Hell’s Cauldron


As the rattler moves in for a second strike, Brandon’s hollering and jumping up and down ensures the snake will not turn away from its prey.  Although agile enough to avoid the first strike, Boots is now near the edge of the river and appearing confused.

Andy’s burst of speed comes with a perfect slide under the barbwire.  Up instantly, and disregarding the frantic pleas of her father and Buck, she readies her attack.  Rearing back her stick, she lunges, catching the rattler in the middle of its second attempt to bring down Boots.  Having caddied, Billy witnesses the best nine-iron shot ever.

Although Andy’s swing is more akin to a lacrosse player’s scoop and toss, the result is that of a golfer hitting a perfect 250-yard shot.  The snake sails through the air with no end in sight.  Propelled by her leap, Andy lands with a thud on the ledge surrounding Devil’s hole.  The sound of a thundering crack comes from years of rushing water eroding the ledge.  Immediately the swift current carries Andy down the waterfalls.

Fully aware of what he is doing, Billy slides under the fence from the opposite side.  Before Gus can holler, Billy plummets feet first into Devil’s Hole, expecting to hit an underground pool.  What happens next, he is not expecting.  A lava tube is draining the pool.  Before he can catch his breath, suction pulls him into a twisting, twirling torrent.  After banging hard against the sides a second time, Billy spreads his legs, jamming boots into the sides.  The action steadies and slows his descent.

To prevent additional water rushing up his nose, he clamps down hard with both hands.  While choking, he spits out what he can.  With little air left, scenes of his brief life flash before him.  Knowing he must remain calm stops his worrying and gives time for planning.  Recalling how often younger children have jumped off the high board but moved away quickly enough, brings concern.  I don’t want to hit Andy.

Pressing his boots harder, slows his descent more.  The ride now feels more like a plunge into the center of the earth.  Now recall has him remembering the time he, Ace, and Tina crawled through a lava tube near the Hawk River.  They turned back after the tube bent into a steep shaft.  Echoing some fifty feet below was rushing water.  That experience is now helping keep him calm.  He knows the ride will not last long.

In the next moment, he flies unceremoniously into a second pool.  Feeling the still rapid moment, he catches a quick breath.  Immediately the rushing water moves him onto what is best described as a slide.  This descent is more relaxing.  Forty feet later the momentum pushes him into a warm, water pool.  Although darkness prevents orienting himself, the quietness gives a moment’s peace as rushing water can only be heard in the distance.

Warmed and relaxing, he muses about being a lobster in a cooking pot.  To check out his theory, he drops his legs and pushes his body downward.  The lower water is hotter.  Rising quickly finds his swimming arm hitting something soft.  Panic from recall of granddaddy catfish and northerns under the Holland Falls dam has him rearing back his legs.  With knees tight against the chest, he is cocked and ready.  About to release brings another scenario.  “Andy!”

Searching frantically, he touches an arm.  Pulling her close and turning her face up leads to a cross-chest carry.  Swimming cross-current brings hope of reaching a shoreline


 Posted by at 5:41 pm