The 1994 Cave Song Fake Book

Edited by Rob Stitt

Prepared for the 1994 NSS Convention

Brackettville, Texas

June 21-25, 1994

Copyright 1993, 94 by Robert R. Stitt, subject to the individual copyright of the authors

Attention: WWW Version Under Construction. use at your own risk. Some Guitar Chords are incorrectly placed on the line and will be fixed eventually. This version last updated 10/21/09.

Jump to Frank Reid Memoriam Page with most of his songs.

Some of these cave songs are now available in MP3 format for download and listening at the National Speleological Society site.

Table of Contents

  • Foreword (to the 1993 Edition)
  • Foreword to the 1994 Edition
  • About the Authors
  • Hollow Hills
  • The Old Caver's Song
  • I Smell Bat Shit
  • Plastic Justrite
  • The Twelve Days of Convention
  • The Twelve Days of Christmas
  • Vandal, Spare Our Caverns
  • Life is Like a Carbide Lantern
  • Sally the Salamander
  • Legend of Floyd Collins
  • Caving Country
  • No Fishing From the Bridge
  • ESOR
  • The Death of Floyd Collins
  • One Ton of Guano
  • The Lonesome Death of Endless Cave
  • It's a Long, Long Crawlway
  • Dark as a Dungeon
  • The Frozen Caver
  • Histoplasmosis
  • Virgin Cave
  • The Coming of the Roads
  • Harry Snort
  • Don't Cave With Just a Lighter
  • Summer Wine
  • Cavin' in the Guads for Eternity
  • Beery Bleary Night
  • Bibliography of Cave Song Books

  • Foreword (to the 1993 Edition)

    The songs in this slim volume were selected by me from a variety of sources, including the NSS Cave Ballad contests from 1972 to 1980, previously published collections of caving songs, and personal correspondence with the authors. I suppose you could say that they represent my favorites. In fact, I wrote a number of them. This volume makes no attempt to be complete; there have been several hundred ballads entered in the NSS Cave Ballad Contest in the twenty years of its existence. A separate publishing effort is underway to bring the best of those to you.

    Where known, I have included the approximate date the song was written after the author's name. No attempt has been made to include the tunes (many are based on traditional songs). I have also omitted some longer songs (The Grand Kentucky Junction, Ballad of the Long Count Keeper) because of space and lack of time. Perhaps in a later edition.

    The order of publication is quite arbitrary. No attempt has been made to classify the songs, or to sort them in any other way. They appear just as I typed them in, as I went through my sources. Probably the ones closer to the front are the ones I like better.

    I hope that you enjoy them as much as I do.

    Rob Stitt, Seattle, July 1993

    Foreword to the 1994 Edition

    For the 1994 edition I have added several songs from the Maverick Grotto Rocks Songbook, as well as several collected at the 1993 song session held at the Pendleton Convention. In accord with recent a Supreme Court decision, I am now able to reveal that the tune for "The Lonesome Death of Endless Cave" is none other than Bob Dylan's "Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll". (As if you didn't already know.)

    I've also done some editing to make this book easier to use, and adding guitar chords where I have them or can figure them out.

    With any luck, this could become an annual edition, growing as more favorites are collected over the years. If you have favorites you'd like to see included, send them to me.

    Rob Stitt, Seattle, June 1994

    Note Added in 2003

    In the last couple of years the NSS has begun posting many of the NSS Cave Ballad Contest winners at the NSS Website.  You should check that site for a great listening experience.]  As I write this I have just finished listening to this year's entries at the Convention, and the current crop of songwriters is continuing to turn out excellent new cave ballads.  I urge you to download them and listen!

    Rob Stitt, Porterville, CA August 2003

    About the Authors

    The following are my personal notes about the authors that I know. Since I don't know all of these people, some may be barely mentioned.

    Donna Anderson was the Secretary of this year's (1994) convention, and is a primary song producer in the Maverick Grotto in Texas

    Jan Conn of "Herb and Jan Conn" lives in the Black Hills of South Dakota, where she and her husband Herb were primary explorers of Jewel Cave. She has an extensive musical instrument collection and has written numerous cave ballads.

    Gene Hargrove was living in Europe when he wrote this song, intending it to become an international cave conservation anthem. He has been active in conservation activities, edited Environmental Ethics for many years, and has a Ph.D. in philosophy. He currently lives in Denton, Texas.

    Warren E. Hoemann was in law school when I first met him, and was later active with the Hodags in California. He currently lives in the Kansas City area.

    Jeanette Kasnia is a long time NSS member from Maryland, and has written numerous cave ballads.

    Barb McLeod has lived in Austin, Texas for the last 25 years or so, where she has recently completed a Ph.D. in Mayan Archaeology. Author of numerous cave ballads and usually the winner of the contest when she entered. She runs a flying school and teaches   Mayan grammar at various seminars throughout the country.

    Tom Miller currently lives in Florida.

    A. Speleothus is the pseudonym used by Rob Stitt in the late 60's and early 70's.

    Rob Stitt currently lives in Seattle, WA where he mostly sings for his grandchildren these days.

    David Thornburg wrote the original lyrics for ESOR when he was a graduate student at UNM in the early 70's. I did drag him caving at least once.

    Spike Werner wrote the satirical "Harry Snort" about a real caver in the 60's with a name that rhymes (who will be unnamed here to protect the guilty).

    Billy Edd Wheeler & Bexhill Quartet is a country singer/songwriter from West Virginia. As far as I know he's not a caver, but since the song has a reference to caves it's included here.

    Hollow Hills


    Barb MacLeod (1974)

    C 			Em
    A: As a child I'd often hear 
    F 		G
    Stories of the last frontier 
    C 			Em
    Far beneath the Ozark Mountains 
    F 	G
    Of my home, my thoughts would go; 
    I was young and fair and free 
    Em 	F
    When the caverns called to me, 
    C 	Em 		F 			C
    And through all the years I've loved that world below. 
    	C 	Am
    B: Yes the friends I made were good, 
    F 			C
    And we roamed as cavers would, 
    C E		m
    Through the wooded hills and hollows 
    D 	G
    Seeking out the secret lore; 
    Twas a Brotherhood of night, 
    C 			Em
    Crystal pools and pure delight, 
    C 	G 			C
    We were few, and it was ours forevermore. 
    C 	Em 			F
    Hollow hills, where time stands still, 
    C 		Am
    Loved you then and always will; 
    C 				Em
    Though a decade's changes tarnish 
    F 		G
    What a million years have done; 
    Though I know we're all to blame, 
    Em 	F
    Can't go back the way we came 
    C 	Em 		F 		C
    And like all frontiers you'll soon be overrun. 
    A: For awhile I went away, 
    Lived a life of night and day, 
    Followed mountain streams to 
    Silent glaciers, wandered meadows high; 
    Scaled the peaks 'neath heaven's dome 
    Til' my limestone called me home, 
    With its tales of earth and dreams of days gone by. 
    A: But our brotherhood had grown, 
    Left its mark in pool and stone; 
    And the spirits of the hills had fled, 
    I knew they weren't around; 
    And the empty corridors, 
    Carbide names on walls and floors 
    Told me I'd somehow betrayed my sacred ground. 
    B: Friends of old have come and gone; 
    Guess it's time for moving on; 
    For together we're too many-long 
    Ago I should have known; 
    Most of them, they're just like me, 
    Lookin' for someplace to be; 
    I'm headin' South where all the footprints are my own. 
    A: Yes, the years will come and go, 
    Like the water, they will flow; 
    And the ages will reclaim the hills 
    |We thought we understood; 
    But for now it makes me sad, 
    Thinkin' on the time we had, 
    And we let that time go by, as cavers would. 


    The Old Caver's Song


    A. Speleothus (Rob Stitt) (1969)

    Tune: "Acres of Clams/Rosin the Bow," traditional.

    C                                     F
    I've traveled all over this country,

    C                                         G7
    A hunting and searching for caves;

    C                                                         F
    I've chimneyed and rappelled and prussiked,

    C        G7                             C
    And I have been frequently brave.

    Chorus: (Note-repeats lines of verse)

    C                                         F
    And I have been frequently brave

    C                                         G7
    And I have been frequently brave;

    C         F
    I've chimneyed and rappelled and prussiked

    C        G7                           C
    And I have been frequently brave

    I took all my lights and my carbide,

    and headed down deep in the ground;

    And when I emerged it was raining,

    In the country they call Puget Sound.

    For each one who gets kicks out of caving,

    I saw there were hundreds grew cold,

    At the bottom of the rope they were waiting,

    So rapidly covered with mold.

    The rainfall round there was so tragic,

    To leave it I saw that I must,

    To go to a much milder climate,

    Where mold is less likely than dust.

    Away from the Puget Sound rainfall,

    I headed my little Volks car,

    To a land rich with caves and no moisture,

    Under Mt. Adams bright star.

    I got to the caves about sundown,

    After I'd driven all day;

    I pulled out my jug and my banjo,

    And sat down and started to play.

    I sang of the caves and their shadows,

    Of speleothems and flow marks;

    Of all of the caves that are twisting,

    Under Trout Lake's City Park.

    I'm camped in this campsite forever,

    Of working I'm done with its curse;

    I've made up my mind to try caving,

    The only sport that is worse.

    No longer the pawn of ambition,

    I laugh at the world and its slaves,

    And think of my happy condition,

    Surrounded by acres of caves.

    I Smell Bat Shit


    Barb MacLeod (1971)

    Tune: I Feel Pretty

    I smell bat shit,

    Fragrant bat shit.

    It's not cat shit,

    But bat shit for sure.

    It's not rat shit,

    And it's certainly not horse manure.

    Plastic Justrite


    Barb MacLeod (1973)

    Tune: "Plastic Jesus," traditional.

    Now Justrite's got a new device,

    Superior design, economical price,

    C                                         G7
    Construction unexcelled in quality;

    It has an unadjustable water drip

    A styrofoam felt and a plastic tip

    C                 G7                 C
    And other blessings of technology.


    C                     F
    Plastic Justrite, plastic Justrite,

    C                                     G7
    Melted on the front of my hard hat;

    Shoulda known better than to go and trust you;

    If I ever get out I will stomp and bust you;

    C                     G7                         C
    Underneath by Jeep I'll squash you flat!

    Sittin' in a cave as black as midnight,

    Cause I got a brand new plastic Justrite

    Oozing off the front of my hard hat.

    The lamp was fine, it was workin' OK,

    I was trucking down a virgin passageway

    Then it belched and melted out and that was that.

    The Twelve Days of Convention


    Rob Stitt (1974)

    Tune: 12 Days of Christmas (traditional)


    1) On the first day of Convention

    G7 C
    My true love sent to me

    F C G7 C
    A Cave Conservation Policy.

    2) Two Carbide Lamps

    3) Three Hard Hats

    4) Four Brake Bars

    5) Five Gold Lines

    6) Six Jumars Jamming

    7) Seven Stellmacks Sleeping (Scheltens in 1990)

    8) Eight Miles of Mud

    9) Nine Days Underground

    10) Ten Histoplasma Capsulata

    11) Eleven Vacuous Vandals

    12) Twelve Rane Curls

    [with each new verse, repeat all previous verses]

    The Twelve Days of Christmas

    (from the Spelunker's Songbook, 1964)

    On the twelfth day of Christmas my true love gave to me:

    12 calcite crystals

    11 miner's hard hats

    10 pounds of guano

    9 piton hammers

    8 carabiners

    7 monkeys mating

    6 bats a' winging

    5 cans of beer

    4 carbide lamps

    3 meatballs

    2 rubber bands

    And a cougar in a pine tree.

    Vandal, Spare Our Caverns


    Gene Hargrove (1975)

    Vandal, spare our caverns,

    Sparkling beauty underground,

    These wonders are not flowers

    They may not grow again.

    Go not with sacks and blazing lanterns,

    To steal what can be found,

    These wonders are not flowers

    And they may never grow again.

    Life is Like a Carbide Lantern


    Barb MacLeod

    Tune: "Life is like a Mountain Railway," Traditional.

    Life is like a carbide lantern,

    F C
    With a plugged up water drip.

    As you sputter through existence,

    C G7
    You will carbon up your tip.

    With a felt of fate all sodden,

    F C
    And a spark of hope kaput,

    Keep your thumb upon the flintwheel,

    And your eye upon your foot.

    Chorus 1:

    F C
    You must bear life's broken gasket,

    Leaking troubles all the while;

    But keep a shine on your reflector,

    G7 C
    Through the countless dents of trial.

    Life is like an endless cavern,

    With a stream of neck deep mud.

    As you drag the tape of toil,

    You must run before the flood.

    Though your survey team forsake you,

    In the water crawl of strife,

    You must heed your obligations to the catacombs of life.

    Chorus 2:

    Though you never make your closures,

    And your stations wash away;

    Keep your mind upon life's purpose;

    Try to map a mile a day.

    In the labyrinthine mazes,

    you will surely lose your way;

    Searching for one survey station,

    Through the night, throughout the day.

    Cling then to your inner virtue,

    Though your light begins to fail,

    Keep your eyes upon your footprints,

    Never quake or never quail.

    Chorus 2

    Searching through the corkscrew passage,

    Into which your pack you tossed,

    You will find your compass broken,

    And your only pencil lost.

    You will howl in desperation,

    Throw your notes into the pit;

    For this cave of tribulation,

    You will often feel unfit.

    Chorus 2

    You'll forever ask the question,

    Why did I get into this?

    Turn my back on rain and sunshine,

    All those pleasures that I missed.

    From the depths will ooze the answer,

    Quote the mesmerizing call;

    That the day is coming nigh when,

    Into glory land you'll crawl.

    Chorus 2

    Sally the Salamander


    Rob Stitt (1973)

    Tune: Smoky the Bear

    C G7 C
    With a hard hat and a carbide and a pair of coveralls,

    C G
    You will find her in the passage, or crawlin' on the walls.

    C F
    Cavers stop and pay attention when she tells them to behave,

    C G7 C
    Cuz everybody knows that she's the one who'll save the cave.


    C F
    Sally the Salamander, Sally the Salamander,

    C G7
    Slippin' and a slidin' and a gettin' up her dander.

    C F
    She can find a vandal, before he writes his name;

    C G7 C
    She'll tell him to just stop it, that was how she got her fame.

    You can take a tip from Sally that there's nothin' like a cave,

    Cuz' they're lots of fun to crawl through and they're what we need to save.

    You just have to lock around you and you'll find its not a joke,

    To see what you'd be missin' if formations all got broke.

    You can crawl right through her passage and she'll make you feel at home,

    You can crawl, belay and prussik, all through her catacomb;

    She will let you map her passage and record it on your chart;

    But don't you harm her cave cuz' she's a caver in her heart.

    If you've ever seen the cavern with a vandal runnin' wild,

    And you love the things with in it like a father loves his child,

    Then you know why Sally tells you when she sees you passin' through:

    Remember-please be careful-it's the least that you can do.

    Legend of Floyd Collins


    Rob Stitt (1975)

    Tune: Original

    C F C Am
    Well, it happened in Kentucky not so many years ago,

    F C G7
    When a man they called Floyd Collins far underground did go;

    C Am F C
    He found a wondrous cavern, or so the stories say,

    F C G7 C
    But Floyd did not live on to tell us of that day.

    F C Em
    A Rock fell from the ceiling and trapped him underground,

    F C Am G
    And before the story finished it had surely got around;

    Dm C Em D(Am)
    For lithe young William Miller to save Floyd did try

    Dm C G C
    And put it in the papers to tell to you and I.


    C Am
    Oh Floyd, where are you today?

    F G7
    Your spirit crawls on, so they say.

    C Em Am
    Through great limestone caverns so far underground

    C Em Am
    The legend of Floyd grew profound.

    The rescue parties labored through winters short cold days

    As Floyd's spirit wandered through far cavern ways;

    Before they got to him, through tunnel long and wide,

    Floyd had gone to meet his maker, his body had died.

    But his spirit wanders on beneath the land

    Through the great Kentucky wilderness so close at hand,

    Far beneath our forests, in Mammoth Park so wild,

    that through the years the hearts of many has beguiled.

    Floyd's body lies in Crystal Cave in great Grand Canyon halls,

    but his spirit ranges father within the cavern walls;

    For he follows ever onward in his quest to find the end,

    And in his footsteps only will the later cavers wend.

    Through Colossal, Bedquilt, Endless, Salts, Great Onyx and Unknown

    Floyd has led the path e'er onward and his following has grown;

    Propelled by song and legend his followers so brave

    Have pushed Floyd's cavern onward to connect with Mammoth Cave.

    Floyd's spirit leads us onward through caverns ages old

    And to countless new cavers his story had been told;

    But Floyd's far distant caverns have become a place of play,

    For too many now follow in Floyd's way.

    In the distant future will our descendants know

    That if they'd done it different wild caving they'd still go,

    To wander in freedom through Floyd's marble halls,

    Following his spirit that still calls.

    Caving Country


    Jeanette Kasnia (1976)

    Tune: Original

    West Virginia

    F C
    Can't wait to get in ya.

    You may be country roads

    And someone's home far away,

    But to me you're caving country,

    And right now I'm craving caving,

    C G7
    So let's get into those West Virginia Hills.

    Now I'm from the city,

    The crowded caveless city.

    Tall buildings offer me my best rappels.

    I've explored the sewer systems,

    I've raced the subway pistons

    C G7 C
    And I've even done the few remaining wells.

    The pigeons fly and they drop their shit.

    I fall to my knees and I crawl in it.

    But I tell you folks, it isn't quite the same.

    I long for the sight of a hanging bat

    Aglow in the light of my old hard hat.

    Go on old bat and let that guano rain.

    No Fishing From the Bridge


    Barb MacLeod & Friends

    Tune: Along Came the FFV, Traditional

    C F C
    'Twas on a chilled and moonlit night in old Virgin-i-ay,

    We crept along the winding road; in shadows we did stay;

    C F C
    Far up above the neon lights was seen upon the ridge,

    G7 C
    And we were there so there would be no fishing from the bridge.

    The tourist crowd comes with its kids to view this God-wrought site,

    But we, oF course, could plainly see it was the river that did it!

    In seven days, from solid rock, the tour guide leaders say;

    God carved out the Natural Bridge so's you could come and pay!

    Spotlights played upon the arch-a gasp of awe arose;

    We scrambled up a talus slope where poison ivy grows;

    The hallowed organ moaned along, the voice rang load and clear:

    "You've got to see this work of God-come buy your tickets here!

    We crouched down low and chunked a stone square' at the tollhouse roof;

    It hit the side with a great THUNK!-we figured that was proof

    That we were safe, 'cause no one stepped out to investigate;

    So now we'd see the Nacher'l Bridge and pay no tourist rate!

    A geopick, a rusty nail, a sinister design-

    Equipped us for the task at hand-the hanging of a sign;

    A sign we'd filched and hidden well from prying eyes of fuzz,

    And the Virginia Department of Highways, whose property it was.!

    The trees stand gaunt and bare along the road behind the stream,

    But one stands out with message clear-the product of our scheme;

    In brightest day, in blackest night, the words there can be seen:

    "No Fishing from the Bridge" they say-and that is what they mean!

    There's seven natcher'l wonders in the world, so people say,

    There's Thornton Gap, and Mary's Rock, the Caverns of Luray;

    But one stands out above the rest; it arches over all,

    From which there is no fishing from-the lines don't reach no how.

    No fishing from the bridge, no fishing from the bridge-

    And we were there so there would be no fishing from the bridge!



    David Thornburg and Rob Stitt

    Tune: original by Rob Stitt

    C G7
    My travel agent is an Oxford chap, who rolls his R's when he speaks;

    So I asked him about the Isle of Man, for a journey of about six weeks.

    Though he's quite well bred, he distinctly said, as he looked me right in the eye:

    C G7 C
    "For a far out trip try an ice-cream dip full of of Elephant Shit on Rye."

    F C G7 C
    "For a far out trip try an ice-cream dip full of of Elephant Shit on Rye."

    When Moses was leading his people on out, through the deserts so flat and wide,

    He trusted that cLoud and that pillar of Fire for his 24 hour guide.

    But he got feed up with the catering plan, and he said to the Lord on high:

    "Now I hate to talk rot, but this Manna we got, is like E.S.O.R."

    Now a brand new store just opened its door on the corner of 5th and Vine.

    And I was taking a walk in that very same block when they turned on their open sign.

    Well I heard a great shout, and I whirled about, as a crowd came running by,

    They nearly knocked me down to the first in town to get their E.S.O.R.

    As I crawled one day through an endless cave, I came upon a super giant room.

    I ventured to look with a weak carbide lamp that would hardly pierce the gloom.

    In the middle of the night, I saw such a sight as would make grown man cry:

    Twas a mile-square pit full of elephant shit, and me without a bit of rye.

    The Death of Floyd Collins

    Tune: Traditional (actually, it's not, but by now it's probably in the public domain, so let's claim it as traditional.)

    As sung by Al Craver (Vernon Dalhart), Columbia 140627

    C F C
    Oh, come all ye young people and listen while I tell,

    The fate of Floyd Collins, the lad we all knew well,

    C F C
    His face was fair and handsome, his heart was true and brave,

    G7 C
    His body now lies sleeping in a lonely sandstone cave.

    Oh , mother don't you worry, dear father don't' be sad,

    I'll tell you all my troubles in an awful dream I had,

    I dreamed I was a prisoner, my life I could not save,

    I cried "Oh must I perish within this silent cave.

    The rescue party labored, they worked both night and day,

    To move the mighty barrier that stood within their way,

    To rescue Floyd Collins, it was their battle cry,

    "We'll never, no we'll never, let Floyd Collins die."

    But on that fateful morning, the sun rose in the sky,

    The workers still were busy, "we'll save him by and by,"

    But oh how sad the ending, his life could not be saved,

    His body was then sleeping in the lonely sandstone cave.

    Young people, all take warning from Floyd Collin's fate,

    And get right with your maker before it is too late.

    It may not be a Sand Cave in which we find our tomb,

    But on that day of judgment, we too must meet our doom.

    One Ton of Guano


    Warren E. Hoemann

    Copyright Warren E. Hoemann, 1980. All rights reserved.

    Tune: Guantanamera (traditional)

       C      F         G7
    Guanos noches, Senora 
    C F G7
    Could I please have refresco? 
    C F G7
    I come from deep in caverna 
    C F G7
    Where my amigos wait rescue 
    C G7
    Across the guano we stealing 
    C F G7
    When we got sinking feeling. 
    F G7 C Am
    One ton of guano, I feel like one ton of guano. 
    C F G7 C F G7
    One ton of guano, I feel like one ton of guano. 
    One of our loco compadres 
    Was a North 'mericano 
    And to show he tough hombre 
    We enter room full of guano 
    Because he thought it was macho 
    We land in batshit gazpacho. 
    Adios, my Senora 
    Thank you for the kind favor 
    Pardon please my aroma 
    For I'm no longer a caver 
    I know I'd come to my limit 
    When they asked by to swim it. 
    Chorus (twice) 

    The Lonesome Death of Endless Cave

    by A. Speleothus

    Tune: The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll (Bob Dylan).

    A deliberate vandal destroyed Endless Cave,

    With a blow from a hammer that pounded and pounded.

    He smashed it and bashed it and packed it in barrels

    To sell to the tourists at famed Carlsbad Caverns;

    And his money he gained was spent in cheap taverns

    To drink down his sorrows both plenty and foolish

    And capture the moment he'd had in the cavern

    While hammers were flying and his m]happiness crying.


    Ah, but you who philosophize, disgrace, and criticize all fears,

    Throw the rag away from your face, now ain't the time for your tears.

    Endless Cave lay 'neath New Mexico limestone,

    Where eons of Nature's fine work had created

    A sight for sore eyes, sure, but much underrated.

    And flowstone and popcorn of every description

    To be taken home and displayed in the kitchen

    Of rich wealthy tourists who pay for the privilege

    Of destroying Nature through buying the proceeds.


    Those who were sworn to preserve and protect it

    Stood silently by while the vandals collected;

    And waited for God or some other divine force

    To push back the vandals and pick op the pieces

    Of litter remaining including dried feces.


    The wild charging cavers killed poor Endless Caverns

    By watching and waiting with harsh heavy footsteps

    While smoking their long cigarettes in the passage

    And kicking their feet in a dry rimstone pool,

    Refusing to move them when urged by their conscience,

    And stomping the ground with their giant ugly footsteps

    Breaking off small formations to lie on the floor ruined and dry;

    To show an example for countless new cavers,

    Who thought that their macho had made them the heroes

    Able to get there in constant scant seconds,

    Unless they are lost, which often does happen.

    And all the time crying "We must save our caverns"

    Crying and screaming about conservation

    And yet ruining the caves with no explanation

    And breaking formation while at their convention.

    Chorus 2:

    Ah, but you who philosophize, disgrace, and criticize all fears,

    Throw the rag deep into your face, now is the time for your tears.

    It's a Long, Long Crawlway


    Jan Conn

    Tune: Original

    C Am
    It's a long, long crawlway

    F G7
    And who knows what's beyond

    C Am
    I can picture slender soda straws

    F G7
    A-dripping in a pond.

    It's a long, long crawlway

    And who knows where it leads

    What matter if my knee is pulp

    What matter if it bleeds

    Oh it's a long long crawlway

    And who knows where it goes

    Now my heels are on the ceiling

    And the floor curls up my toes.

    Oh it's a long long crawlway

    That almost has a breeze

    If it opens up a little

    I can get back on my knees.

    Oh it's a long long crawlway

    And who knows ho 'twill end

    No I've struggled to the corner

    I can peek around the bend

    C Am F G7 C
    To see a long long crawlway. . . . . . . . . .

    Dark as a Dungeon

    Caver's version by Jan Conn

    Tune: Traditional (Merle Travis)

    C F G7
    Come all you young fellows so bold and so brave

    C F C
    And seek not adventure way down in a cave.

    F G7
    It'll form like a habit and seep into your blood.

    C F C
    'Til your skin bleaches white and your veins fill with mud.


    G7 C
    Oh! It's dark as a dungeon and damp as the dew,

    G7 C
    Where the dangers are double and the pleasures are few,

    F G7
    Where the grass never grows and the rain never falls,

    C F C
    And the sun never shines in those underground halls.

    There's duckways and crawlways and bottomless pits,

    You're sore and you're tired and scared out of your wits.

    If you slip from your footing you'll likely be dead.

    But you can't straighten up without cracking your head.

    Oh! It's many a fine man I've seen in my time,

    Who has sunk to the depths and been lost to the prime,

    Like a fiend with his dope or a drunk with his booze,

    He can't shake the mud from his old caving shoes.

    So if you are searching for thrills and delights,

    Stay above ground on the tree covered heights.

    For once you descend, it's as though to the grave,

    For your soul will be lost to the lure of the cave.

    The Frozen Caver

    From the Spelunker's Songbook

    Tune: The Frozen Logger, J. Stevens.

    D A7
    I went into a tavern,

    One evening near Luray

    A forty-year-old waitress

    A7 D
    To me these words did say:

    I see you are a caver,

    And not just a common bum

    For no one but a caver,

    Puts carbide in his rum.

    My lover was a caver

    His equal I never saw.

    If you poured cave mud in it,

    He'd crawl right through a straw.

    He never washed the cave mud,

    from off his horny hide;

    He said it improved the friction,

    When down the rope he'd slide.

    My lover came to see me

    Before a descent one day

    He held me a fond embrace

    That broke six vertebrae.

    He kissed me when we parted,

    So hard that it broke both jaws.

    I could not speak to tell him

    His rope had thirteen flaws.

    I peered into the entrance

    And saw my lover go.

    Sliding gaily downward

    Five hundred feet below.

    The cave it tried to kill him

    It tried its vertical best

    But pits and chimneys were for him

    A game and not a test.

    The crawlways squeezed to nothing

    And breakdown covered the floor

    But when the whole earth split in two

    My lover caved no more.

    They tried in vain to pull him out

    His bones were all they saved;

    They made him into pitons,

    To conquer virgin cave.

    And so I lost my lover

    And to this tavern I've come

    And here I wait till someone

    Puts carbide in his rum.



    Barb MacLeod

    Tune: Original

    C Am
    A sad story I have to tell,

    C Am
    About a caver I knew well.

    He frequented the places where the rain never falls

    F G
    Where the sun never shines, where on water fluted walls

    Bats do dwell.

    He took his topo map and went to scout,

    For a cave he had always heard about.

    He had talked to all the farmers and he listened with a grin

    To the story that they told him where four people had gone in

    And not come out.

    He was warned by everyone to stay away,

    That he shouldn't go beyond the light of day

    Where the enemy was luring in the dry and dusty air

    But to him it made no difference, he decided to go there


    In a short time the entrance he had found,

    Feeling just a little scared he looked around

    But he saw nothing suspicious so he trolly-dotted on

    Knowing nothing had ever happened in the many times he'd gone


    He took off down the passage with a bound,

    He trolly-dotted through a guano mound,

    He could've walked around it and it wouldn't have delayed him

    But he didn't know that there Histoplasma capsulatum

    Did abound.

    The enemy gathered forces silently,

    Waiting for the perfect opportunity.

    When this bold intrepid caver with he limestone in his blood

    Stubbed his toe and fell face downward in the guano-covered mud

    Oh tragedy.

    With disgust he raked the guano from his hair

    At the time he was completely unaware

    Of the sneaky little critters whose primary occupation

    Was to upset respiration and effect contamination.

    TB or not TB.

    c'est Histoplasmosis. . . .

    Well they've had him in a fungus ward since then

    And he's gonna be there till I don't know when

    He's had to give up caving and I know he must regret it

    But as soon as they have cured him he'll go caving and he'll get it


    Virgin Cave


    Rob Stitt (1970)

    Tune: Groundhog (traditional)

    Load up your lamp and start lookin' brave.

    Load up your lamp and start lookin' brave.

    We're off to the Guads to hunt virgin cave,

    G D7 G
    Virgin Cave!

    Gari Davis, Mike and Dave

    Went off to the wild woods to hunt virgin cave.

    Virgin Cave!

    Down the sink hole and up the side,

    Somewhere out there big caves hide,

    Virgin Cave!

    Up came Mike with a forked stick,

    Witch for the cave and find it quick.

    Virgin Cave!

    They looked and looked throughout the day

    And just as the sun was going away

    (They found it) Virgin Cave!

    They crawled through the entrance on their knees,

    Full in the face was a forty mile breeze.

    Virgin Cave!

    Then out came Becky with a snigger and a grin,

    She was coming out as they were going in.

    (Not-so) Virgin Cave!

    Old Lee Skinner is the mother of us all,

    Took us out caving' as soon as we could crawl.

    Virgin Cave!

    The Coming of the Roads


    Billy Edd Wheeler & Bexhill Quartet

    C G Am
    Now that our mountain is growing,

    F G7 C
    With people hungry for wealth

    C G Am D7
    How come it's you that's a' going

    F7 F G
    And I'm left alone by myself?

    C G Am
    We used to hunt the cool caverns,

    F G7 C
    Deep in our forest of green.

    C G Am D7
    Then came the road and the taverns

    F F G
    And you found a new love it seems.

    C D7 G Am
    Once I had you and the wild wood,

    F G7 C
    Now it's just dusty roads.

    C G F D7
    And I can't help from blaming your going

    F G7 C
    On the coming, the coming of the roads.

    Look how they cut all to pieces

    Our ancient poplar and oak.

    And the hillsides are stained with the greases

    That burned up the heavens with smoke.

    You used to curse the bold crewmen

    Who stripped our earth of its ore.

    Now you've changed and you've gone over to them

    And you've learned to love what you hated before.

    Once I thanked God for my treasure

    Now, Like Rust it corrodes.

    And I can't help but blaming your going

    On the coming, the coming of the roads.

    Harry Snort


    Spike Werner

    (from the Spelunker's Songbook)

    A predatory caver had begun to drool and slaver,

    For he'd heard of the Kentucky underground

    Which was rich in gypsum flowers, helictites and onyx bowers,

    And where once archaic miners did abound.


    Oh! Harry Snort, there's no other

    A fellow that a vampire bat could mother!

    One morning in a drizzle he packed his maul and chisel

    His helmet, and his hundred feet of rotten sisal rope

    He took a pint of liquor and his trusty old lock picker

    His dynamite, his carbide light, and a bar of Dial soap.

    In a paroxysmal tizzie he stuffed his old tin lizzie

    Until the springs were groaning from the load,

    Then down the road he purred alone, his friends preferred to stay at home

    Than trust themselves with Harry on the road.

    Then he barreled down the highways, shook the cops along the byways

    And gave the guides the slip as he whistled through the park

    He wheeled his crate into the brush, and in the evenings woodland hush

    Repaired to Salt's Cave for his vandalizing lark.

    With his pathogenic tremor he dropped his lamp's tip reamer

    But with typical abandon, he plunged into the dark.

    He wrote his name upon the door, he strewed his carbide on the floor

    Caveman Harry makes his mark.

    The cave was not quite damp enough to fill is carbide lamp enough

    He blundered as he plundered indiscriminately on

    So when his lamp had flickered out, he groped about, he tried to shout

    But only bat chirps answered him, and they, in time, were gone.

    The walls still bear the scratches of Harry's sweat-soaked matches

    And the bats still tell their children of Harry's last moans.

    When he dropped his bag of artifacts and swallowed his last Atarax,

    And ghosts of thirty centuries wrought vengeance on his bones.

    Oh the moon shines gray and ghastly through the inky nite, and vastly

    Illuminates the spirits of a thousand phantoms brave

    As nightly on a sharpened pole they spit poor Harry's tortured soul,

    And roast him screaming at the mouth of Great Salt's Cave.

    Don't Cave With Just a Lighter

    Lyrics by Donna Anderson
    From: Maverick Grotto Rocks

    Tune: Wolverton Mountain

    C G C
    His name was Pudley, a Missouri caver. Kind of wild and always high.

    G C
    His hair was long, nearly to his waist. He loved to party all night long.

    G C
    All night long in Perkins Cave, all night long he flicked his Bics.

    G C
    They gave no flame, they were out of fuel. But the sparks were good enough.


    G C D G7
    They say don't cave with just a lighter. But he proved it could be done.

    C G C
    From the back of Perkins he started crawling. A dead Bic lighter was in each hand.

    He flicked his Bic with each step he took through the mud and the long crawlway.

    He was fascinated by those sparks and the music running through his head.

    Two Bic lighters and the gleam in his eyes were his three sources of light that night.

    But it's not clear if he remembered that in his pack he had a carbide lamp.


    A group of cavers were in the entrance cooking supper and chugging beer.

    In the distance they saw a strange sight, it looked like strobe lights slowly comin' their way.

    He was nearly on them before they realized that it was Pudley crawling on the ground.

    No let me warn you, if you want to try this, you'll get bad blisters on both your thumbs.


    Well, I don't care about them bad blisters.

    Let's all go get us some lighters.

    Callused thumbs on all the cavers.

    Pudley's lighter brigade.

    Pudley's lighter brigade.

    Summer Wine

    Lyrics by: Donna Anderson
    From: Maverick Grotto Rocks

    Tune: Summer Wine


    Am G
    Cave coral, calcite, and a carbide lamp aglow.

    Am G
    My summer wine is really made from all these things.

    Dm Am
    Take off your caving pack and help me pass the time

    Dm Am Dm G Am
    And I will give to you summer wine. Oh summer wine.


    Am G
    I walked in town on cavin' boots with guano thick

    Am G
    A fine aroma only known to just a few.

    Dm Am
    She saw my AutoLite and said let's pass some time

    Dm Am Dm G Am
    And I will give to you summer wine. Oh summer wine.

    My eyes grew heavy and my lips they could not speak.

    I tried to get up but I couldn't find my feet.

    She reassured me with the scent of her carbide.

    And then she gave to me summer wine. Oh summer wine.

    When I woke up the sun was shining in my eyes.

    My AutoLite was gone, my head felt twice its size.

    She took my survey book, Suuntos, and a tape.

    And left me cravin' for more summer wine. Oh summer wine.

    Cavin' in the Guads for Eternity

    Lyrics by Donna Anderson
    From: Maverick Grotto Rocks

    Tune: The Everglades

    D A7
    He was born and raised around Santa Fe

    A nice young man not the kind to cave.

    Then the poetry of Ron Kerbo

    A7 D
    Got him thinkin' of the world below.

    C D
    Cavin' in the Guads for eternity.

    C D
    Cavin' in the Guads for eternity.

    By chance he met Scott Adams one day

    Who kindly took him to his very first cave.

    Then Jim Goodbar taught him how to climb.

    Cavin' soon took up all of his time.

    Cavin' in the Guads for eternity.

    Cavin' in the Guads for eternity.


    G D
    Where a man can live and set his own pace

    A7 D
    And cave every day in a beautiful place.

    But he better keep a movin' and don't stand still.

    A7 D
    If the hodags don't get him then histo will.

    C D
    Cavin' in the Guads for eternity.

    C D
    Cavin' in the Guads for eternity.

    Now he quit his job and he shed no tear.

    He gathered his ropes and vertical gear.

    Barrels of carbide filled his truck.

    That was all he needed with a little luck.

    Cavin' in the Guads for eternity.

    Cavin' in the Guads for eternity.

    He found Ransom Turner on Three Mile Hill.

    He told him his plan with a mighty will.

    Ransom agreed and shook his hand

    Gave him life long permits throughout the land.

    Cavin' in the Guads for eternity.

    Cavin' in the Guads for eternity.


    Now he lived off crickets and rats he caught.

    When he found a dead bat he would cry a lot.

    But o'er a guano fire he would cook it slow.

    A gourmet's delight in the world below.

    Cavin' in the Guads for eternity.

    Cavin' in the Guads for eternity.

    Well he met every hodag both young and old.

    Each day he would listen to the tales they told.

    He learned their tricks and sang their songs.

    And played hide and seek all night long.

    Cavin' in the Guads for eternity.

    Cavin' in the Guads for eternity.


    Forty years went by, he was gettin' old.

    His bones did creak and he was oh so cold.

    Neath a rimstone dame he laid down to die.

    To his hodag friends he said good-bye.

    Cavin' in the Guads for eternity.

    Cavin' in the Guads for eternity.

    Hodags came from far and wide.

    They prayed Oztotl wouldn't let him die.

    They danced around him with an eerie chant.

    The cave wind blew and he became a bat.

    Flyin' in the Guads for eternity.

    Flyin' in the Guads for eternity.

    Final Chorus:

    Where a bat can live and set his own pace

    And cave everyday in a beautiful place.

    But he better keep a movin' and don't stand still.

    If the hodags don't get him then histo will.

    Flyin' in the Guads for eternity.

    Flyin' in the Guads for eternity.

    Beery Bleary Night


    Tom Miller

    Tune: Don McLean, "Till Tomorrow Night"

    G G
    Beery bleary night,

    Scattered kegs of ale and stout;

    Suddenly they all gave out;

    And Harold spoke of doing Papoose Cave.

    Sober we were not,

    But all of us, the drunken lot

    Kicked Tom the guide, a passed out sot,

    D7 G
    Donned lamps and hats and started for the void.

    G Am-D7
    Now it all came clear;

    G Bm-Em
    Even through our haze of beer;

    Am D7
    No Kamikaze would have ventured here,

    And yet the bottom was so near.

    Denny pleaded, finally left the pack,

    But we would not turn back.

    Brian faltered fast,

    Somehow we knew he couldn't last,

    espeically on the deepest shaft

    For jumping every pit can do you in;

    Bruce became the next,

    Feeling rather oversexed,

    He and Peggy asked they both be left;

    We heard them laughing, squirming in the mud.

    Now we asked ourselves,

    Where di we all go wrong?

    This should only happen in a caving song

    Afraid our stay had been too long,

    We tried to leave the twisted maze

    But stumbled deeper in the cave.

    At the thinnest pinch,

    Harold never gave an inch;

    So we haven't seen him since,

    Two hundred pounds and squeezes just don't mix.

    In the rear was Jim,

    the chimneys were to wide for him,

    He fell in, was too drunk to swinm;

    We heard him screaming down the waterfalls.

    For we could not leave now,

    Our Brunton lost a screw

    And when all hope was out of sight

    On that beery, bleary night

    F7 with a B E7
    With Denny's farewell parting ringing true:

    "I could have told you,

    This cave was never meant

    D7 G
    For those as pitiful as you."

    Battered brainless flesh,

    Flowstone walls a bloody mess,

    Out of six, five cavers less,

    A comedy of errors underground;

    Siphons Tom knew well

    But as he left the last rappel

    He dropped his Jumars, down they fell

    And then the pent up stream began to rise.

    Now I understood

    What Denny tried to say to me

    And now he suffered for my sanity,

    And why he hid my boots from me;

    I would not listen, I had made a vow,

    It's too late to listen now.

    Bibliography of Cave Song Books

    COG Songbook. Compiled and edited by Ken Smith and Paul Rowley. 1976. 22 pp. Contains 15 songs, including some winners of the NSS Cave Ballad Contest.

    1974 NSS Cave Ballad Songbook. Cincinnati: Greater Cincinnati Grotto. 48 pp. Includes most of the 1974 entries, with music, chords, and illustrations.

    VPI Grotto Standard Songbook No. 2. February 1979. Bill Stringfellow, compiler. 54 pp. Most of the songs here are not cave ballads, but a few are included.

    Songs of Caves. Don Peters, Ed. 1958 Convention Issue. Boston Grotto. 20 pp. ditto. Includes 18 songs and poems, mostly parodies.

    The Grand Kentucky Junction and Other Songs from the NSS Cave Ballad Competition. Jacket notes for record. Edited by Bill Zarwell. 1973. Includes the lyrics to all of the songs on the second Cave Ballad Record.

    Songs of Caves. Vol. 1, No. 1. Don Peters, Editor. 4 pp. ditto. Includes six songs, all parodies.

    The Spelunker's Songbook (or 101 songs for the hole gang). December, 1964. Netherworld News (Pittsburgh Grotto). Janet Davis Bailey, editor. 95 pp. mimeo. This is the definitive collection of the early songs, before contest.

    Maverick Grotto Rocks. Maverick Grotto, Fort Worth, Texas, April 1988. Donna Anderson, Ed. 43 pp. 41 songs. mimeo.

    The 1993 Cave Song Fake Book. Rob Stitt, compiler. 1993. 13 pp. 23 songs, compiled (mostly) from the above references.

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