My imagination was captured the other day by this article about recent discoveries at an intriguing place in Wyoming called Natural Trap Cave.
The cave was first explored by paleontologists in the 1970’s, and then sealed up for thirty years.
The 2014 expedition has been making news for the variety of animal remains found in a well-preserved state at the bottom of this naturally formed pit. It’s 85 feet deep with a hidden opening perfectly positioned to receive unwitting prey in full flight from a pursuing animal, or scavengers too hungry to resist getting tragically close to the edge.
Since no one has been in the cave for several decades and the only way to get down to the bottom is to rappel (or fall) in, I immediately took Natural Trap Cave off my vacation spot list even though it would be a true wonder to behold.
But because art can transport us to places we will never go, I did commission Trail Baboon’s Sing-Song Poet Laureate Schuyler Tyler Wyler to craft a rhyming masterpiece from the point of view of some prehistoric horse, pack rat or other careless mammal who tumbled into the abyss.
This is what he gave me:
Sprinting through the underbrush I hurtled at a run.
And by the time I saw the hole my plummet had begun.
A sudden transformation. Total darkness fell at noon.
My legs continued churning like a roadrunner cartoon.
I couldn’t gauge the distance. Eighty feet? Perhaps a mile?
No matter. At the end – I’m just a fossil on the pile.
I’ve been here undisturbed for 20,000 years (about).
To every new arrival, far too late, I say “Watch out!”
While I admire the brevity of this work (you can’t write an epic about falling 85 feet), I did challenge STW on his use of the roadrunner cartoon imagery. A short-faced bear (extinct 11,000 years ago) is just one of the animals found at the bottom of this pit who would have no familiarity with the Merrie Melodies oeuvre. The others include every single creature whose remains are down there.
Thus, I argued, this work violates the rule that says an artist must honor the boundaries of the fantasy world he creates. Obviously, the poem-writing skeleton of an extinct animal would never have had the chance to watch Saturday morning TV. Thus, the roadrunner reference makes no sense and should be removed.
STW responded in verse, as usual.
While I honor all opinions about every work of mine,
You’ve mistakenly put “artist” and “boundaries” in the same line.
You cannot know what I had in mind, exactly, when I wrote,
I control the contours of my world and you don’t get a vote.
When the animals looked upwards from their unexpected leap,
they had visions, as you would, if you were dying in a heap.
And what last hallucination would you see at your life’s close?
Some would opt for God or Yaweh. But for me, it’s Warner Bros.
If the TV was on in your hospital room at the very end, what would you want to watch?