and the Cave
“What’s a police car doing at our house?”
Shiloh, my golden retriever, answered the
question by looking up at me with liquid brown eyes, as if to say he
didn’t have a clue. He must have been curious though, because he dashed
up the long driveway ahead of me. I ran after him, and we both burst into the house through the
laundry room door.
Dad was in the kitchen talking to his
policeman friend, Sergeant O'Guin. “What’s going on?” I asked, out of
“Not now, Jenn,” he said, obviously
brushing me off.
When I walked into the family room, I
sitting on one of the couches, crying her eyes out. I sat down
“What’s wrong, Mom? What happened?”
She wiped her eyes with a damp tissue,
smiled a little and patted my cheek. “Everything’s fine, Jenny, just
fine. There’s nothing for you to worry about.” Then, she buried her face
in her hands and started to cry all over again.
“I’m a member of this family too, Mom,
and I have a right to know why Dad is talking to Sergeant O’Guin and why
Mom’s tears stopped, probably because she
was shocked at my outburst. But, I wanted her to understand that I
needed to be included in family problems, not shielded and protected
like a child.
The telephone rang then, and she answered
it. So, I still didn’t know what was wrong. What I did know, though, was
that it had something to do with my brother, Austin, who is a freshman
at Colorado State University. I knew this because Sergeant O’Guin
mentioned Austin’s name. Austin obviously wasn’t hurt, or we’d be
hauling up to Fort Collins. I just hoped he wasn’t in some kind of
Hearing a knock on the laundry room door,
I went to open it. Our neighbor, Mrs. Knapp, stepped inside.
“Is everything okay?” she asked, a
worried expression on her face.
“No. It’s not, but no one will tell me
what’s wrong,” I complained.
Treating me like Mom had, she patted my
arm, after which she walked toward the family room to sit with Mom.
I called to Shiloh, my best buddy, and walked out onto the back deck.
Shiloh grabbed a grubby tennis ball and
gazed up at me hopefully.
“Not now,” I said and rubbed his blond
head. He sat on his haunches, looking so pitiful that I took the slimy
ball out of his mouth and launched it up the hill for him to chase.
Instead of waiting for him to bring it to me, I followed him. I needed
to get away from all the drama going on inside my house, especially
since no one would include me.
Shiloh loped toward me and tried to drop
the ball—now slimy and covered in pine bark—into my hand.
Ignoring the ball, I scratched his ears. “Come on, boy.” I headed for
the back fence and the black metal gate that opens onto the property
behind our house.
“Sixty acres of prime, forested land,”
Dad says often. “Wish we had the money to buy it.”
“What would you do with it?” Mom always
“Nothing,” Dad usually remarks dreamily.
“Not a darn thing, just enjoy it. The wildlife is getting pushed out of
Franktown with all the development. I’d leave the property wild like it
is.” Wild, Dad calls it.
While lifting the gate latch so Shiloh
could run through, the property appeared anything but wild to me. The
rolling hills and hundred-foot ponderosa pines lazed sleepily in the
late September sun. However, I knew coyote and deer lived on the
property, along with great horned owls and red-tailed hawks with their
huge nests high in the ponderosas.
Prickly yuccas and tall, dry grasses
grabbed at my jeans while I ran after Shiloh across the open meadow.
When I reached the bottom of a low hill, I pulled a red fall leaf
off a scrub oak. Some of the clumps of oak looked as if they were on
fire, while others resembled spun gold. I wondered why they were so
Spotting a squirrel, Shiloh raced off
after it. Tennis balls, rabbits and squirrels. With Shiloh, it doesn’t
matter which one, he chases all of them. But, I love to watch him run;
he looks so regal.
I continued to follow him past the old
Franktown Cemetery. When I reached the top of a rocky hill, I saw the
squirrel dart into a cave with Shiloh right behind it.
“No, Shiloh!” I yelled, but he didn’t pay
any attention to me, which he generally doesn’t when he’s in hot
I ran up to the entrance of the sandstone
cave, the opening not much higher than my five-foot-four height. I
peered inside. “Shiloh, come back!” It occurred
to me then that I had never seen this cave before, even though my
brother and I have roamed the woods for years.
No sound came from the interior. All I could
hear was the wind behind me sighing through the pines. A little nervous, I
took a tentative step. “Shiloh,” I
called in a softer voice. It seemed appropriate not to shout. Still, I heard nothing.
Where was Shiloh? Surely, he wasn't lost. His nose, I knew, would lead him back when he
grew tired of
chasing the squirrel. Yet, I really needed to find him. It was almost
six o’clock and would be dark soon. That meant coyote! As soon as the
sun set, I knew the coyote would start their nightly chorus of screaming, howling and roaming around looking for dinner. I didn’t think they
would bother me, but I didn’t want Shiloh to get cornered by a pack of
The deeper I crept into the cave, the
higher the ceiling became, but it also grew darker. I needed a
flashlight, and I needed help finding Shiloh, so I turned around,
retracing my steps, and ran toward home.
When I arrived, Mrs. Knapp and the
policeman were gone. I found Dad on the phone in his study and Mom lying down in their bedroom.
“Shiloh’s disappeared. He ran into a
cave, and I can’t find him,” I told Dad as I walked into his study and
up to his polished cherry wood desk. He glanced over at me, his forehead
wrinkled in concentration and his eyes bloodshot. “Not now, Jenny,” he
whispered, holding his hand over the mouthpiece of the phone.
“Parents!” I mumbled as I stalked out of
his office and went to the kitchen. There, I pulled open the drawer
where the flashlights are kept. I grabbed one and headed out the back
door again. I’d find Shiloh by myself.
Returning to the cave, I called again for
my dog. Still, no sound came from inside. I switched on the flashlight
and directed the light around the walls. The beam caught and reflected
in two red eyes staring up at me. “Shiloh!” He bounded toward me and
sat down. When I knelt beside him, he licked my face. However, a second
later, he jumped up before I could grab him and disappeared farther into the cave. “No, boy!
Come back!” I shouted. That dog!
What choice did I have but to follow him,
whether I wanted to or not? I pointed the light toward the inner cave so
I could find my way, when something flashed, like the sun reflecting off
a car window. Wonder what that is? I thought. I stepped over
jagged rock, which jutted out of the floor, and held onto the cold, hard
wall for support.
The cave soon angled to the left. Would
I get lost? Starting to feel a little scared, I told myself that so far
there had been only one way to go, so I couldn’t get lost. It wasn’t
like there were several different passages that I could take. So, I
continued with the turn. In the distance, I heard scratching and
barking. It sounded as if Shiloh was still chasing something. Surely,
the squirrel was long gone by now. Moving deeper into the cave, I
shivered, as the temperature fell.
“Shiloh!” I shouted. “Shiloh, come!”
The tunnel then veered to the right, and
there in front of me was a large room—a large cave room. When I stepped
into it and flashed the light around, the walls sparkled…red and
yellow. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing! The cavern
was as wide as our house yet only about half as tall. I scanned the area
and spotted several openings off the giant room with lights coming from
them, each a different color: blue, purple and orange.
From the room with the blue light, I
heard water crashing down. More curious than scared, I followed a
smooth rock path around a large circular area in the middle of the
central room. Inside the circle was dirt—dark brown and loamy—similar
to the topsoil Dad uses in our flower beds. Out of the corner of my eye,
I thought I saw the dirt moving. I jerked my head around, and, yes, the
soil appeared to be breathing. This couldn’t be real! I knew I was
probably asleep now and only dreaming, so I wasn’t afraid. I would wake
up any minute.
Leaving the strange dirt behind, I
started toward the room with the blue light coming from it. A
waterfall…inside a cave? Sure enough, a waterfall gushed over a rocky
ledge about twenty feet high. It thundered deafeningly into a large
pool. The blue light, I saw, hovered over the pool like a cool mist.
Again, a circular area filled with breathing dirt occupied the middle of
this cave room. The blue mist drifted from the pool and dripped bits of
water into the soil. With each drop, the dirt sucked up the water
instantly. Now I knew I was dreaming! Things were becoming too weird! I
needed to find Shiloh and head for home. But, where was he?
As if he could read my mind, I spotted
Shiloh watching me from under the waterfall. He barked when he saw me.
At least he appeared to be barking. I couldn’t hear anything with the
water crashing down. He turned and leaped through an
opening with a different color of light coming from it. This time the
light was purple.
“Shiloh!” I called. Knowing he probably
couldn’t hear me, I followed him behind the waterfall—hugging the wall
to keep from being soaked—and climbed over slippery red rocks to reach
the opening he had gone through. When I reached the opening, wet and
cold, I was greeted by warm air that felt like the ocean breeze I
remembered from Florida a couple of months
earlier. The air felt so good, I stood there for a few minutes to dry
off and warm up before I entered the next cave room.
Smaller than the other two cave rooms,
this room appeared about the size of my bedroom, and the purple light
seemed to radiate from the ceiling like rays from the sun. The light
shone on another patch of dark, breathing dirt, which took
up most of the area. Yet, this dirt was different. In it were trees,
tiny pine trees, which ranged in size from an inch or so to
almost a foot tall. A living, breathing tree nursery! In a cave? No way
this was real!
On the other side of the pine tree
nursery, I spotted another opening, yet it had no light coming from it.
I rounded the tiny trees and looked through the opening down a long,
straight tunnel. At the end of it, I could see daylight. Yes!
Shiloh must have gone out that way, and we could make it home before
dark. I followed the tunnel. Soon, I came to a set of steps carved
into the stone. I could see bright daylight at the top, although by now
it must be way past six.
Shiloh, I saw, was sitting on the top
step and looking down at me. He barked and dashed off again. That dog
is going to drive me crazy!
“Shiloh!” I shouted, running up the
steps. He must want me to keep following him, I realized, so I did.
Needless to say, I wasn’t going home without him. Everyone at home was
already upset, and I didn’t want to make matters worse.
Reaching the top, I stepped out onto the
ground. Surprised, I found myself standing in the middle of a huge tree
farm. Rows of three-foot-tall trees─pine, aspen, oak, cherry, maple and
ash, according to the markers─stretched out in front of me as far as I
could see. These kinds of trees, except the pines, weren’t on the
property behind my house. Where was I?
Turning, my mouth dropped open. I rubbed
my eyes and opened them again. Nothing changed. In front of me, I still
saw a dirt path winding down a hill to a lake with a rowboat tied to a
dock. Beyond the lake, which I had never seen on this property before,
stood yet more trees for what seemed like miles. These were tall,
blooming fruit trees. In September? Pink, white, red and even blue and
purple flowers covered the trees.
Shiloh trotted along the dirt path around
the left side of the lake. I sprinted after him. If this was a dream, it
was a beautiful one, and I didn’t want to wake up now and face whatever
disaster was going on at my house. The warm wind
finished drying my clothes and hair as I ran. Overhead, the sun moved
from behind a giant, billowing, white cloud and was directly overhead,
not edging toward the west as it should have been in the late afternoon.
And, it felt like summertime, not fall.
It was then that I spotted something on
the other side of the lake in an opening in the trees about the size of
my backyard. It was a hut of some sort. The walls were made of gray
stone, and the black roof appeared to be slate. A
black metal chimney puffed white smoke into the warm air, which drifted
upward and into the clouds. Beyond the trees, I spotted the familiar
Rocky Mountains in the distance, so I couldn’t be too far from home.
I rounded the lake in time to see Shiloh
dart into the open weathered-gray wooden door of the tiny hut.
Following him and wishing I had brought his leash, I walked up to the
door and knocked. No one answered so I called for Shiloh, who came out
and again sat in front of me. “Come on boy. We need to go home.”
He pawed my leg, jumped up and trotted
back inside. I knocked a second time. Still no one answered, so I went
in after him.
“Shiloh! Come!” I called, now really
annoyed with him, but the words died in my throat.
I couldn’t believe what I was seeing!
Inside, the hut was actually a house, almost as big as our house. The
entrance stretched across a hall to a family room. Looking through it, I
could see out a wall of windows with a view of the lake, which circled
around behind the house with trees beyond and the mountains beyond that.
In front of the windows were shiny,
wooden chairs with backs and seats made of what appeared to be
snowy-white fleece and a couch made of some sort of leaf-green,
wool-like material. They formed a semi-circle in front of a tall,
arched, stone fireplace, which was easily big enough for me to walk into
it. The walls, I noticed as I gazed around the room, were made of
smooth, pale stone and the floors were a reddish wood. Brightly colored
Indian rugs lay scattered around the floor.
“Ah, it’s you,” someone said quietly.