Freddie Olsen

I don’t remember just when I met Freddie.  He was in my class at Bucknell and was a chemistry major.  Scary smart in chemistry.  He had a congenital heart problem and that allowed him to have a car on campus which was nice for our group.  We were a group of GDIs.  During my first short interval on campus, I joined in on the excitement of joining a fraternity as that was almost expected of us, and the different fraternities wooed us to join.  Then it became clear that the frats were choosey and only went for certain people.  I found that odd and confusing and ended up joining a lesser known fraternity.  As soon as the hazing started and all the beer, I quit within the first week.  I didn’t need that nonsense to become a doctor.  So, I joined the status of GDI…god damned independent.  Freddie was another as was John and a couple Bills that should be included sooner or later.  We palled around, ate at the cafeteria which was off the hill and in general, we had a good time and learned from each other.  I became close to Freddie as he had a quick wit and was always up for fun.  We would drive to the top of a mountain, just to see if it was possible.  Then he would get out and walk, but have to stop because he couldn’t breathe, and turn so blue it was both impressive and frightening.  He’d climb a tower where I couldn’t imagine doing.  He pushed himself like he wanted to die.  We would go spelunking together as a group and more than once I’d see him blue and wheezing so bad it hurt.  Freddies Dad invented the Red Devil paint scraper so he was fairly wealthy.  We went home with him one time and they had it arranged for the group of us to go fishing for bluefish out on the ocean.  I never thought I’d get tired of catching fish, but I got so worn out I just had to quit.  We cleaned fish for hours that evening.  I chose Freddie to be best man at my wedding because we were close, but also because I knew he wouldn’t be with us long.  He got married after graduation and went to teach Chemistry in Canada.   I talked to him not long before his 9th open heart surgery, where he died on the table.  Freddie was a special person.

I was walking thru the library on campus and saw a friend reading a book titled Speleology.  I had never heard the word before and asked about it.  He said you don’t know about caves?  Well, sure I’d been in “show” caves where you pay to see the sights.  It turned out there were quite a few caves around Bucknell and it wasn’t too long till Freddie and I found where one was close to campus.  We went to the farmer and asked about it, and he pointed up a field to the hill top.  “There’s a cone shaped depression and you enter the cave at the bottom of that.”  So, huffing and puffing Freddie climbed the hill with me and we went down to the hole.  It was a little more than big enough for one person to go down and it went down stepping from stone to stone like a ladder till we reached a horizontal tunnel about 50 ft down.  We had ONE flashlight.  I went first and on hands and knees, started along the tunnel.  I was about 20 ft in front of Freddie when he asked for the flashlight.  I checked the tunnel ahead then threw the light to him and I went on forward in the very very dark.  Suddenly after about 30 ft, I put my hand in a hole and stopped.  Couldn’t feel anything like a path.  I picked up a small  stone and threw it into the hole, and listened for it to hit.  No sound.  Picked up a larger stone, threw it… sound. Oi.  Hey Freddie pass me the light.  When I aimed it forward…I couldn’t see the wall or ceiling or floor…I had come out at the top of an hourglass shaped room and it was about 200 ft down and over 100 ft across.  I was down from the ceiling about 50 ft.  We quit then and went back to plan.  The 5 of us spent many hours in that cave and one time, we were at the very bottom and there was a hole going down.  Using just a clothesline rope, Freddie squeezed thru the hole and went down maybe 5 feet.  We were more than lucky that he was able to get back up…it’s not easy with that thin rope even holding on.  He was at the top of another long elliptical vertical room…and couldn’t see bottom.  We never did explore it further.  None of us had rope experience.   They were special times.

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