Having grown up in rural Tennessee, I have seen my share of sinkholes. Sinkholes have been in the news lately and they can become very dangerous, as we have seen by all the reports. In fact, on our farm, I have seen them appear overnight in places that you would least expect their appearance. Many times you would find them the next day with the front wheel of your tractor disappearing into a never-never land.
Underground water, soil and limestone rock movement that occurrs over a period of time causes sinkholes. The water wears away the limestone rock causing a hole to appear in the landscape. Sometimes they can be just a small hole, but they can also be quite large and deep. We have one on our farm that people say has no bottom, but I think that story is just a little too far-fetched. However, I have thrown several rocks in it over the years and listened a long time for them to hit bottom. Usually, all I would hear was a distant splash of water. I”ˆdo agree it is a really deep hole and probably one that kids should not have been around chucking rocks into.
My cousins Jimmy and Dave found a sinkhole one time that seemed to appear out of nowhere. The hole fell in on a path they usually traveled to go to Mr. Earl’s pond where they would fish for sun perch and brim. In the summertime, they traveled that path often and the day they found the hole they knew it was a new one because it was right in the middle of the path.
Being typical boys, their first instinct was to look in the hole and see just how deep it really was. It was too deep and dark for them to see anything, but if they yelled really loud they would get an echo that was better than those you would hear out west at the Grand Canyon.
After hollering in the hole for several minutes, the fun soon went away and they started throwing things into the large cavern. Rocks of all sizes, stumps, old scrap metal and tree limbs found their way into the darkness of the hole in the middle of the path. Each time the boys would throw something in they would stop and listen to hear it hit bottom. The depth must have been really deep because each time the splash of water sounded way off, which made them look even harder to find things to push off into the hole.
They were finally running out of things to send to the center of the Earth, when Dave spotted a railroad tie sticking out from under a bush near the hole. Twisting the tie out from under the bush, both boys working together now pushed and shoved the old tie to the edge of the hole to give it a final launch into the unknown. With all his might Dave pushed with his hands, and Jimmy shoved with his foot the old creosote tie into the hole and it began a free fall into the darkness. However, to the surprise of the boys, the tie also carried with it an old log chain, unfurling from underneath the bush and heading to the hole as well. As the tie fell, pulling the log chain across the ground into the hole, the boys watched as a brand new Sears tiller also made its way from the bush and leaped into the sinkhole.
The cousins stood there with a look of wonderment on their faces as they heard the tiller hit bottom, plus the voice of Mr. Earl coming up the path behind them. Still in shock, they looked at the old man wondering what he was going to say. Stopping beside the boys and scratching his head he asked, “Fellows, have you see a red tiller up here around these bushes?”
Jimmy, being the spokesman of the two, answered, “Well Mr. Earl, the strangest thing just happened. We were throwing things in this hole here and all of a sudden this tiller came rolling out of those bushes and jumped right in that hole there!”
Mr. Earl looking a little surprised said, “I never heard nothing like that before, but I guess it wasn’t my tiller. My tiller was chained to a railroad tie.”
– Pettus L. Read is Director of Communications for the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation. He may be contacted by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org