Swimming for Diamonds
Nov. 8, 2003
by Brad Ricks
So sure, I haven’t been caving in a year. But you see, I was president of the cave club, so as tradition has it, I shouldn’t be caving at all, whatsoever.
Back in 2002, I graduated the fine institution of JMU, after 4 rip-roaring years of MUSG, involving such memorable events as cows, ambulances, and TV-3 news crews at 3-D cave, an amazing week at NSS convention, caving EVERY Thursday night for a full year straight, swimming in Switzer Lake in the snow, and to top it all off, seeing about $5,000 worth of caving gear slowly disappear.
But anyway, that has nothing to do with Aqua. So on to aqua. that cave is cold. Its real cold. Its the kind of cold that makes reindeer pee on themselves, and makes Santa put an elf in his suit. So, I pull up to Aqua round noon. I left from Charlottesville, and there was no Mr. J’s there, but I ate a bagel anyway, cuz I just plain had to. When we get there, guess who pulls up, but MUSG. I see an Iowa plate. I had no idea who would drive an Iowa plate from MUSG, and I didn’t know for sure that it was MUSG. But I knew when I saw them. I knew cuz I saw cotton coveralls, and some of the dirtiest Petzl helmets on earth. I was amazed. Suddenly it was like the good old days of going caving again. My heart leaped for joy. Jared got mad at me cuz I didn’t call him Jared. I called him “HEY!” But I knew it was Jared. But he didn’t think so. So he kicked a rock at me and called me a sissy-boy. I was happy to see Jared. Jared made me want to cave even more. Man, I missed caving.
My plan this day was to go to Aqua with my girlfriend. Something that no sensible caver would do, cuz we all know that you just don’t cave with less than 3 people. Its like a butt a foot and a hand. I was going to cave with only a butt and a foot. And that just isn’t stable. I asked the MUSGers “Y’all goin’ to Aqua!?” “No, Sissy-boy” they replied. “Marshalls – Aqua is for whimps, and it makes my skin turn a funny color when it shrivels up like that.”
Then came the fateful insist, “COME TO MARSHALLS WITH US!”
I was amazed. My heart lept for joy. I love MUSG. To cave with them again, in one of my favorite caves, would be a dream come true.
“NO WAY, YOU JERKS” I replied.
You see, I had other plans. But I’ll get to that. So MUSG went to Marshalls. X-MUSG and his girlfriend went to Aqua. The water in Aqua was high. Real high. The kind of high that would make a fish feel claustrophobic. I ventured into the entrance, pushing my bag of cave-goods and clothes ahead of me. It wouldn’t fit. After distributing goods with girlfriend, and squeezing bag into smallest diameter, attempt number two, with largely submerged bag, worked! I walked, barely breathing, with water up to neck for the shore.
To my dismay, there was no sure. I walked to the right looking for dry ground, and found none.
This cave was wet. REAL WET. The kind of wet you get when Aunt Bertha cannonballs into the backyard above-ground pool.
Then girlfriend (who we’ll call “Kathleen”) enters cave. She comes right for me. If you know Aqua, you know that the water is deeper on the right. Yup. She couldnt walk, and the numbness set in to the point that she (though a “swimmer”) couldn’t swim. I nabbed her and we caved on. And on and on and on. Found way more cave than I’d ever found before. And I’m not talking about “big brother”. A few hours and a few wrong turns later, we made it back out. I hoped the water would be down more by then. No way Jose. It was high. It was tight. Had to dunk half of face into the water to squeeze out.
Outside the cave, Kathleen had no change of clothes. So in long johns and a towel, we headed for the car. “Long johns…that’s gotta be cold out here” I thought, cuz it was dag-gone cold outside. “I’ll risk it anyway” says me. “Let’s go run back down to the river for a bit first” I say. (shivering) “You got it” says Kat (who we were calling “Kathleen” but we now simplified to “Kat” for simplicity.) MUSG car hadn’t left yet. Still Iowa in lot.
On suspension bridge, I dropped to right knee. Popped the question. Ring in hand (left it precariously outside of Aqua for the day). Yup, We’re gettin’ hitched.
How bout that! Go MUSG.