Danielle Sandbrook, Maplewood Rose Festival, 6/18/16
Like everyone, I admired Austin’s Retzlaff’s Hike to Rico’s Cave: An Experience Of “Two Rochesters,” his breathtaking photo montage and narrative of a hike along the Lower Falls Gorge.
But I did tell Talker I felt the expedition was tame by his standards. Wincing, tame, in what way? Well, you only went inside a cave. I explained what Sam Patch, the “Leaping Yankee,” had accomplished at the High Falls:
Patch’s first jump into the Genesee River raised a disappointing amount of money, so he decided to repeat the stunt one week later on November 13, 1829 (Friday the 13th). This time, Patch increased the height of the jump to 125 feet by constructing a 25-foot stand. Accounts from the 8,000 present differ on whether he actually jumped or fell, but he did not achieve his normal feet-first vertical entry. A loud impact was heard and Patch never surfaced. Rumors were passed that he had hidden in a cave at the base of the falls, and was enjoying all the excitement he had created. But Patch’s frozen body was found in the ice in Charlotte (Rochester) early the next spring by Silas Hudson. Local ministers and newspapers were quick to blame the crowd for urging him to jump, and put the guilt of his death on them.
Meditating, then rousing himself, Talker announced we would out patch Patch. Despite the surging water pressure, Talker would first scale the falls themselves, and then hurtle back, leaping past the sharp boulders at the base.
When I arrived at the Maplewood Rose Festival, Talker was talking with Danielle Sandbrook. Having just graduated from SUNY Brockport with a degree in Health Science and on her way to a Master’s Degree program in Occupational Therapy, Danielle is spending the summer working for Lakeland Winery and today running its Rose Fest stand.
Enjoying the perfect day, Carefree Spirit is actually an avid fan of the magazine, a bit of a Talker groupie. Blushing and gushing over some of her favorites: Talker loses his innocence, Rockily — of course — and What Millennials think of the Bridge Generation at Lux Lounge. And Stalker of the Town.
When Talker told her what was planned, Carefree pleaded reconsideration. But I had dared our devil. Off to Rico’s Cave it was.While Talker did not consider his a kamikaze mission, he explained that Japanese pilots would drink ceremonial sake before departing for Leyte Gulf.
George Payne was also there, helping run the Lower Falls Foundation booth. The two toasted to Talker’s triumphant return and to the full success of George’s own mission to make the Lower Falls Gorge a World Heritage Site.
In lieu of ceremonial sake, Danielle served the refreshing Coconut Yuzu. With a faint coconut aftertaste, Yuzu is a perfect summer wine — a light wine version of a Pina Colada.Just as we began the descent, we ran into Mark Hare, volunteering as a tour guide. Hare greatly admired Talker’s fearlessness. And asked, in the unlikely event of a mishap, might he assume the magazine’s editor in chief duties.
As we approached the cave and falls, we met Andrew Palmer, a RIT Photo Science student. Andrew and some other students who work in the photo lab over the summer– the Cagers — were at the Gorge testing out new equipment.We met also a Wildman named (fittingly) Van Winkle. Earlier in his life, the Wildman had been the RIT Photographic Facilities Coordinator / Film and Animation, Photographic Arts & Sciences. But having chanced upon Thoreau’s Walden at Java Wally’s, the Wildman left Henrietta and now camps out in Rico’s Cave, living off wild game and river trout. Before Talker’s rendezvous with destiny, we stopped in Rico’s Cave at the image of the Puerto Rican flag. There we pondered the great mysteries of life. Should Puerto Rico remain a commonwealth or become a state or its own country?
This would be the last photograph he would ever take.As Talker surveyed the waterfall, I imagined how Ike must have felt the morning of June 6th, 1944 or Pickett the morning of July 3rd, 1863. Once more into the breech.
After Talker disappeared into the vortex, I waited a solid 20 minutes even though I was already late for my Disc Golf game. I did retrieve his remains I would later give to Carefree. When wearing his Abbey Road shirt, Carefree could think of Talker as she searched matchblog.com for his replacement online magazine.
On the lone trek back, I ran into two boys struggling with their fishing rod. Having worked up quite an appetite, I helped the boys in return for half the fish we caught. Right a way, we snagged a large river salmon.
As Talker was slipping away and into the maelstrom, his last words were, “Don’t forget about the hole.” The hole is in the top of the ceiling of Rico’s Cave. It was to be the final piece in his planned montage.
Smartly using my phone’s GPS, I discovered the hole near a wooded area behind the McDonalds on Lake Avenue. The ceiling hole was covered by a grate in a small grassy area surround by barbed wire. Thinking of my sunken comrade, I deftly maneuvered around the barbed wire, and had one last photo op for now silenced Talker. I believe I saw from the hole drifting heavenward a human soul.
After a rousing game of Disc Golf, I barbecued the salmon in the company of my beloved wife and children. It was a thoroughly delightful afternoon.