I remember playing on the side of the hill behind my grandparents’ house and finding holes in the ravines that were dug by my father and his brothers, or possibly one of my older cousins. I even dug some myself, more like ditches covered with boards and dirt for a hiding place.
There is a strange pleasure in getting dirty and covered in mud, without having to worry about keeping clean. A good friend of mine loved wearing white coveralls, which of course didn’t stay white for long in the cave. There is also something about crawling that seems nice.
Knowing a cave can be quite a reward. When you are able to find your way, and even share with others about where and how you got to a special place.
Ask anyone who caves why they go to caves, and they will have a hard time finding an answer. They can tell you what they do in the caves, but not why they do it. After years of visiting familiar caves, I started looking for more reasons to go into the dark holes in the ground. The mapping piqued my interest. We were talking about mapping and creating computer programs to map out caves as we went to and from caves in Tennessee, Alabama, and Georgia. I slowly developed a program to plot and draw the cave passages, first on an Apple computer we had at work and then improved on it using Visual Basic on my personal computer at home. I even sold copies at caving events, but now I give them away on my website.
The caves were sometimes used as social gathering places. Big Dan Cave, also called Deaton’s Cave, in Georgia has a long and dark past. A prehistoric tortoise carved from stone was discovered in the 1950s when someone first tried to turn the cave into a recreation area. After a few dances they had a shootout and shut it down. The cave property was sold by the Deaton family.
Ray Landrum bought the cave in 1950 for $500. Landrum built a ballroom at the entrance to the cave in the late 1960s. Bands played on the concrete platform and square dances were held on the floor below. Landrum built a building at the entrance to the cavern out of empty beer cans. He also built a souvenir shop in the cave and a residence above the entrance. A fire burned down the driveway and Mr. Landrum walked away. The spring was also enclosed by Mr. Landrum and was sold in 1970 for $50,000.
Deaton’s Cave was undoubtedly used as a refuge by the first Indians in the area; the concrete dance floor must cover many treasures from the past. The cave’s location above the Euharlee River (Indian name for “she laughs as she runs”) provided water and fish. Deaton’s Cave is now also known as Euharlee Creek Cave. Deaton’s Cave was one of my first mapping projects when I was learning how to create cave maps.