Cave Dwellers light up the sky
The Leachville Cave Dwellers are not Cro-Magnons, nor do they live in a cave, but they are throwbacks from a time when people saw a need in a community and took care of it.
These dedicated volunteers wanted to do something to make the Fourth of July a special day for the children in their hometown. With rising gasoline cost and high unemployment many families cannot afford to go out of town for the holidays.
The Cave Dwellers are made up of friends, bikers and firemen that hang around Mark Johnson's Body Shop downtown. They got their name from a disgruntled customer that left a message on the answering machine saying, "I was by the cave today and nobody was there." From that day on they called themselves Cave Dwellers with Mark Johnson being proclaimed as Captain Cave Man.
"Wayne (Adams) came up with the idea when he wished that we could do something for the kids." said Mark Johnson. "Wayne, Tommy (Oliver), Chad (Jackson) and I talked among ourselves and recalled our years growing up and how shooting firecrackers in our back yards on the Fourth of July was an exciting thing to do. Before long we pooled our money and had a few donations and came up with $600. We drove to Charleston, Mo., to purchase fireworks, not knowing what to buy or how to set them off.
"It was all trial and error that first year (2006), and it is a wonder someone didn't get hurt," Johnson said. "We sampled lighting fireworks out in front of the cave (the garage), so we could be prepared on the Fourth. Despite all that we still had them discharge six feet in the air, go off in the trailer, misfire and fall over, and one we put in upside down. We stepped all over each other trying to light them. We had a lot of trial and error that first year.
"We learned not to use metal pipes for holding them, let one person do the lighting, use a butane torch to light, wear safety glasses and ear plugs and rope off the launch area so people can't get too close. Phillip Lyerly let us shoot the fireworks over his field, east of the park. We ended up putting on a fantastic 27-minute display that first year and no one got hurt. The people came out in droves. They sat on the grass in lawn chairs, on blankets, on bleachers, while some stayed in their vehicles."
Teresa Johnson, Mark's wife, is afraid of fireworks. She took their 6-month-old granddaughter Lynlee Rose to a car wash nearby to watch the display in 2007, out of fear for their lives. This year they were ringside at the Fourth of July fireworks and enjoyed all 45 minutes of it.
"We had a lot more help and a lot more donations this year," Mark Johnson said. "We set up an account called "Cave Dwellers" at Heritage Bank in Leachville. We raised $2,300 for fireworks. The difficult part is that the donations come in about a week or two before the event, which makes us have to travel to Charleston more times to make purchases. We went three times this year. We decided that this had to be a year-round effort if we were going to do it right, so we are already working toward having fundraisers. We plan to cook and sell Boston butts in October and come up with other ideas throughout the year."
Cave Dwellers are Jake Ballard, Tommy Stockton, Tony Nix, Keith Evans, Shona Womack, Chuck Davis, Troy Waddell, Brian Thacker, John Fortnor, Bud Parker, Mark Johnson, Tommy Oliver, Ricky Ramsey, Willis Lambert, Chad Jackson, Brandon Womack, Steven Johnson, Ken Womack, Wayne Sexton, Dalton Womack, Darrin McFall, Eddie Wayne Adams, and James Lee Stacy.
Leachville Mayor Sheila Spurlock and the city councilmen praised the Cave Dwellers for the most fantastic fireworks display in the city's more than 100-year history. No doubt the 2009 Fourth of July fireworks display will be even bigger and better than the past two performances, as interest continues to grow. There seems to be no limits on what unified and dedicated volunteers can do to make their town a better place to live. Enthusiasm is indeed contagious.