9-year-old boy squeezes into cave to rescue calf
Published: March 24, 2008 | 6949th good news item since 2003
Seth Brawner doesn’t have a fear of confined spaces. At 9 years old, he doesn’t generally mind getting dirty. He spends a lot of time on his grandparents’ farm and likes adventure. But on the night of Feb. 28, while all these attributes came in handy, it was his love of animals that mattered most.
On that cold Thursday night, Seth rescued a calf from a cave on a farm near where his grandparents, Ron and Doris Konkle, raise horses.
Ron Konkle was helping search for a herd of cattle that had been chased by coyotes when Seth’s mother, Jessica Brawner, called to ask her father what was going on.
Ron Konkle responded that a calf was stuck in a cave on a neighbor’s property in Shelby Township. Volunteers were trying to dig an opening large enough for someone to climb in and free the animal.
Seth and his mother drove out to the cattle farm around 9 p.m. They crossed over electric fences and trekked through a wooded area to join the search party at the entrance to the cave. After assessing the situation, Seth volunteered to crawl into the small opening.
“His mom said, ‘Do you think Seth can fit down in there?'” Ron Konkle said, recalling the event. “I said, ‘As long as it’s a baby animal.'”
Konkle tied a harness around his grandson, gave him a hat equipped with a flashlight and assured him he wouldn’t let go of the rope. Seth had to lie on his side to squeeze in the cave. He could hear his family and neighbors the entire time and said he wasn’t nervous, just determined to find the calf.
“I just kept inching down,” he said. “They kind of told me stuff to do.”
Seth would crawl a few inches, look around and pause to listen for the calf. He said the scariest part was the slight drop near the entrance because no one knew quite how far it was. They also didn’t know how far back the cave went or where the calf had ended up.
The agile 9-year-old eventually made his way to a large room in the cave where he could stand up. He later told his grandmother it would “make a cool clubhouse.”
Seth heard the baby animal before he saw it.
“I saw the calf’s head, but I thought it was another hole because it was black,” he said.
After realizing his mission was nearing completion, Seth tied a rope around the calf and led it toward the entrance to the cave. He lifted it out to the waiting crowd, where the animal was quickly reunited with its mother.
“They kind of forgot about me for a minute when they saw the calf,” Seth said.
“When we pulled the calf out, he said, ‘Now pull me out,'” Ron Konkle said. “I think he was ready to come out.”
The rescued calf has long since returned to its pasture, blending in with the other frolicking members of the Angus heard. Seth has returned to his normal routine as a fourth-grader at Lydia Middleton Elementary School and is enjoying spring break this week. Though he hasn’t been in any more caves lately, the experience may prove valuable in the future if he pursues a career as an explorer.
“I told him he’s a genuine spelunker now,” Doris Konkle said.