The Cave




"I want to go to the Museum of the American Quilter's Society in Paducah next spring," my Darling Wife said just after breakfast this morning.

"We went last year," I said.

"We can go again next spring. I liked Kentucky."

"You liked all the quilts there," I said.

"There were other things besides quilts," she said.

"All right," I said. Spring was still six months away, so I was safe for awhile.

"We can visit the cave again, too," she added.

The cave. I thought about our trip last year to Kentucky and the cave and quilts. It always got back to quilts.


"Do you think the people who lived here two or three thousand years ago had quilting?"

"Probably not," I said.

"That's too bad."

"Why is that too bad?"

"They could have decorated the cave," she said.

"With flowers and plants?"

"With quilts. Look at how much wall space there is here," she said.

"There is a lot of wall space," I agreed. We were in Mammoth Cave in Kentucky. Along with eighteen others, we were being guided through the cave. We were on the Historic Tour, and the National Park Ranger was telling us about the people who had lived in the cave from 3000 to 1000 B.C.E.

"The cave remains at a constant temperature between 50 and 60 degrees," the ranger told us.

"Quilts with appliqué would help," DW said.

"Are you cold?"

"No, I was thinking about the people who lived here more recently. The miners, too, who worked here. They would have been cold in here mining the potassium nitrate." We had just been told about the need for explosives during the War of 1812 and the demand for saltpeter to make those explosives.

"They probably had quilts at home," I said.

"They had to quilt by hand," she said.

"The miners?"

"Their wives."

"I don't think they were in the cave," I said.

"I didn't say the wives were in the cave. They probably stayed home and quilted all day until their husbands came home all dirty."

"You think the dirty miners needed to have wall hangings?"

"I never quilted by hand," she said, paying my question no attention.

"You have a sewing machine," I said.

"But my design wall is so small," she said.


"The roof of the cave is higher than any house. Think about what a great design wall I could have in here."

"You'd need a ladder," I said. I looked at one wall of the cave that reached almost out of sight.

"You could make me a ladder. There are a lot of trees in the park outside."

"You'd want me to chop down trees in a national park to make you a ladder to hang your quilts on a cave design wall?"

"You can't chop down trees in a park. You could use the wood from old trees that fell down or branches that broke off in a storm.

"All right," I said, "if we ever move to a cave so you can have a huge design wall, I'll make you a ladder." Why not?

The ranger turned on her flashlight then and aimed it toward the roof of the cave. "You can see the bats there," the ranger said, and we all looked up to see small bats hanging from the top of the cave.

"I wonder if someone has a bat pattern," DW said.


"The bats are so cute. I'll have to get a bat pattern to make a quilt," she said.

"You have bats in the cave you call your skull," I said. But the bats on the roof the cave were cute.

"Maybe I'll make a quilt of a cave with lots of bats in it," she said.

"A mammoth quilt?" I asked.

"I'll have to use lots of fabric," she said. "It is a big cave."

We continued our tour and soon had to wiggle through Fat Man's Misery, a passage in the cave which demanded a very deep breath and a tight squeeze. Darling Wife, skinny as low-loft batting, passed through easily. I, who had learned to finish my meals because my mother had told me in childhood that there were people starving overseas, had to be pulled through by her strong hands.

"I like all this walking and climbing," she said. I rubbed my sore hips and waited a moment for her to add something about needing to buy fabric the color of the bats or the color of the cave floor or the colors of the ranger's uniform, but she was unusually quiet, taking it all in.

"So, you're glad you came to see the cave?" I asked finally.

"Of course, It's given me lots of ideas."

"Ideas about quilting?" If I had ever expected that our trip into the depths of Kentucky's Mammoth Cave would make her forget quilting for a moment, I had sadly underestimated the workings of her mind.

"Ideas about how to decorate all the walls in this cave," she said.

"And what about the cave itself? What about its history?" Obviously, we were having parallel conversations.

"The cave is big," she said. "It would hold a lot of stash if we put shelves in."

"It's a national park," I said. "I don't think stash is allowed in here."

"It's nice anyway."

"So you like being here in the grip of Nature's wonders?"

"Of course. It's wonderful to be here," she said. "This whole trip makes me glad to be able to take my mind away from quilting for awhile and have time to just relax and just think about nature."

"Me, too," I said. I wasn't thinking about quilting at all.

Copyright 1999 by A.B. Silver

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