Thursday, June 23, 2016

Skeleton Cave by Cora Cheney

This January 1965 Scholastic Books edition reprints Nora Cheney’s 1954 juvenile thriller for a generation that was about to tune in, turn on and walk on the wild side. Another of the many paperbacks from the mid-1960s that inspired my lifelong interest in reading and book collecting, Skeleton Cave also featured a topic of great interest to me. As a child I loved caves and I visited such landmarks as Cave of the Mounds and Crystal Cave in Wisconsin or Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico during those cross-country trips I took with my family. I was also an avid rock and gemstone collector. I was always looking for secret caves to explore and any book with caves and a mystery to solve was right up my alley. In Skeleton Cave ten year old Davy is exploring a nearby cave after three days of rain and discovers that the poor weather has washed out some dirt revealing a human skeleton in the cave. Intrigued, Davy wants to uncover the secret of that skeleton (for surely there is always some type of discoverable secret in such plots) but his grandfather can’t assist him due to his health. There’s a slight Christian theme underlying this one as Davy’s grandfather tells him “Did you ever hear of reading the Bible to solve your troubles, son?” Davy sets out to have a box of Indian relics entered into a university sponsored relic contest and after consulting with a college professor Davy learns that the skeleton and the relics he uncovered are quite valuable. Davy wants money to buy his grandpa a new wheelchair, and dang it if those Indian relics might be the answer. Such heartwarming fantasy dramas might be a thing of the past, but this simplistic story was popular enough that I still occasionally encounter old timers that recall reading it.

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