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Hale & Partin expeditions covertly explored Coffey Cave

Intrepid young scholars escaped the lunch line at Columbia Grade Center, in quest for greater knowledge. Poorly funded, they had minimal equipment: A watch to beat the back from lunch bell, and matches and a candle. Author writes '. . . our explorations were unfunded and poorly equipped we did not produce any mapping that could be used in today's development on the Cave system. Unlike Rogers and Clark we encountered no Indians or other hostiles but the challenge of keeping our mission covert provided sufficient excitement.' - TERRY PARTIN
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By Terry Partin

I have long been aware of the Coffey Cave that now holds so much promise for tourism and economic growth for Columbia.

Considering that some Statute of limitations should provide protection to prevent the Adair County School System from inflicting punishment for indiscretions of years past I will tell of the primitive exploration of this Cave by Hale and Partin.

Although not commissioned by any government or country my life long friend Walter Hale and I took it upon ourselves to explore and become familiar with this natural phenomenon located just a short run over the hill from where the Columbia Grade Center once stood.



We were limited on daily exploration time but conducted our investigation over a period of several days. Our classroom was located upstairs in the rear portion of the school. You could look out the classroom window and nearly see the intriguing entrance to the Cave.

Each day at lunchtime our teacher would dutifully form a line and lead the group down the two flights of stairs across the hallway and out the door to the lunchroom. Walter and I learned to line up in the back of the line and when we reached the main floor we would duck under the stairwell until we heard the door close at the opposite end of the hall. At that point we simply bolted out the back door and made a dash for the Cave.

Our equipment for exploring was of course limited. I had a watch which was vital for timing the length of our exploration and Walter had matches and a candle which we left in the cave. Eventually a flashlight was added to our gear.

Being that our explorations were unfunded and poorly equipped we did not produce any mapping that could be used in today's development on the Cave system. Unlike Rogers and Clark we encountered no Indians or other hostiles but the challenge of keeping our mission covert provided sufficient excitement.

Precise scheduling and timing always found us back under the stairway listening for the door to open on the opposite end of the hall. As the sound of the last feet climbed the stairs Walter and I joined the end of the line and returned to class.

We made plans to carry our Explorations to much greater heights by forming a pact that when we reached the age of 20, the age when everyone is their own boss, that we would move to an unexplored area of Canada and explore the Piney Woods. As often happens adult responsibilities replace youthful dreams and we each went in search of raising a family and making a living.

I lost my friend Walter not long ago but the memories live on, cherished for a lifetime.


This story was posted on 2018-02-23 15:23:05
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