Caves and a swap meet

By Larry Dablemont, Contributing Columnist
Posted 2/14/24

A strange thing is happening out in California, where people are starting to live in caves. If you remember, I wrote about my grandfather and I staying in caves on the Big Piney River in the 60s. We …

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Caves and a swap meet


A strange thing is happening out in California, where people are starting to live in caves. If you remember, I wrote about my grandfather and I staying in caves on the Big Piney River in the 60s. We found all kinds of arrowheads and pieces of clay pots and even an ivory artifact in one. I wrote about him telling me that someday people would live in caves again.

Undoubtedly, if you consider the thousand of years behind and before us, millions of humans lived in those caves, likely as many as there are humans living in houses today. As a state park naturalist in Arkansas in the 70s I once talked to an elderly lady who was born in a cave near Devil’s Den State Park. It had been walled up by her father in the late 1800s and her family lived there while they built a log cabin.

There are hundreds of caves on the Big Piney and Gasconade Rivers, and my grandfather showed me some that were nearly impossible to find. He had spent many nights in them, running the river in years past as a winter trapper. Grandpa and I stayed overnight in some of them, but there was one he wouldn’t enter because he said in a dream that he had met and talked with people who lived in them thousands of years ago. My cousins and I explored many of those caves when we were young. There is one in particular which has the 3 foot long jawbone of some kind of creature embedded in a cave wall. You can see a picture of that and many other cave photos on my website…

My grandfather’s predictions often came true. He told me that about a hundred years from the first atom bomb dropped in Japan, there would be one explode in the United States. He also talked of the horrible 1918 disease that killed so many, and he said I would see it come back someday to kill many, many more people. Grandpa told me to never live in a city and to be independent enough to live without the conveniences of those things most men would die without. He hated electricity, called television evil and despised what he often referred to as ‘frigidaires.’ He said that men were sacrificing their freedom and the quality of their lives to own such things.

He talked on occasion of our enemies living amongst us and killing thousands and thousands of people in one day! I really thought he was a little bit crazy at times. I realize today that he was extremely bi-polar, but back then no one knew what it was. Now I remember some things he said then that seemed ridiculous and today they are coming to pass.

But what I most remember as we sat in a Big Piney cave before a warming fire as a storm raged outside, is how he said that someday men would live there again. And now, the news that in California, thousands of homeless people are living in caves, once again. I hope that is the last of grandpa’s predictions that comes true. I am going to float the Piney again this year and spend a couple of nights in one of the caves where he and I sat before a fire and listened to the storm as it passed.

For about ten years or so, we had an annual Outdoorsman’s Swap Meet in the Brighton Assembly of God Church gymnasium on a Saturday in March. With that, we always raised a few hundred dollars for their youth program. Each year, hundreds would attend the free get-together. About four or five years ago that church got a new pastor, and he put an end to the annual get-together for whatever reason.

We found another church which welcomed the event but the COVID pandemic ended that idea. Now we are going to revive the Outdoorsman’s Swap Meet on Saturday, March 9, at the Noble Hills Church that is located on Highway 13 about five or six miles to the north of Springfield. The whole thing is being organized by outdoorsman, Steve Johnson. Steve and I once did an outdoor radio program for station KWTO in Springfield, and we made a fishing trip together a few times, so I know him well and promised I would help. We need vendors to set up their tables there and bring outdoor items for sale.

In a few weeks, I will tell you some of what you can find there. But for now, call Steve to reserve a table before the space is all gone. His number is 417-414-3128. My number is 417-777-5227 if you need any help or information I can provide. I am going to be there selling my outdoor books and talking to readers of this column, and am anxiously looking forward to it.

My email address is The word ‘lightnin’ has no ‘g’ on the end of it. You can write to me at Box 22, Bolivar, Mo. 65613