About the DFW Grotto
DFW Grotto charter and purpose
The Dallas/Fort Worth Grotto is a chapter of the National Speleological Society. Many members of the DFW Grotto are members of the NSS as well as other organizations such as the Cave Research Foundation and the Texas Speleological Association. The thrust of many projects that members are involved in are cave conservation, restoration, surveying, and research.
The Oztotl Caver
The DFW Grotto publishes its newsletter, The Oztotl Caver, as an online blogletter. Members can post trip reports, articles, photos, etc.
Editor: Charles Goldsmith, wokka at justfamily dot org
Membership in the DFW Grotto is achieved by going on a cave trip with grotto members, submitting an application for membership, being voted in by the members of the grotto, and paying the annual $10-a-year dues. Family membership is $12 a year. Contact a grotto officer for more information.
Early Days of the Dallas-Ft. Worth Grotto
By: Pete Lindsley NSS-5566F
Believe it or not, the Dallas-Ft. Worth Grotto has been around longer than I have been caving, which has been since 1960. Prior to the D-FW Grotto, there was the Dallas Grotto. The Dallas Grotto was a short-lived chapter of the National Speleological Society (NSS) that was born and died in the late 1950's. Bob Littlefield was one of the original Dallas Grotto survivors that helped establish the new Dallas-Ft. Worth Grotto along with Chuck Larsen, George Yeary, Jack J. Burch and numerous others. Even back in the early 1960's there was a strong Ft. Worth group of cavers, but not quite enough to outnumber the Dallas cavers. The meeting location was in the mid-cities area at the Arlington Lone Star Gas Co. Later the meeting was changed to the University of Dallas in Irving, and still later it was moved to a library in North Irving. Finally it moved to Dallas, as far west as we could find a location just to make it easier for the Fort Worth cavers. Rey Perkins provided a meeting room in his office area near the entrance to Love Field and then later we moved to the current Recreational Equipment Co. building near Midway and LBJ Freeway.
I had been caving perhaps 6-8 months before I heard of the NSS and the local Grotto. The only lead I had was that one of the leaders, Chuck Larsen, worked at Texas Instruments in Dallas. There were about four TI sites in Dallas at that time, and none of them had a "Chuck". I finally located a number for a Charles V. Larsen and made the first contact with the Grotto. The first meeting was wild. All I wanted to do was to find out where some good caves were located. At the meeting, there were 4-6 small groups of people all talking at once about caves, but they didn't have much time to talk to me. They were very obscure about cave locations. The meeting was freestyle and I didn't understand much about some of the cave details that were discussed. (It hasn't changed much 45 years later, I guess.)
Some of the first neat caves I heard about from the Grotto were located out of state. Fitton Cave was in the Ozarks, Cottonwood Cave and Crystal Cave were in Oklahoma, Bustamante was in Mexico, and in Texas was Cave-Without-A-Name. Later I learned that there was an even larger Cottonwood Cave in the New Mexico Guadalupe Mountains. We looked for many caves listed in the NSS Bulletin 10 on Texas Caves, but since the 1948 publishing date many of the caves had been closed because of certain large school grottos that had not followed good landowner relations. We found that since the D-FW Grotto was composed of mostly working people and professionals and not closely related to a university, we could usually talk the landowner into giving our group a second chance on some of the "closed caves." Other caves took several visits to the landowner before they began to trust us enough to allow cave entry.
One of the good sources of cavers for the D-FW Grotto was Blair Pittman's Explorer Scout group in Ft. Worth. The Ft. Worth cavers were mostly scouts and all had good camping and hiking skills, necessary for our low-budget style of caving trips. One of the first big D-FW Grotto projects was just out of Menard in central Texas. We got a good lead on a "Jack Pit Mine" and an associated limestone cave and headed out to find it. The land was up for sale and the cave was reported to be quite extensive. The problem was that the new owner wanted to bulldoze the cave shut to keep out some "silver miners" who were working the nearby "Egg Shaped Sink" which was reported to connect to Jim Bowie's lost silver mine. We were cautioned by the neighbors of the ranch with the cave that we should be careful not to mess up the sale of the property by asking to go in the cave. The cave was at that time leased to some people that were growing mushrooms in the cave, but their lease was running out in a few days and then the land would be sold.
We talked with a local kid that claimed to know the cave because his uncle was one of the mushroom miners. He agreed to take us in the cave and show us "miles of passage". He, too, cautioned us about being seen at the cave, so we made our first visit at night! He showed us the water passage, told stories of it going miles downstream and connecting with a well at the Neal Ranch, and then took us on a wild jaunt for over a mile in the "Crevice Passage". He repeated some of the stories from his uncle that told of the Mexican burros going through the cave to Jim Bowie's silver mine. The crevice was headed towards the Egg Shaped Sink! Our challenge was to find a location for a new entrance that was not under the land that was being sold so that we could get back into the cave after the entrance was bulldozed.
Blair Pittman worked at the Ft. Worth Star Telegram and had access to a WATS line. He began to call the new owner to obtain permission to enter the cave. Finally after over a month of long distance phone calls to the owner in San Angelo, he finally agreed to let the D-FW Grotto visit the cave for two days (only!). The agreement, however, had one string attached. We couldn't ask to visit the cave again and we had to please quit calling! What could we do? We needed some more help, BIG TIME. The Grotto decided to bring in the Texas Region by extending an invitation to all the Grottos in Texas. The UT Grotto in Austin and the Abilene Grotto were the best sources of cavers, but we had people from all over the state. We set up the trip on a 3-day Labor Day weekend and made arrangements to go in to the property at noon Saturday, and leave at noon Monday. Exactly 48 hours or "two days". We ran phone lines in the cave, started survey parties out at several simultaneous points, and kept the operation going around the clock. We had a tent set up as headquarters with the topside phone and drafting table. We drew up the map on the spot using slide rules and drafting machines for plotting. Thus was born Project 48 at Powell's Cave, soon to become the longest cave in the state. The owner and his family visited the expedition near the end of the 2nd day and was very impressed with our organization and all the work being done. He also noted that we were NOT digging for silver. We sent the new owner copies of our maps when we had drawn them up. We kept our promise to not call him back for almost two years. Then we heard that he was very disappointed we had not come back to continue the work; in addition he had not bulldozed the entrance. The Grotto quickly organized another state-wide expedition at Powell's Cave and we had a 3-day repeat of the first expedition. Several more expeditions were also organized by the Grotto before we finally ran out of cavers willing to crawl to the outer reaches of Powell's Cave. It would be a couple of decades before the next crop of cavers would want to go back to the cave.
Various other projects were managed by the D-FW Grotto in the "NATO" area which included New Mexico, Arkansas, Texas and Oklahoma. Early survey work was done at Gorman Cave and Cave-Without-A-Name in Texas. We did some early diving on the siphon at the back of German and in Bad Air Hole. We organized several county-wide TSA Projects jointly with the Abilene Grotto, and we even took over the editorship of the Texas Caver for a couple of years when Jim Estes finally gave up the editorship. In those days we had to use paper masters for the offset printing, had to do our own halftones using borrowed equipment, and made it a monthly Grotto project to collate and mail the Texas Caver. The publication quality was much better than the previous mimeographed quality of the typical 1950's caving publications. The typing on a single electric typewriter was alternated between Katherine Goodbar and Jacklyn Robinson. We lost our first printer because we found out later he was thrown in jail for counterfeiting gift certificates on the side!
A favorite cave was Fitton Cave in the Arkansas Ozarks. We discovered that the cave ran under the property of Leslie and Louise Huchingson, good friends of the Johnsons of Ft. Worth who were Grotto members. The cave was protected by a strong gate controlled by Jim Schermerhorn. We made a deal with Jim for cave access; the Grotto would provide the manpower for keeping the gate installed and Jim would check us out a key and provide the Portland cement and Buffalo River gravel for rebuilding the gate. The cave vandals were quite busy in the 1960's and the Grotto had to make numerous trips to Fitton to put the gate back on the cave.Today there is a first class gate on the entrance and since the cave was purchased as part of the Buffalo National River, management of the cave is provided by the National Park Service.
We were also disappointed with the amount of vandalization in the cave. It had become the custom in the 1950-60's for cavers to write their name on the wall and place a mark beside it for each trip into the cave. One time after a 3-day camp in the T-Room as we were leaving the cave, seven of us decided to "erase" the names. We smeared clay over ALL the names in one location and gave a friendly "goodbye" wave to the other cavers entering the cave that last day. The Missouri cavers couldn't find their names on the wall and got really mad at the Grotto for a number of years, but they quit writing their names! They got even by telling about all the cans we left at our in-cave campsite in their Grotto newsletter. They were correct in that we left some cans at the camp; they just failed to mention that they were RUSTY cans that were just too much for us to carry out with all the trash we DID carry out.
Several of the old-timers are still around; others have passed on, but we still remember them all. If you have been a member or a visitor or associated with the Dallas Ft. Worth Grotto in the past we would like to hear from you. We have a 50th anniversary coming up and would like to add you to our mailing list.