The Well, the Weapon, and the Way Out

A teen falls into a dried-out well that time has leveled to the ground and overgrown with vegetation. There is something at the bottom of the well. The teen may have made the discovery of the century—provided he finds a way to climb back up.

The Well, the Weapon, and the Way Out

By Richard Zowie

I was 30 feet below ground.

Two hours ago, I had been geocaching, trying to find my two hundredth cache when I stepped onto a weak spot onto the grass. When I realized what it could be, I’d already shifted my weight too much and had fallen straight down.

As I fell, panic swept through my mind as I frantically grabbed onto the sides of the hole, hoping maybe some firm tree branch was sticking out and would allow me to grab on and climb out. There was none. I fell, my feet stinging in my shoes from the impact. No snap of bone, which was good.

Instead, I was in a two-foot diameter hole, weeds and grass sprouting through the circular wall. This must’ve been a well at one time, but no time recently. It was dark and cool down at the bottom, despite it being July, 1 p.m., in Texas. It had a stale, earthy smell, making me think of the apartment I once lived in that had roach problems. I hate roaches, but I told myself if one appeared, it would be the least of my concerns.

I reached into my pocket and pulled out my i-Phone. Good news: it was the XR kind and the battery was almost at full power. Bad news: no signal. I texted my brother, told him where I was and what I was doing and tried to send it. It bounced back. I tried to call, but no signal. I also tried to call 911. Same. So, I shut the phone off and put it back into my pocket.

Think. Don’t panic, I thought.

I thought of Jessica McClure, the little girl who was stuck in that hole in Texas in the 1980s. She later said she had no memory. I’m 35, so I’m sure I’ll remember this. As I realized I couldn’t fully extend my elbows, I realized I was a little more claustrophobic than I thought. I reminded myself not to panic.

Two things came to mind. Sing loudly. As much as I hate the rapper Eminem, I decided to rap some of his songs. That would stand out, wouldn’t it?

“MY NAME IS…OOO…MY NAME IS…AAH…MY NAME IS …YEAH…SLIM SHADY!” I kept repeating as much as I could as I pulled out a pocket knife and started digging into the wall. The dirt was firm enough to where, with enough dirt dug out, I’d create a “step”. If I could create two-foot steps, it would take 15 steps to reach the top.

My hands were scraped and bleeding, and a few times I thought I was going to tear off a fingernail, but I didn’t care. I had three “stairs” created and they were holding firm. Soon, I was singing Mötley Crüe songs. Clods of dirt fell out, some big, some just pebbles. I’d also sometimes encounter a few worms.

And then, a large clod of dirt that seemed far too big.

As I tried breaking it apart, I was stunned to feel metal underneath. The lighting wasn’t good, but I could feel it was an old pistol. Judging by the weight, it still had bullets in it. It felt rusty.

“What the hell…?” I wondered aloud, my throat raspy from rapping and trying to reach Vince Neil’s falsetto range. Afraid it might still go off after all these years, I placed it into my pocket, opposite my phone, and kept digging.

is that a well?

“Is that a well?” someone asked from a distance.

I went back to the bottom and looked up. I saw three guys looking down. They wore jeans, cowboy hats and looked like they’d done a lot of farm work. “Hello! I fell into this well. I was geocaching.”

For some strange reason, I was worried they’d decide not to help. I also felt this strong, stinging, intuitive feeling not to tell them about the gun. Maybe one of their grandfathers put it in the hole. Maybe they’d leave me there if they knew I’d found it.

“Sure!” one of them said. “Bryan, get that rope from the back of the truck. Mister, we’re going to play tug of war. Once we throw the rope down, you tie it to yourself and hold on. We’ll pull you out.”

The white cloth rope came down. I wrapped it around myself once, tied two knots and wrapped each hand once with the rope, not caring that it would hurt, knowing it would make it more likely they’d have me out.

When I told them I was ready, they counted to three and pulled.

It was like shooting straight up into the air, and before the ropes had a chance to hurt my hands or chest, soon, my face rested on the hot ground, near some gravel. It hurt, but I didn’t care.

As I caught my breath, I stood as the three helped me and I thanked them. Two of them were unaware what geocaching was. And I explained it to them. Finding the cache no longer appealed, so I walked back to my car and drove first to the sheriff’s office to drop off the gun. They questioned me for 15 minutes, then asked for my number so they could call me back.

Six months later, I picked up a copy of the local paper, the Ruthville Blue Star. Thirty-five years ago, a woman was killed with two gunshots, both to the head. She had just turned down the marriage proposal of a 30-year-old Roger Williams. He told police he had “lost” his gun and denied shooting her. Well, it turns out the gun was missing two bullets, the serial number matched old records showing it belonged to him, and the ballistics showed it was the murder weapon. Apparently he dumped it into the well, knowing it was dry, and hoped that once filled, nobody would notice.

Williams couldn’t be prosecuted. The Blue Star reported that Williams in 1998 was all set to go to prison for 10 years for bank robbery, except he cut a deal to testify against his partners and got a two-year sentence. That didn’t go over well with the other inmates, and he was killed a few months later. I didn’t ask how, as I didn’t want to know.

The three guys were brothers sent out by their father to search for an old well on the property. The day after they rescued me, they filled in the hole and put boards over it.

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