A Cave Near Steamboat Rock- Ken Bailey

Today, I attended a funeral of a close friend, which took place in a church where I was formerly a member, back in my twenties (you know, a billion-trillion-gazillion years ago).

The grief of the occasion was mixed with a kind of surreal feeling -- being back in a building that was at the same time familiar and yet foreign. So many years have past. It is hard to describe emotions one feels at coming around the bend in the present course of one's life -- and intersecting a road traveled long ago.

This cave is a similar place -- a flat, vertical expanse, barely wide enough to fit into single-file, yet extending off to the right, behind the rock face, for quite a distance.

whispering cave.jpg

You see, I was all of sixteen years old when the Foto Klub explored this cave. I was Oil Geek at his geekiest -- which pumpers had fallen to submersibles in the Rangely field the week past was probably as much on my mind as whatever was going on in politics, and not being ready for class at Rangely High School any given day -- and who I might or might not run across in the halls therein -- was as of much import as any world event.

And Rangely was the center of the known world.

We piled into this cave and explored it, under the watchful eye of our RHS sponsor. (We had just taken in the wonders of Echo Park and of Steamboat Rock).

It was spring, 1972.

But that is not when this picture was taken.

Before the year was out, I was calling another state, home.

A billion years of life experiences flashed by, like the blur of an express train passing at a highway grade crossing.

And here it was, 1996. And we were back in Rangely. Myself ... and my new wife (well, pretty new).

Again, under the watchful eye of a Local Sponsor, we again explored the cave. It didn't look like it had changed a bit, in the two-and-one-half decades that had passed.

It probably hasn't changed, to this day.

Rangely has. The oilfield has. I have.

Kind of a weird feeling, something changeable shaking hands with something that is not.

"But, on the far horizon, the old mesas haven't changed. Old Mellen Hill and Coal Oil Ridge have not been rearranged. The beauty of the Western skies is handsome, now as then...."

"...these things will stay, though Rangely be a trading post again".

("Ode to a Place That Doesn't Exist Anymore," words by K. Bailey, as performed by Billy Brenton on the CD, "Memories of Yesterday").

(And the place that "doesn't exist anymore" -- isn't Rangely per se ... it is whatever we fondly remember out of our own pasts.)