Native Son: On the Inside

Life is full of events I don’t expect…like taking 608 photographs of my 900-mile road trip and finding out that, via a memory card mix-up, I’ve just deleted them all. At first shocked, then crazed, then angry, then miffed, then numb, then the realization that life goes on…and finally laughter at the true inconsequence of losing some photos I didn’t even have two weeks ago. C’est la vie!

So you’ll just have to imagine the beautiful Fleming Oak on the square in Comanche, Texas…with its five foot diameter trunk and splay of majestic branches under which all sorts of amazing events occurred, including the legendary tale of shotgun-toting Mart Fleming defending the tree from those who sought to fell it…twice. You’ll also have to imagine a shirtless me under the splay of umbrella ribs…in the 5 AM darkness…in the rain…taking photographs of that live oak.

You’ll have to imagine the breaking dawn beauty of that rustic old truss bridge over the Colorado River along Hwy 377 just north of Brady, Texas…and a still-shirtless me standing reverently in the first rays of the sun breaking through the clouds, mesmerized by the thought that I am the only person on Earth who is witnessing this scene. (This was true until a peace officer came by to figure out if I was about to jump or simply taking pictures.)

Hours later, after what at first appeared to be a hoax (the GPS couldn’t locate it and I declared to the heavens that it was harder to find than a mouse in a wood pile), I finally found “The Cave Without a Name” on the outskirts of Boerne, Texas. Worth it…worth it…sooooo worth it! Privately-owned and operated, this little Mom & Pop operation is one of the most amazing places I have ever visited. And the “Mom & Pop” aspect is one of the endearing aspects about this place…no crowds, no rushing you through like cattle so they can herd the next group through. (I was one of just three people on the tour.) The visitor center is quaint, staffed with pleasant people, and full of great geological wonders, including a machine where you can select and saw a geode in half. And by now, I had put my shirt on.

Continued Below


About thirty feet down steep stairs, the air cools off to 66 degrees…ahhh, perfect! The guide points out features and items of interest all along the way (everything from the manmade dynamite holes and smoke-stained ceiling in the upper one percent of the cave to the beautiful and mind-altering formations in the lower 99 percent. This cave has almost every feature available underground: stalactites, stalagmites, columns, drapery, soda straws, grapes, bacon, flowstones, rimstone dams, and many other mysterious names that elude me at the moment.

From the humble natural entrance (a five- by eight-foot hole), you would never imagine the size, depth, and complexity of this cave. Brilliantly unfolded before you is some of Mother Nature’s finest work, and it was all created one drop of water at a time. Fifty-foot-tall columns built drop by drop, each leaving an infinitesimally thin layer of minerals behind. These fantastic formations are built, quite literally, micron by micron. (A human hair is about 75 microns wide.) The time element required to create these formations —tens of millions, perhaps hundreds of millions of years—is beyond a human’s ability to comprehend. (I think we can calculate it, but I don’t think we can really comprehend it.) My mind soars…

I think about how this cave parallels life itself…my life. On the surface, a world of green trees and blue skies and everything familiar to us all. But there it is, that little hole in the surface, barely detectable…yet a portal to a world of intrigue, wonder, phantasm. This little hole is the gateway to ancient secrets…eons in the making.

I think about how within each of us is an undiscovered trove of treasures…thoughts, dreams, ideas, memories…a complete secret to the billions of people who wander with us through this world, even to our own families and loved ones. This inspired me to begin exploring the wonders of my own family. I’ve stopped asking banal questions like, “How are you today?” and “How’s business?,” opting instead for, “When was the first time you fell in love?,” “How long do you think you’ll live?,” and “What did you regret not doing when you were young?” In those answers I found treasure.

And I also found a few photos…on my phone!

Sunrise over the Colorado River.

Cave grapes and soda straws can be seen up close. Click image for larger view.

A magnificent column and some tasty-looking cave bacon. Click image for larger view.

Left photo: Can you see the “person” peeking around the corner at you? Right photo: This looks like “Rainforest in a Cup” to me. Click image for larger view.

Left photo: I love how some formations defy simple description. Right photo: Lovely drapery formation. Click image for larger view.

I can see three different faces in this photo of the ceiling…can you?


I need a road trip! Let me know if you’d like me to come and speak to your group sometime. I’m low maintenance, flexible, and you know I like to go just about anywhere. No city too big; no town to small. Just send me an e-mail at and we’ll work something out.

Come out and see me at Chandor Gardens! Located in the heart of Weatherford’s Historic District, Chandor Gardens is the perfect place to get away and enjoy the simple pleasures of life that can only be found in gardens. Call 817-613-1700 or visit for details.


Posted by Steven Chamblee
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