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 6 Back to the Cave Despite world travels, military armament duties, and KHS responsibilities, George Morgan Chinn never forgot the Cave House on Highway 68 that he and Cotton had lovingly run for some years. They closed it in 1938 because profits were dwindling and because George sensed strongly that his military career loomed in the short distance. Around that time, for $1 a year, Chinn leased the front parts of the cave to the U.S. Navy for ordnance experiments. While on active duty, he frequently thought about the cave, considering what he and Cotton might do with it once he returned to civilian life. It was by happy coincidence, then, that one day in early January 1966, while Chinn worked at his KHS office in Frankfort, two well-known area spelunkers came to see him. Russell Hatter , a radio announcer for Frankfort’s WFKY, and his friend Paul Clifford had explored many Bluegrass caves. One day, after an unsuccessful probe into a cave near Georgetown, Hatter returned to the radio station and told janitor John Adams of his and Clifford’s “unproductive” day. Adams asked Hatter if he had ever heard of a big cave on Highway 68 that belonged to George Morgan Chinn. Learning that George and Cotton Chinn did indeed own Chinn’s Cave House, Hatter and Clifford headed straightway for Chinn’s office. “As soon as I mentioned the cave, he got all excited—showed me some pictures, too.”1 Chinn’s youthful dreams of finding something in the back parts of the cave—like Kentucky Maverick 98 stalactites and stalagmites, and perhaps waterfalls—were quickly rekindled. He had hired people, even while in active service, to “hose out” the cave as much as possible; by 1966, workers had hosed 640 feet of mud and rock out of the cave.2 On one occasion, well before Hatter and Clifford’s involvement, Chinn talked the entire Nicholasville Fire Department into coming to his cave and clearing out the mud and dirt with heavy sprays of water. Chinn had been “on edge” during this operation, fearing that a fire might erupt in Nicholasville while the truck was gone.3 Hatter, however, remembers Chinn’s optimism and belief that “there’s something real big back there” in the cave.4 Hatter and Clifford were told: “Go right at the ‘Y’” in the cave. And then they were to go back until the “mud slopes up to the ceiling.” When the two explorers reached that point, they heard water “gurgling” on the other side of the mud, which looked as though it were several feet deep. Hatter also felt a current of air blowing through the mud. The two realized that they could go on if the barrier of accumulated mud were removed. Hatter got to his knees and began to dig. He “grunted” and “crawled” as he and Clifford dug through the tunnel, following the stream of water and air coming toward them. Finally Hatter could not continue. The cave’s roof was only two or three inches above the stream and the “mountain of mud” that had amassed over the years. The two spelunkers could go no further, at least on this occasion.5 They crawled back to the colonel, who waited for them just outside the cave’s entrance, where he used to sell gasoline, ham sandwiches, and “needle” beer. The mud had not been there, the colonel said, the last time—just a few years ago— that part of the cave system had been investigated. Outside, the three men discussed strategies for getting rid of the mud. Nothing by way of finding artifacts or relics could be accomplished until that was done. The first thing on the agenda was to string up lights where there were none (the front parts of the cave had been illuminated years ago) in order to be able Back to the Cave 99 to keep a steady watch of the movement and direction of water and air in the cave. They also envisioned an elaborate speaker system allowing communication between those in and those out of the cave. Very quickly Hatter became enamored with work in Chinn’s cave, so much so that he even considered resigning from his job at the radio station to devote all his time to this fascinating cave out on Highway 68. Colonel Chinn gave Hatter written authorization to purchase needed supplies for the continuance of the cave’s exploration: sockets, bulbs, hip boots, and...


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MARC Record
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