I think I had caving in my blood almost from birth. My father, while assuredly not a caver, was an avid outdoorsman and adventurer, and I can remember him taking me as a toddler to what were probably just talus shelters but which seemed to be fantastic caverns. He also took us to a number of commercial caves - I remember being maybe 9 or 10 years old and looking at awe at the rope ladder dropping down a pit in the Carlsbad Big Room; I was simultaneously terrified and irresistibly drawn. Another funny memory - I must have been about 2nd or 3rd grade, and we had the word "spelunker" on a spelling list (I know, I know). I recall thinking, "I'm going to do that someday!" But caves are small and scarce in northern Colorado, and I drifted instead into rock climbing.
Until a fateful family trip to Seattle in 1975. We stopped at the flagship REI store, and were given some small sum to buy something. I stumbled upon Halliday's American Caves and Caving, and in basically never looked back. Joined the NSS a couple years later, but was too intimidated to look up the Colorado Grotto (figuring that those 'real cavers' wouldn't have the time for the likes of me!). Drove myself back to Kentucky for the 1981 International Congress, and ran into some CG cavers, and joined the grotto upon getting back home.
And now, 40+ years later, from carbide to LEDs, cotton to PVC, Goldline to PMI, the lure of the cave is still strong. God willing, I'll still be strong enough to answer for another decade or two!\
Psalms 95.4 / Proverbs 25.2