|In mid-April, Linda and I made a special trip into
Airmen’s. I was taking the University’s beginning Photojournalism
with J.B. Colson and had to do a feature assignment. I had been in touch
with Dixie Shipp, a reporter for the Austin American-Statesman, who
wanted to do a story on spelunking. So, us nice guys agreed to take Dixie
caving in Airmen’s. Skip Choate and Chuck Carpenter, both airmen who worked
for me in the 91st Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron’s photo processing
lab, Bill, Linda and myself met Dixie at the entrance. Skip was already well
his way to becoming an entomologist and he and Chuck made several more trips
with us to this cave. Skip collected and studied the cave life in the Big
The only problem this time was that Dixie proved to be a bit large in the backside. She could not believe she could fit through the narrow entrance, and abandoned her plan to accompany us. The rest of us went ahead anyway and I took a whole series of black-and-white photos for publication. I used the pictures for my course assignment, but the American-Statesman never ran the story.
That was almost the end of Linda’s and my connection to Airmen’s. We made at least two more trips into the cave, getting into Sherwood Forest (I forget who named that place) and into the narrow passage beyond where we found scratch marks and scats from raccoons! I was getting out of the Air Force at the end of June, and we planned to leave immediately for Colorado. I made copies of my survey data and drawings and turned over my huge composite map of the cave to Bill, who promised to finish the work (which he did—bless his heart—although somehow the name changed from the plural to the singular in the process).
As I remember, Airmen’s was not that hard until one reached Karen’s Crawl. The floor there was covered with little knobs that tortured one’s knees right through knee pads. We brutally broke those suckers off in order to make the passage a bit deeper and reduce the pain. Sherwood Forest with its open, level floor (but low ceiling) was a relief. We were in Airmen’s so often that April and May (with a break to hit the Gaudalupes) that we knew every move, and could reach the end of the walking passage in less than half-an-hour. I do not think it took us more than two hours to reach Sherwood Forest.
I cannot say much more about Airmen’s beyond that point. We knew that we were not at an end, but that the passage got worse. In later correspondence with Bill, he told me that he or others had reached an end. I understand that the cave has nearly 4000 meters of passage and is the 6th or 7th longest cave in Texas. Good show! Glad to read that all our work in 1971 is still being enjoyed by others.
Airmen Chuck Carpenter and Skip Choate looking for bugs in the "Big Room."
|Linda carrying ammo can for camera equipment moves deeper into cave followed by Chuck and Skip.|
|Bill Russell mapping in one of the more generous spaces of William’s Maze.||Bill Russell mapping in the Walking Passage. He is using my compass and notebook. Note the crack in the ceiling. This is a feature of the entire length of the cave.|
|All text and images are copyright 2004 Michael Wescott
Loder. Publication or use without permission of the copyright owner is prohibited.
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