On 11/3/2021 Bill Gee and I drove to the Carroll Cave silo for a planned workday with Cliff Gill to finish moving lumber from the schoolhouse to the silo. 

Before starting on the schoolhouse clean out project, we searched through the grass around the silo for the tree seedlings Bill and Rita Worden had planted last year. We found 22 cedars, 2 bald cypress, and 2 oaks. We placed six or so plastic shingles around the base of each tree to make it easier to locate and care for in the future.

We checked the oil level in the red lawn mower. It had been turned upside down by the cattle, and we thought it might have leaked out all of the engine oil. As it turns out, it still had almost a full crankcase.

During a prior conversation with Ben Royal, the current owner of the schoolhouse, he mentioned that several cedar beams he had stored in the schoolhouse were missing. Bill and I found the missing cedar beams stacked with our lumber by the silo. We loaded them in the truck and returned them to the schoolhouse.

Bill and I started loading the longer lumber. Cliff Gill soon joined us at the schoolhouse, bringing the work crew to three. We loaded 20’ 2x6s into my 6.5’ truck bed. Then we added shorter lumber and several concrete blocks to move the center of gravity just forward of the tailgate, for the slow trip back to the silo with Cliff’s additional mass on the top of the blocks. While Bill and Cliff were working on a second load I borrowed Cliff’s truck and made a run to the Montreal Quick Stop to get a lighter to start a fire (where are the smokers when you need one) and a sandwich to go. Back at the schoolhouse we started burning the lumber that we deemed not worth hauling back to the silo. This quickly grew to a huge fire. Cliff and I left Bill there to tend the fire while we returned to the silo to unload the second and last load.

The combo lock on the silo was difficult to open last weekend for Bill’s Carroll trip. When we first arrived Bill and I each tried the combo and could not get the lock to open! We were making plans to have the next trip leader come prepared with bolt cutters and a hack saw. When Cliff and I returned with the second load of lumber I brought a large hammer and a crowbar to persuade the lock to open. After much hammering and prying, I was about to give up and then on the last try the lock opened up like there was no problem. Once inside the silo I filled the lock with penetrating oil and tested and retested with no sign of a problem. We relocked the silo with the lubricated lock. I would still advise the next cavers to come prepared to open the lock the hard way.

After unloading and stacking the second and final load of lumber we moved my trailer with the load of sheet metal roofing that Jeff Page and I had delivered in June, near the lumber. Previously I had covered the lumber with tarps but in the past year they had disintegrated. Hopefully the roofing will work better. We weighted it down with the concrete blocks, wood beams, steel fence posts and rolls of wire. We’ll see how it fairs with the north winds and the longhorns. We loaded the two dead lawn mowers into the truck. Bill Gee will take them for disposal as scrap metal.

We did a little final cleanup around the schoolhouse before Cliff departed. While Bill stayed to again tend the fire I went over to visit our neighbor Rusty Clark. I wanted to bring him up to date on the CCC business and he had said he wanted to talk to me. Rusty will close on 52 acres that surround our six acres on three sides which he had been leasing with an option to purchase. Rusty suggested that we might want to trade our current six acres for six acres that would include the path from the silo to the gate on Mill Creek Road. He wants to get our land closer to the fence and out of the ground he hays. If we are willing to go with a longer skinnier rectangle, we might be able to get him to include cave-rights under the rest of his land in the deal and maybe even a fence around a smaller silo camping area. I will draft a potential layout on AutoCAD and review it with him next week.

Next, back to the schoolhouse to pick up Bill and my trailer. Our next stop was at Greg Fry’s house to talk about a cave rights donation but he was not home so that will wait until the next trip. Our final stop was a Mexican dinner in Clinton before the drive home.

Submitted by Rick Hines