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Synopsis


(Taken from CD liner notes)

FLOYD COLLINS is based on true events which occurred near Cave City, Kentucky in the winter of 1925.

For many years, the farmers and landowners of this area fought a series of bitter "cave wars" in which they competed to discover and operate the largest and most beautiful caves in the region. Many farmers found expansive and decorative caverns on their own properties which they opened for tourism and profit. Floyd Collins, who lived nearby on his family's farm, was an avid cave explorer and had already opened his own Crystal Cave. But the enterprise never brought Floyd the recognition and wealth of which he dreamed. On a rainy January 30, 1925, Floyd set out to explore Sand Cave, hoping to find a new cavern or a series of underground tunnels which he believed linked all the caves of the region. Winding his way into the earth with only a dim oil lantern to guide him, Floyd uses the echoes of his voice to sound out the cave (The Call, It Moves, Time to Go). As Floyd squirmed feet first through a tight passageway 150 feet underground, a small rock fell on his left foot, wedging in between him and the ceiling. Floyd was trapped in Sand Cave.

The rescue attempts at Sand Cave began with a handful of locals, including Floyd's family (Lucky) and fellow cavers ('Tween a Rock an'a Hard Place), who were confident that the trapped man would be quickly freed. But as night fell at Sand Cave, and Floyd's brother Homer crawled into the passageways to spend the night with his brother (Daybreak), it became clear to the growing crowd that the rescue operation would not be a simple one.

Although many tried to reach Floyd with supplies or comfort, few made it, turning back either because of the narrowness of the crawlways or the sudden fear the cave inspired. One of the few who reached Floyd was a cub reporter from the Louisville Courier-Journal named William Burke "Skeets" Miller. Because Miller was "no bigger than a 'squito," he was able to slide down the narrow chutes (I Landed On Him) and sit with Floyd in his cell-like cave. In the course of eight visits with the trapped man, Miller conducted a series of interviews which relayed to a quickly growing readership a firsthand account of the experience of being buried alive.

As days turned to weeks at Sand Cave, the local rescue attempt soon ballooned into a national crisis demanding outside engineering, dozens of miners, the National Guard, and the Red Cross. In the midst of factions disagreeing about the options for saving Floyd, the Collins family tried to remain strong (Heart an'Hand), with Homer continuing to lead efforts to get to Floyd's foot (The Riddle Song). Yet because of numerous factors including the weather, the crumbling walls of the cave, the tightness of the squeeze, and, at times, simple confusion and fear, no one could rescue Floyd.

Enticed by daily reports from a growing number of reporters at the site (Is That Remarkable?), an estimated 20,000 onlookers gradually arrived from all over America - some hoping to help, some hoping to get a glimpse of the now heroic Floyd, some hoping to exploit the crowd by hawking souvenirs or selling balloons. As the circus at Sand Cave reached its height with jugglers, medicine men, preachers and movie crews scrambling to get it all on film, Collins was all but forgotten. Around him swirled the first great media circus of the modern era (The Carnival). Although a series of cave-ins blocked the passageways to Floyd, cutting him off from the outside world, Floyd's sister, Nellie, dreamed of a way to lead her brother from his prison (Through the Mountain); Homer eventually clashed with the authorities and was banned from the site (Git Comfortable) as a vertical shaft was begun to reach Floyd. With the rescue efforts entering their third week (The Ballad of Floyd Collins), Floyd remained alone, left to contemplate his own fate (The Dream) and impending death.

On February 16, seventeen days after he had entered the cave, a shaft finally reached Floyd Collins. He had died of exposure, exhaustion, and starvation three days earlier, on Friday the 13th (How Glory Goes). The carnival at Sand Cave packed up and went home.

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