My father, John Wesley “Jay” Gatchell, provided financial assistance, advice and encouragement from the time we first considered purchasing the cave, until he passed away on January 23, 2005. He loved the property, our concept for building, and what he saw in our progress.
Before the project took shape, there were generally two types of reactions from people who visited. Some saw nothing more than a dirty hole in the ground, and thought we were out of our minds. Others saw the kind of potential we did, and awed at the beauty of the rock walls and the vast, nurturing feeling inside the cave. Thankfully, my father was amongst the latter group.
When my father first visited, he reacted with giddy excitement, slightly tempered by sound advice to check for radon and do our research. After we spent all of our available money on the purchase of the property, he helped us buy our first pile of lumber for the main structure. All along the way, he encouraged us and acted as a sounding board for our ideas.
I am personally grateful that my father was able to see so much progress before he died. During a visit here in October of 2004 with his second wife, Judi, he saw some of the main structure framed in, where we had used his pile of lumber. He rode the scissor lift up and walked around the second floor platform. He approved of how we had over-built it for sturdiness and durability.
Although that was my father’s last visit in person to the cave, we visited him in Brownsville, Texas shortly after his pancreatic cancer diagnosis, in December 2004. Driven to show him some serious progress, we completed the front wall, and took him a family photo with the façade in the background. He beamed with the same giddy excitement he had shown us during his two visits.
This project couldn’t have happened without him, and his approval meant the world to me.