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About the Same Size As Your Brain

Dimples asked me to go to a birthday party with her yesterday. We are kind of hitting the stage where this doesn’t happen anymore; I just drop her off and enjoy a couple of hours to myself. But she wanted me to stay with her this time. And, even though I was going to have to pay to attend, and would lose some precious weekend free time, I agreed. I know that these moments are going to become less frequent in the future.

Also, the party was 35 miles away, and I didn’t want to waste the gas going back and forth twice.

The party was at a place right outside of San Antonio, Natural Bridge Caverns. It was one of the best birthday parties I’ve ever attended – including my own (one – at Dipper Dan’s in the mall) and all of the childhood one(s) to which I was ever invited. We got to tour the caves and the kids got bags of dirt to sift through to find gems.

And I learned two things:
Numero Uno.) The Texas Drought is worse than I thought. Note the following pictures.

Note the Depth of Emerald Lake

In September of 2010, the water level was at the top of the white layer.

Emerald "Lake" is now this puddle.

Deux.) I need to scratch “Cave Guide” off of my “Things to Do When I Retire” list. Since I’m a teacher, you might think I have a lot of patience. Apparently, I use it all up during the 5 days of the work week, because it called in absent without an excuse during our expedition.

At the beginning of the tour, there were cascades of monarch butterflies swooping outside the cave entrance. When the guide asked if anyone had any questions ABOUT THE CAVE, one of the girls raised her hands.
“Why are there so many monarchs flying around?”

The guide explained a little about migration, then tried to get back to the cave. After a few reasonable questions about the temperature, etc…we were still standing outside, and another hand went up.
“Why are there so many butterflies flying around?”

Without even referring to the earlier question, the guide patiently answered Girl #2, and then finally led us into the cave.

Wonderbutt Would Love to Climb This

The usual questions about bats and rabid creatures waiting to attack us then ensued. Having been on the tour a couple of times before, I knew to expect them. I’m sure the guide did, too. I wondered how many times she had had to answer the question, “Are there still bats living in here?” after carefully explaining they had abandoned the caves hundreds, if not thousands, of years ago.

At one point, the guide said that the cave formations grow 1 cubic inch every 100 years. To help the kids relate, she added that was about the size of an ice cube.

Wanna Guess How Many Ice Cubes Are in This?

The kids oohed and aahed. Then someone asked, “How fast do they grow?”
The guide gave her ice cube spiel again.

Teenage Boy raised his hand.
“What size ice cube?”


Near the end of the tour, after being warned a zillion times that it’s against the law to touch things in the caves, we made our way to an area with bat guano. When the guide explained what bat guano was, Teenage Boy and his brother worriedly admitted they had touched the bat guano that was clearly labelled and behind ropes “by accident”.

Touch this and your fingers wither and fall off in half an hour. Seriously.

The guide, a young girl who probably wasn’t much older than the kids giving her grief, let it slide after raising one suspicious eyebrow. She was far too easy-going, in my opinion.  I could see some other “accidents” happening under my watch.

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