Friday, March 6, 2020

We hit the jackpot on our cave tour today!

It's going to be below freezing tonight so the RV park we are at turned off water at 5 p.m. Since we will be leaving tomorrow, Saturday, anyway Pat disconnect water and dumped tanks this morning.  It was very windy so we brought in the big slide so the slide topper didn't get damaged too.

We headed for Mammoth Cave after lunch to take the 1:30 Extended Historic Cave Tour.  This was the best cave tour we have ever taken!
We stopped at Mammoth one summer with our 3 boys when they were little, but I don't remember if we took a cave tour then.  Jerry was our Park Guide today.  He has lived in the Mammoth Cave area all of his life.  He was a Drill Sargent in the Vietnam War which seemed to carry over, but in a good way.  He was such a character!

Jerry shared a lot of historical information.  He showed us the names of  Mat and Nick smoked in the ceiling in several places dating back to the early 1800's.  He said slaves were sold to cave owners in the Mammoth area in the early 1800's for guides in the caves. During the Spanish war of 1812 the slaves were used to process saltpeter in Mammoth cave.  Saltpeter is one of the primary ingredients for gunpowder.  There was also an experiment to treat people with consumption in the cave.  A doctor thought the air inside the cave might cure TB.  After 4 deaths the experiment was discontinued.  The patients stayed in rooms built for this purpose and the slaves would bring them their meals. Jerry shared a lot of interesting information on the slaves and had lots of stories to share, especially about Mat and Nick.

Pat exiting Fat Man's Misery
After entering through the historic entrance, we walked down to the river level of the cave and en route saw the Rotunda, Church Room, and the Bottomlp0ess Pit.  We traveled through the tight, twisting, low-ceiling area called Fat Man's Misery. I have a problem with claustrophobia but survived.  We also passed through Tall  Man's Folly, a very low-ceiling area.

Plot twist--we get to the end and sit down on bleachers for Jerry's final talk.  Our tour guide is Jerry Bransford and Mat Bransford is Jerry's Great-Great Grandpa. I think everyone in the room was in awe.  It was such an amazing and touching story. Jerry's family came to the cave as slaves but became famous tour guides until 1939.  At that time the cave became a National Park and they didn't hire any of the black tour guides.  Since 2004 Jerry, who is in his 70's now, has also been a tour guide and wants to share the part his predecessors played in the cave exploration and history.  Jerry's Great Grandfather and Grandfather were both born in the same house in an area that is now part of the National Park.  After the tour Pat and I walked up to see the "tour guides cemetery." If you are interested in more detail, there is a book, Making Their Mark, The Signature of Slavery at Mammoth Cave by Joy Medley Lyons.  There was also an article written in The New York Times in 2014 that tells Jerry's story,
Writing on the ceiling


  1. Oh wow, what a nice tour. That is really special way to be able to touch that history of the cave.Thanks for sharing this story of Jerry and his family.