True or not, the details of the story are fairly concrete.
Decades ago, Cadiz handyman Duncan McBride entered a cave from the east bluff of downtown Cadiz. He didn’t just bring a lantern with him, however — he also allegedly hauled in a lot of lumber.
McBride supposedly used his woodworking skills to craft a boat, which he rowed on a subterranean lake beneath the courthouse. McBride famously clanked on a pipe from the memorial fountain that siphoned off water from the lake, announcing his feat to those above ground.
Or so the story goes.
“A story can’t be told without it growing just a little bit,” said Russell Kyler. Kyler, a bridge architect, is a life-long caver. As a child living in downtown Cadiz, he spent much of his youth looking for the entrance McBride would’ve used.
That there was a mouth to the cave along the east bluff doesn’t appear to be in question. Indeed, many residents can remember it from their youths. Now, however, it can’t seem to be located.
With the amount of anecdotal evidence supporting the existence of at least a cave under downtown Cadiz, if not a navigable lake, several mayors have tried to locate it, hoping to bring in tourism.
“I said, ‘We’re gonna find that sucker,’” said Mayor Lyn Bailey of his determination to find the cave when he first took office.
With a resident who could remember the cave from his youth as their guide, Bailey said a backhoe was used to excavate around the bluff.
“You couldn’t find a hole big enough for a rabbit,” he said of the results.
His befuddled guide attempted to make an explanation.
“Why, I guess it changes after 40 years,” he said.
Kyler, a member of the National Speleological Society, also consulted with Bailey on the failed search. He suspects that the digging wasn’t done deep enough.
The befuddled guide was right that the topography could’ve changed over several decades. Caves are, in effect, alive — formations grow as minerals are deposited on stalactites and stalagmites and cavernous rooms are formed in this region as limestone actually dissolves (limestone being water-soluble).
Their growth, however, can also stop.
“They all do eventually fall in,” Kyler said, noting that indications of this are numerous in this region of the country. For example, sinkholes are often formed when a cavern’s roof collapses. The depressions then grow as water carries away soil through a resulting hole.
Trigg County is part of what’s known as a karstic region — an area whose land is predominantly made of limestone and its associated characteristics, like sinkholes, underground streams and caverns.
For that reason, Kyler said it would be more surprising if there was not a cave beneath the courthouse.
“A lot of things indicate that its there,” he said, adding that the tiny holes that so disappointed Mayor Bailey may be a good sign.
“I honestly believe they all lead to what we’ve been looking for,” he said.
For the rest of this story, please see this week's edition of The Cadiz Record.