Carlsbad Caverns, New Mexico. January 1982


It was hot and dry and the sun was blinding. We had been riding in the white station wagon across the New Mexican desert like a moth flickering in a mirage. The red burnt mountain range and scrubby chaparral flickered by the car window and the white clouds billowed against the blue sky that never ended.

We were finally there. Our field trip.

The tires crunched over the gravel rocks and rolled to a halt. The air conditioned wagon was a cocoon against the elements, but I wanted to stretch my legs. Plus the car was crammed now with me and my sister and mother and now she had the Indian Lady in the front seat holding an infant and her two kids plus my orange tabby cat, Picky Picky and our puffy white terrier dog Sugar. Picky purred on my lap but I put him in the far back on the blankets back there that was our bed. We were going on an adventure.

Terry and Kenny and my other two sisters were in the moving truck and they were ready to explore.

Mom said she and her new Indian friend with the baby were going to wait in the car because she had just had a baby and wasn’t up for a walking trip into the caverns and they would stay in the wagon and talk and keep the A/C on for Picky Picky and our dog Sugar.

We went in with our tour guide, the Arizona Man who was really excited and started rambling about how old the caverns were and the area was sacred and this entire place used to be under the ocean.

We filed down with the other tourists into the winding trail into the yawn of the mountain and down and down into the hole that looked like a gaping mouth ready to gobble us up.

We went into the darkness with the other tourists and it got cooler and dark, a vampire’s lair waiting for the day’s new catch.

The jagged spikes were razor sharp icilcle teeth out of a folktale, glittering with their shadows throwing long dark shadowy spikes against the walls with the underground lights, they were ready to eat naughty children and trap them down there forever.

We had a real tour guide who spoke about the differences between a stalactite hanging from the ceiling like white bats and a stalagmites which grew up out of the ground like ghosts rising from the dead.

The Arizona Man whispered to us as we stood there, learning about this ancient cave which gobbled up tourists daily.

We were in the mouth of the Devil.

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