives: 1. Hadley Richardson 1921-1927; 2. Pauline (’Fife’) Pfeiffer 1927-1940; 3. Martha Gellhorn 1940-1945; 4. Mary Welsh 1946-1961.   Number of “lovers”????

There is no way one can compile a list of the most influential American writers and not include Ernest Hemingway. John Steinbeck gave us great insights on the poor farm workers migrating from the Dust Bowl to California, in “Grapes of Wrath” and other books; Scott Fitzgerald illuminated the lives of the East Coast elites with “The Great Gadsby.”  These three top my list; one could easily add James Michener; Herman Melville; Mark Twain; William Faulkner; Tennessee Williams; John Updike; Flannery O’Connor; and in verse: Emily Dickinson and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. But, in this writer’s

Hemingway is in a class of his own, closely followed by Fitzgerald and Steinbeck.

Aside from Hemingway’s extraordinary journalist career, and the classics his books have become, he lived his life on the edge: big game hunting in Africa, hunting German submarines from a fishing boat in WWII, running with the bulls in Spain, as an ambulance driver in the Spanish civil war, always exhibiting (or trying to prove?) his manhood.  Whether this is a result of a strained childhood and youth could be the subject of deeper study.  Nevertheless, his marital relations were invariably tense.

“Beautiful Exiles” is an extraordinary look at a ten-year segment of the life of Hemingway, from December 1936 when Hemingway and Gellhorn first met, in a bar in Key West; to 1945 when they divorced. After a fourth marriage (to Mary Welsh in 1946), on July 2, 1961, Hemingway took his own life.  Though Clayton poses the book as fiction, in the “Author’s Note” she quotes from a plethora of sources including (without limitation) letters between Martha and others; Martha’s books; articles in Collier’s written by Gellhorn; Martha’s interactions with Eleanor Roosevelt; books and articles by other authors about Gellhorn and Hemingway, etc., etc.

I found a couple of interesting quotes on Google (Wikipedia?):    Why did Martha Gellhorn leave Hemingway?

“It was a sad end to a troubled relationship.”  Later, Hemingway’s youngest son Gregory would say she had been driven away by his father’s bullish behavior and egotism.

Gellhorn wrote to her mother that, “A man must be a very great genius to make up for being such a loathsome human being.” 

©Lee Weaver January 2024

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After we had narrowly escaped being entombed by the earthquake on our first exploration of the cave and the hidden kiva, we returned to our headquarters cabin to debrief.  I was reminded of a quote from Rod Serling, writer of the TV show, The Twilight Zone.  “There is a fifth dimension as vast as space and as timely as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of a man’s fears and the summit of his knowledge.  This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area which we call the Twilight Zone.”  

We all agreed our adventure seemed like something from the TV show, but there is no denying the existence of the cave, the frightening reality that we could have been buried forever by the earthquake; so many realities witnessed by all five of us.  The only thing of which we had no physical evidence was the encounter with Hank’s body: no pictures, no recording of Dr. Manning’s conversation with the ethereal Hank; nothing but the hearsay report of five men, all consistent. This was NOT our imagination!  

Gathered around our conference table, each of us, in turn, related our inner feelings and our outward experiences. Each of us was recorded by dual tape recorders as protection against one being compromised. Our stories differed only when we were not all present concurrently.  Those differences were noted and resolved. The tapes would be independently transcribed by competent typists when we returned to the city.

After completing our debriefing, we decided to take a last look at the site where we had entered the portal.  As expected, though we tramped out the area extensively, the specific site could not be determined due to the displacement and movement of boulders, rocks and detritus with the earthquake.  Thinking there was no more that could be done presently, we packed up all our gear and headed to the city.


“Achak, the Council of Three requires your presence immediately!”

At the Kiva: “Achak, the Council has determined that you have acted very unwisely and failed in your Advancement Assignment, your task.  You failed in your conversion of the soul and body of the Outsider, the one they called Hank; and in that you compounded the failure by carelessly allowing the Outsiders to access the area we have claimed for ourselves.  Further, the Outsiders desecrated our Kiva and the Altar.   Then we had to entreat Earth God to close the portal. What do you think your punishment shall be?”  


“Great Masters, the Council of Three are the wisest men of all the Anasazi! My fate is in your hands.”  

“Achak, because of your youth the Council is softening the sentence. For twelve moons you may not leave our presence alone for the Outside.  On your Advancement Assignment you will go out but always and only in the company of a Senior. You are being assigned a new Advancement test.  For the same twelve moons you will be on probation. If during that time three witnesses present a charge against you, or if you fail to satisfactorily complete your Advancement you will be permanently banned from this tribe.  Your new Assignment is to replace the lost body and soul of the Outside person called Hank. It is said! Go now!”


Two men, looking scruffy but moving athletically, pull up at Mike’s General Store in an old rusty pickup.  As they enter Mike says “Welcome boys, it’s been a slow day. I’m glad to have some company. What can I help you with?” 

‘We’re needing some gas, and just browsing.’ 

“Don’t think I’ve seen you around these parts before. Are you just passing through?”  

‘Yeah, sorta. We’ve got a fishin’ camp on the Pecos.’  

Mike didn’t notice the eye contact between the two as if in silent communication or telepathy but went out and gassed up the truck.  As he reentered the store, he noticed a peculiar smell which made him think of incense. As he rang up the sale he couldn’t understand why he was beginning to feel woozy, but suddenly he sank to the floor. Quickly the two visitors put the “Closed” sign in the front window, and by telekinesis moved Mike’s unconscious body to the bed of the pickup and covered it with a tarp.  As they drove away they saw another car pull off the highway and start toward the store, then drive on, apparently seeing the Closed sign.

Within an hour a sheriff’s deputy stopped at the store. Knowing Mike’s schedule and habits, finding Mike gone even though his truck was still parked beside the store, the deputy immediately questioned the circumstances. Having called the sheriff for reinforcements, the deputies began an inch-by-inch search of the premises. Curiously, no footprints, no tire tracks, no fingerprints, nothing was found. The coffee pot was still warm. There were ashes in a saucer – the deputy made a mental note of this, as he knew Mike did not smoke but used chewing tobacco. The cash register still had plenty of money in it – there had been no robbery, nothing had been disturbed in the store. There was no sign of struggle or foul play. In Mike’s living space everything was in order. Everything about the entire site was in order – except, there was no Mike! Had he wandered off afoot and fallen? Had he unthinkingly left with someone in their vehicle? Though recognizing there was still a lot to investigate on site, as a precaution the Sheriff put out a bulletin to all the surrounding counties.  

Back at the office, the sheriff and deputies gathered to debrief. The deputy who had observed the ashes in a saucer remembered he had put them in a small plastic bag and pocketed the bag. Getting the bag out as he related this to the group, he gingerly opened it and sniffed gently – not deeply so as not to blow the ashes away. 

“Sheriff” he exclaimed! “These are not cigar or cigarette ashes – not tobacco at all but some sort of incense! I never knew of Mike burning incense! But check this - just a brief sniff of the cold ashes causes a weird feeling!”


“You have done well Achak, on the first event in your Advancement test. You selected an appropriate subject to replace Hank and accomplished the bringing in without causing a disturbance among the Outsiders, as you were doing it. With our supplications Earth God closed the old portal, leaving all the interior chambers intact. We are now using the alternative portal; you will prepare the subject you brought in the kiva where Hank was laid. Prepare well – the conversion of the one called Hank was almost complete at the time we were so unfortunately discovered. Leave no tracks!” 

Achak moved Mike’s living but unconscious body to the kiva and laid it on the altar. The Anasazi are well-steeped in the paranormal and in the knowledge of many drugs which Outsiders have no knowledge of: mind-altering drugs as well as those causing or enhancing physical effects. With educated use of certain drugs, the Anasazi have enhanced their use of telekinesis; have exponentially increased their perceptiveness; have perfected ways of extracting a man’s soul from his body, then using that soul in the body of one of their own, in effect creating a man with two souls and the ability to live two separate lives interchangeably. It was this ability which provided the opportunity to put one of their own into Mike’s position at the store, enabling them to keep in close contact with all that is going on in the community. 

Mike had been kept sedated so he could not leave the Kiva. Now Achak, along with a Senior to oversee his work, began introducing selected drugs into Mike’s system; some aromatic, some intravenously, some topical applications.    Achak set up his own station in the Kiva to have continuous treatment and observation of Mike.  Knowing the process cannot be rushed, Achak sorted out his preparations to maintain the proper sequence of applications and prepared to note the effects.  Effects would be slow at first, and subtle, but within a week some results began to be seen.  Mike’s countenance altered almost imperceptibly, but in a firmer way; his body appeared to become more muscular in place of fat. 

On the tenth day Mike’s ethereal spirit rose up and he spoke with Achak.  “What is going on? I really feel strange.”  

Achak explained to Mike that he has undergone a transformation in a process known only to the Anasazi; “you are now one of us.  You may assume either role, Outsider or Anasazi, but you will always be subject to the Anasazi way of life, and subject to our tribal laws and to the governance of the Council of Three.  At their direction you may assume a role as an Outsider, for special purposes or assignments, but in the end you will always be Anasazi.  But, if you go Outside you must act with extreme care. If you are discovered, if any suspicion arises from the duality of your nature, your soul will dissipate as would a puff of smoke and your body will die.”


A few days later one of the sheriff’s deputies came by to check on the store that was supposedly closed.  Upon entering and seeing a new face, the deputy asked “where’s Mike? Are you minding the store for him?” 

‘Mike got a call from a relative back in Alabama, somebody’s got a serious medical condition and Mike wanted to be sure and see him now, in case he doesn’t survive. I’ve shopped here from time to time, shooting the breeze with Mike, and he asked me to come in, maybe a few days, maybe a week. I like to go up to Odessa sometimes in the evenings so would you check the place occasionally at night?’  

Deputy: “Yes, I can do that. By the way, what’s your name? I’ve not seen you around.”  

‘I’m Jimbo, you can usually find me somewhere down on the river, afishin’.


After our debriefing back at Iraan, I had returned to my home and office in Fort Worth.  I was sitting at my desk, staring out the window overlooking the cityscape, watching feathery clouds drift across the azure blue Texas sky, looking back over spelunking notes and considering a next step.  The phone rang; a quick glance showed the area code to be 432 which is the area of west Texas including Upton County, which is adjacent to Pecos County, the site of our cave adventure.

With my simple “Hello” the caller said “This is Sheriff Brown from Upton County, Texas. Have I reached the office of the Yates country cave explorers?” When I affirmed that, Sheriff Brown went on to tell me the reason for the call.

Sheriff Brown: “Your Pecos County sheriff and I are pretty good buddies, so I was pretty much up to date on your activities. Seems you had some pretty far out experiences and findings, some idea of extraordinary paranormal circumstances. Now don’t worry, the sheriff counseled me on the secrecy of the effort.  I’m calling you because of some events over at Rankin which raise some questions. 

“One of my deputies stopped one day at Mike’s General Store on the highway there at Rankin, and there was a Closed sign in the window but the door was not locked.  We searched all around and there was no sign of Mike.  It was not a robbery because money was still in the cash register, and nothing had been disturbed. But a couple days later, my deputy went by again and there was a stranger minding the store. Said he was a friend of Mike and was taking care of the store while Mike was gone to Alabama to check on a family member maybe not be living much longer.   I happen to know that is not so because Mike had told me on previous occasions all his kinfolk were gone. When the deputy asked the store-sitter’s name all he said was ‘I’m Jimbo. I’m usually just down on the river, fishin’.”

Until we can find Mike, and either prove or disprove “Jimbo’s” story there’s not a lot we can do about that, but things seem all mixed up. My deputies are pretty much well-aware of what’s going on in their sector, and number one, I think he would have known Mike’s plans, and, number two, how come he’s never before encountered Jimbo.  Seems unlikely, plus I’m sure Mike told me he has no living relatives. Then, to top that off, I’m hearing those cowboys over to Iraan are seeing some weird stuff. Seems to me you oughtta circle back around these parts and find out what’s going on. Then maybe you can tell me.”

Me (in Fort Worth): “Well, Sheriff, you’ve got a couple interesting points but not much to go on.  Tell you what let’s do. I’ve got a couple loose ends here at the office to tie up.  You contact Sheriff Jones over at Fort Stockton, the Iraan caves being in Pecos County makes him a party to this. If you’re both available, I’ll meet you in your office in Rankin next Monday about noon (hoping there’s somewhere to get lunch) and go over everything that’s new and some old and see if we can pick up a trail and where it leads us.  I’d be particularly interested if any of those cowboys know or suspect other caves in that area, which might be bigger than a rabbit hole.”

The following Monday as I arrived in Rankin, I stopped first at the general store and went in to get a Coke, as a plan to see “Jimbo” for myself. I remarked to him, “I come through here every now and then. Guy named Mike was running the store. Is he still around?”

Jimbo: “Yessir, he took a little trip to Alabama. Prob’ly be back next week.” 

Me: “You from around these parts? Don’t remember crossing trails with you.”

Jimbo: “I usually down on the river fishin’ or I’ll sometimes be in Odessa.”

Me: “Well, I’ll mosey on into town. Maybe I’ll see Mike next time.”

At the sheriff’s office in Rankin I quickly recapped the salient details from our first adventure, and the subject findings, which amounted to very little. The Upton County sheriff, Mr. Brown, was flabbergasted at the description of finding Hank’s body and how his spirit appeared to just dissipate as a puff of smoke. After our brief review, Sheriff Brown then described the events regarding Mike’s absence, and ‘Jimbo’ appearing in Mike’s store. All the Rankin deputies were adamant in their reports, that they had never seen Jimbo anywhere, and particularly not “down on the river, fish’n’”. Everyone wondered if he were a good enough friend to Mike, that Mike would go off and leave his store in the care of someone that seemed so dubious. The sheriff reiterated that Mike had told him once, that he had no living relatives.

Sheriff Jones from Pecos County reported that the cowboys were all rather reluctant to work that part of the ranch where we had started all this “adventure.” The cowboys were never able describe anything concrete, just said “sumthin ain’t right.” Occasionally one might say “it just felt like someone was there. It’s haunted.”

We all agreed that our finding the portal, and the sudden, violent ”closing” of the portal, raised a lot of unanswered questions; with Mike’s disappearance the unanswered (and perhaps unanswerable) questions were greatly magnified.  The three of us, the two county sheriffs and myself, felt that to pursue this mystery would necessitate finding another portal or entrance to the caves we knew existed. We considered two approaches to locating another portal or otherwise accessing caves in the area we first explored.  We could search the whole area, foot by foot, which could be quite time-consuming depending on the number of people doing the search; or flying over with magnetometers or ground-penetrating radar, which would be quite expensive, looking for underground anomalies.  Any approach will be an effort of significant magnitude to require considerably more funding than we could provide on our own. It was suggested that the next step would be to put together a brochure or packet of material to attract the interest of (1) an oil company that wants to know the underground geology this close to a major oil field, or (2) a National Geographic with similar interests as well as the possibilities of a subset of Anasazi, or (3) an anthropologists’ study of the interaction, mingling, and resettling, or dissolution, of Native American tribes.

We decided we would come back together the following week to share ideas on funding this venture.  I proposed to include Dr. Grant and Dr. Manning in all our efforts going forward. After drafting my notes of this meeting, I forwarded them to our two scientists, and we all met in Rankin the following Tuesday.  The first order of business was to ascertain that everyone was pretty much at the same place in understanding the problem and the plan as it presently stood.  

Dr. Manning thoroughly surprised us as he threw out a new proposition – a real curveball! He presented a new supposition about the geophysical events that occurred the day we had entered the cave and found Hank’s body.  He asked, “Gentlemen, when was the last time this area had a torrential downpouring of rain, yet that was quite limited in area? When have you experienced an earthquake that was so limited in scope?  When have you actually seen a soul separate from a body? Gentlemen, you might have me committed to an asylum, or kicked out of the Archeology society, but I say with no hesitation: these events are NOT normal to our physical world – these are PARANORMAL events!” 


© Lee Weaver January 2024

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  • Writer's pictureLee Weaver

Updated: Feb 7






I in no way can pretend to be a ‘geek’ as in Best Buy’s Geek Squad; I am pretty good at managing data in an Excel spreadsheet, or composing a Word document, or (sometimes!) retrieving e-mails.  I was 33 or 34 years of age when first exposed to the computer fraternity, as part of the engineering group with a major oil company.  Our first computer (“portable”) was the size of an electric typewriter and required a similar stand suitably reinforced.  It was capable of programming an amazing fifty-four steps!

In today’s world, there are likely nine-year-olds more at home with computers than this 90-year-old! but it seems everything must be done with those infernal machines!  I’ve long contended that I intend to wear out rather than rust out, and it seems that contention is coming to pass.  The body that has experienced ninety years of busy living is certainly showing wear and tear.  Such a body requires frequent check-ups and tune-ups by trained experts (i e doctors!)  and more and more doctors and medical facilities are hiding their findings electronically.  

As a patient at UTSW, I must subscribe to “MyCare” to get reports, lab results, etc. At Texas Health it is MyChart.  At another, it is “Healow;” another is RD Client.  No computer?  no results or reports are obtainable; maybe sketchy results by phone or wait for a follow-up visit.  I had a friend, my age, who passed away just a couple of years ago; to the best of my knowledge, he never owned a computer.  At the medical offices, they tell you of a “portal” through which you set up My Chart or whatever.

This morning I saw Jane turn on the closet light and enter our large master closet.  I put away my toothbrush and walked into the bedroom, passing the closet on the way.  Glancing in, I saw the light still on but no sign of Jane.  My immediate thought (prompted by the memory of “Haunted Mesa,” an early Louis L’Amour book): was Jane drawn through an unseen portal, into another dimension of space or time, crossing a border between the laws of man and nature?  Where was Jane?  I decided to research these phenomena.

Less than a mile from the house where we lived in an oil camp outside Iraan, Texas was a geologically tumbled, rocky outcrop hiding a cave entrance.  The area was cut by canyons, escarpments and low mountains; a cow on this part of the ranch might starve.  When we moved there, we were told that people avoided that area because “it’s haunted.”  The story was that in earlier years a cowboy working on the ranch which included this site discovered the caves and decided to explore the largest, most accessible.  He had taken a large ball of string of a size to not easily be broken and left a trail of string so that he could retrace his steps and find his way out.  After several days, when Hank didn’t show up back at the ranch, one of the cowboys told the foreman about Hank’s plan.  Two of their party went to look for Hank and found the trail of string.  Following the string to its end, they found Hank’s boots and clothing laid out neatly, but no sign of his person.  The two cowboys spooked and, grabbing Hank’s belongings, rushed back to the surface.  Weather, ranch duties (and fear?) precluded any further exploration at the time, and when spring round-up was finished and calves shipped to market, no one wanted to know, “What Happened to Hank?” bad enough to enter the cave.

I have an advanced degree in Earth Sciences. The story of the Haunted Cave (now some forty years ago) piqued my interest and I decided to explore it myself.  With my friends Denny and Ray and an experienced spelunker, we replicated the Hank method of following the string.  His string was somewhat rotten with age, so we used a new ball of string but followed his trail.  One of our crew was training a Search and Rescue dog, so we took the dog along on a leash.  Nothing seemed to have changed over the years according to what we had gathered from hearsay reports.  We were able to easily penetrate to the spot where Hank’s string played out.  The cave was dry and we were able to walk upright a bit but mostly we were crawling or slithering over boulders. When we reached the end of Hank’s string, we were in a room about ten or twelve feet across and four to eight feet high.  

The dog began very acting strangely, on full alert with his fur standing up stiffly and a low rumbling growl in his chest.  The dog was tugging at his leash and looking toward what appeared to be a dead-end but in the bright beam of our best flashlight turned out to be a sheer black wall of rock, mostly hidden around a corner.  Our spelunking expert, Dr. Grant, got on his hands and knees, examining the wall where it met the floor.  With an exclamation, he held up a weathered piece of Indian handwork!   With further examination, he arose and announced a portion of the “wall” appeared to be separate from the main face, and seemed to have a discontinuity, a slab, perhaps as if a door were set in the wall (a portal?).  The dog continued to sit at the base of the slab or wall with his hair on end and a constant low growl.  Later, when we returned to the surface, the dog had to be forcefully dragged away.

As a safety concern, we had left a couple of men at the surface, “just in case.”  As we were examining the rock face and looking for further artifacts, one of the men came rushing along the string trail to inform the party of a sudden, massive storm buildup.  The National Weather Service was announcing severe weather warnings with the possibility of heavy rains.  Realizing the rains might cause flooding in the cave and tunnels we hurriedly made our way to the surface and drove away.  As we reached the highway we could look back and see the epic ferocity of the storm right over the area we had just vacated!  Never in recorded history has it rained that hard, over a specific area, in Texas!  Oddly, along with the rain, rumbles like underground earthquakes were heard and felt by ranchers in the area.

Our on-site explorations temporarily halted by weather and other priorities, Dr. Grant and I consulted Dr. Manning, a noted anthropologist who was an expert in Indian lore.  We took the Indian artifacts to him, and he agreed to research their background.

We waited what seemed an inordinate length of time for his report. After about six months, Dr. Manning called.  On the phone, I could tell his voice was strained, as if he were trying to say something so far out of reason he was uncertain what to say.  Finally, he was able to communicate that the story of the artifact was so extraordinary he could hardly believe it himself, even with the intense research and study he had conducted, and he would not try to tell the story over the phone.  He insisted we meet privately, in person. The ranch owner had a small vacant house on the premises which he allowed us to use as our headquarters.  Of course, we kept him fully informed of our activities, but to the townspeople we were just a bunch of crazies, chasing ghosts.

We arranged for the original four of us to meet Dr. Manning on the ranch.  Dr. Manning got right into the story, beginning with the Indian artifact we found. He told us he had gone back to the ranch as part of his research, but being alone he chose not to enter the cave.  Instead, he combed the surface area for five hundred feet around the cave entrance and picked up a basketful of artifacts, jewelry, carvings, and miscellaneous.  Returning to his library and lab and intensely studying the markings and carvings on the artifacts, Dr. Manning concluded that these items had a remarkable cultural likeness to artifacts from the Anasazi culture!

This certainly explained his reluctance to share his findings over the phone!  If any Indian culture in this area was related in any way to the Anasazi, it would represent an archeological breakthrough of immense importance.  The Anasazi historically lived in Northern New Mexico and the Four Corners area – five hundred miles distant and a millennium apart! Their culture was extant from about 120 AD to 1300 AD. Archeologists have not identified the cause of their disappearance, although it is thought modern-day Pueblo and Hopi Indians may be descendants of the Anasazi. But to find anything related to Anasazi culture in the semi-desert of far west Texas would lead to instant fame for the discoverers, especially the archeologist.  Thus the secrecy on the part of Dr. Manning.

The Anasazi name generally is interpreted the “Ancient Ones,” or by the Navajo “Ancient Enemy.”  Being agrarian, it is difficult to see them as enemies, but there is little record of their interactions.  In addition to their knowledge of farming subsistence, the Anasazi were students of the stars and celestial bodies.  They believed everything in their world was made by a great creator and their gods were generally related to nature – the Rain God, the Sun God, and Mother Nature.  The priests were the most important members of the tribe, defining and enforcing religious laws.  Older males were “headmen” or tribal leaders.  A ‘Kiva’ was a congregational space mostly used for ceremonies.  Before pueblos became the norm, residential dugouts or caves, underground, helped sustain them in a climate that could be astoundingly hot in summer and freezing cold in winter. 

We regrouped to prepare for a new assault on the cave. Our group of four became five with the addition of Dr. Manning.  Our vehicular needs were supplied by two Jeeps with four-wheel drive.  We gathered what tools we could anticipate needing at the cave, and food and personal supplies for the cabin.  With sufficient supplies, we could stay “out of sight – out of mind” to the townspeople.  We impressed on the rancher the need for secrecy, which he was happy for in order to limit excursions onto the ranch lands.  If anyone asked what’s going on he would reply “Just a bunch of crazy cave weirdos. They probably think they’ll find their way to Carlsbad.”

On our first trip into the cave, we set up some battery-powered lights in the room we had previously found, intent on finding whether indeed the rock slab hid a tunnel or portal leading to other underground rooms.  Carefully removing dirt and chipping around the perimeter of the slab, we determined that it seemed quite apparently to be a separate piece, carefully fitted into a matching “vacancy” painstakingly cut out for that purpose. But how was the slab fitted into the wall with such close tolerances, and how might it be removed? There was no apparent doorknob.  If this were a moveable ‘door,’ someone with a lot of knowledge and even more patience, must have designed it.

After setting up housekeeping at the cabin we had spent the better part of two days without finding out more.  Our two professionals, the spelunker and the archeologist, suggested that we look for evidence of either another entrance to whatever is behind the slab or evidence of a way to move the slab.  All five of us are pretty big guys, not all our muscle is between the ears.  It was a struggle but we began moving rocks and boulders seeking another passageway.  On the second day, we found an opening leading to another tunnel which appeared to roughly parallel our hidden room (if there were such). Continually searching the rockface we found about seven feet above ‘floor level’ a small opening, which did not appear to be deep, but just a couple feet across and 18” inches deep.  Moving a boulder over in order to see into that space, Dr. Manning stepped up and with a shout of alacrity said, “we’ve found it.”  Just barely within reach was an iron rod or bar with a handle-like bend, projecting from the rockface.  We discussed or debated whether we should attempt to pull on it, or what purpose or function it served.  Dr. Manning proposed that after coming this far, and what we’ve found so far, “I’m not leaving here without knowing.”  We chose two of us (Ray and Denny) to retreat partway back along the string trail “just in case we cause an avalanche,” someone can tell the story.  

Dr. Grant, Dr. Manning and I stayed in place. After giving the other two guys fifteen minutes to be out of danger, we three played rock, paper, and scissors for the privilege of pulling the rod.  Winning the privilege, I climbed up on a rock where I could reach and pull with more leverage.  I grasped the end that had been fashioned as a handle and started pulling gently at first. Nothing moved. I pulled harder and tried giving the rod a little twisting motion.  Still, nothing moved; I twisted and pulled more vigorously!  Suddenly I felt a slight movement; I twisted and pulled even harder; the rod began to be pulled out of the rockface!  As the rod came loose from the rockface a screeching, grinding noise emanated from the main room.  Fearing the possibility of a rockslide or cave-in we rushed to the main room.   As we rounded the corner we stopped in total amazement!  The slab was in fact a door, and it was opening as if under its own power!  We stood, with mouths undoubtedly agape, for what seemed several minutes as the door swung completely open.  Looking through the portal into this newly opened room we could see it was furnished somewhat like the kivas we had seen in Pueblo culture.  On the far side was what appeared to be a polished stone table, likely an altar, on which a body lay.  We approached the altar hesitantly; as we got closer we could see it was the naked body of a man.  It became immediately apparent from pictures we had seen that this was the body of the cowboy, Hank, who had disappeared years ago.

As we reached the table or altar, the material body remained lying there but an identical but ethereal body rose to speak with us!   “Boys,” he said, “I’m so glad you have found me. It seems I’ve been here right nigh two weeks! They’ve taken my clothes, and with all the hocus pocus going on I’m thinking they’ve taken my soul.”

Dr. Manning responded: “Hank, I’m Dr. Manning, an archeologist. I’ve studied, researched, and chased dead ends and rabbit trails for over forty years, specializing in Indian lore and practices. I’m reluctant to be the one who must tell you; You’ve been here not two weeks or two years but for over two decades.  And yes, for you to have survived this long means ‘they’ have taken your soul. We don’t know who ‘they’ are, or what’s going on but ‘they’ are keeping you alive but separated from your soul for their own purposes.  The fact that they’ve let us in, and let us find you, may suggest they have finished their purpose.  We’re going to try to get you out.”

Dr. Manning got a light tarp from our supplies, telling me we would lay Hank’s body on it and take him out, hoping the unseen ‘they’ would permit his soul to return to his body.  As we started to lift Hank’s body (as it appeared to us), it was as if the body was just air or smoke.  Our hands came up empty, and his body just slowly evaporated. Our poignant dismay at losing Hank, our total shock at seeing it happen as it did, were palpable.  Dr. Manning said, “we need to get out of here.”  As we were about to leave, I expressed an engineer’s wish to see how that slab in the portal worked, what kind of mechanical genius existed in that era.  Dr. Manning said we’ll come back when we can.

On reaching the surface we loaded our gear in the Jeeps and signaled Ray and Denny to follow us.  We had almost reached the highway when we felt an underground rumble which grew stronger as we drove.  Looking back, we could see rocks and boulders tumbling and being thrown about.  Had we stayed to examine the portal we would have been entombed.  As we watched we knew we would never again be able to enter that portal.

2832  words

© Lee Weaver

November 2023

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