The Guitar

[On Friday, November 13th, 1998, a Chippewa County man by the name of David Young died at the age of 33 of a myocardial infarction. For many of those close to him it was a surprise, for someone so young and athletic to suffer a lethal heart attack. Mr. Young had been a member of the local rock-climbing club for almost four years at that point, and had gone with them on multiple climbing trips across the state.

The following is a transcript for an interview conducted a mere week before his death, on November 6th, 1998, for WUEC-FM, the campus radio for U of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. It was obtained from the University relatively easily; attempts to contact the host of the show at the time, one Michael Hoffman, a 2001 UW-EC graduate, failed in part because he had not contacted the university with information nor had attended his class’s ten-year reunion.]

<Mike> Hello, and welcome to the show everyone. Joining me is a special guest for the evening, Mister David Young. Mister Young has an interesting story about a local cave system he was in recently. Thank you for joining us, David.

<Dave> Please, call me Dave. (laughs) David is my father. And it’s my pleasure to be here. I was in town for the first home game against the Yellowjackets, and I hope this interview will convince a few Blugolds to come out and join us at the Chippewa Falls YMCA Rock Climbing club.

<Mike> So, Dave, before we start the interview, I have to ask: who do you think will win tonight?

<Dave> Will I be kicked out of the studio if I don’t answer Blugolds? (laughter) Well, I’m hoping your boys manage to pull it off, but Superior is looking like they’ll be the team to beat this year. Should be a good game!

<Mike> Well, one last thing then, Dave. You have a fairly large case with you. Do you mind if I ask what’s inside?

<Dave> Well, you can Mike, but I won’t answer you right now. (laughs)

<Mike> (laughs) Okay then. Well, if you would, you had mentioned some of the interesting cave systems in Wisconsin. I know some of us are familiar with Crystal Cave and the Cave of the Mound, but I didn’t realize there were caves nearby in central Wisconsin, much less caves relatively untouched by tourists or other human visitation.

<Dave> It’s true! In fact, the other week I got a call from my brother, who lives right off of Lake Chippewa, between Radisson and this little town called Loutre. Charlie, my brother, and his oldest had been scouting out their lands before deer season opener when they stumbled across this rift in one of the hills near the lake. Charlie and his wife Tessa had just moved there in March, and he had been busy working road construction over the summer, so he hadn’t had much of a chance to check out all of the 60 acres he had picked up with the house.

Well, Charlie immediately went to the garage and wrapped off the area above the rift with duct tape around the nearby trees  so that his kids wouldn’t stumble into it. He was thinking of building a little more permanent over it, but Charlie, bless him, thought he would give me a call. He figured I would love to check out a new cave.

Well, sure as sh- sure as daylight I went over that weekend to check it out. I hadn’t had much of a chance to go spelunking before, and checking out some place new has this sense of wonder to it, you know? Anyway, that morning I made sure I had all the equipment I would need, along with plenty of extra lights, and made my way to the rift in the ground.

As I approached, I could see that the rift was about ten feet long and about two, maybe two and a half feet at its widest. I tried not to be too disappointed; I mean, after all, just how deep could this rift be, anyways?

Well, boy, was I in for a surprise! I made sure my anchor was firmly set and my rope attached before swinging my legs over and looking down. Instead of seeing the rockbed narrow to a taper about twenty feet down like I was expecting, I saw about twelve feet of rock wall and then darkness. This hole was much deeper than it had first appeared!

I also heard the faint sound of trickling water. This didn’t really surprise me. If the cave was much deeper than fifteen feet, it would have been below the water table, not to mention the water level of the nearby lake.

Well, I cracked one of my glow sticks and dropped it. It hit rock probably twenty feet down or so, and rolled just out of sight, leaving a faint yellow glow. I figured it had stopped bouncing and rolling and got ready to lower myself down.

Well, I had thought my light stick had stopped rolling, but I was wrong. Must have rolled behind a rock or something, because the glow disappeared for a moment before illuminating the area directly below me again. I also heard… well, it sounded like a light metallic “thud” and what I swear sounded like a couple of small water splashes.

Anyway, I began to lower myself down into the hole. Took my time, making sure I had a firm grip on the brake, and never went more than a few inches at a time. Took me well over a minute, easy, before I cleared the rock walls and was able to shine my head lamp into the cave proper.

It was about three feet at its widest. Looked like dolostone, probably formed by erosion over the years. The walls were wet, which made sense given its depth. At the bottom was a small trickle of water, probably half an inch deep and three inches wide at its biggest. The water dripping down off of the walls and joining up with this tiny little stream at the bottom. I followed the stream with my headlamp as it made it slowly flowed over the smooth rock at the bottom and trickled in the direction of the lake.

At that moment, I saw three things. The first was that about fifteen feet in the direction of the lake from where I was, the cave narrowed and ceiling dropped to maybe two feet above the little stream. There was no way I would be able to go further; in fact, I doubt anyone fully grown could fit in that tunnel.

The second thing I saw was an old, rusted metal chair. It looked like it had been down there for decades; it seemed barely held together. It was lying on its side, and much of the chair itself had fallen apart. The slow work of rust over the years I guess.

The third thing… well…  you aren’t going to believe this, but-  (there is the sound of snaps opening and the sound of a hollow wooden object being manipulated)

<Mike> (disbelief in his voice) Is that what I think it is?

<Dave> Yes. Believe it or not, I found this lying on top of that ruined metal chair.

<Mike> For those of you listening, I’m looking at a white and red painted six-string guitar, with… what does that say?

<Dave> “The Lone Ranger and Tonto.” It also has pictures of the Lone Ranger and his sidekick on horseback on either side of the bridge, and pictures of their faces in profile up near the fretboard. The top says “Jefferson”. And look- (the sound of guitar strongs being played one by one is heard)

It’s perfectly in tune. I’m not big into old items like this, but I didn’t think they made these after the mid-50’s. Sure doesn’t look like its been down there for forty years, has it?

<Mike> No, no it doesn’t. No signs of water warping or anything.

<Dave> Not at all. On the back here is the name “Jonny M” written in marker. So… obviously someone else knew about this cave, and has been sitting down there playing or something. Now, I’d just like to say to whoever that is: you really should have informed my brother Charlie that the cave was there. I’d have been really upset if one of my nephews or my niece had fallen into there and gotten hurt. That place could be really dangerous.

Also, mister “Jonny M”, I’ve got your guitar if you want it back. The people here at WUEC will know how to get a hold of me.

<Mike> Well, that was an amazing story. Thank you for sharing that with us, Dave.

<Dave> Thank you, Mike.

<Mike> And as we mentioned earlier, tonight’s game at Hoss Ice Center starts at 7 PM, where our Blugolds will take on the UW-Superior Yellowjackets. I hope to see you at the game, Dave.

<Dave> (Laughs) Sure thing, Mike.

[I contacted a Mr. Charles Young, who still lives near Loutre. He acknowledged that he had indeed been in charge of his brother David’s stuff after his death, but could not remember seeing a guitar anywhere in David’s apartment. He did mention that he had been unable to get any return on David’s security deposit, due to water damage on the apartment floor.]

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