Rohe Track Era All About Us!

Compiled by Tom Scott 07/28/2013


As Chuck Rohe tells the story, Gaylord (Gayl) Morse was a fine quarter-miler and intermediate hurdler (spring of 1963 through spring of 1966)—part of Rohe’s first outstanding recruiting class. Gayl was from suburban Chicago and had some cultural differences with the guys from the rural South. Rohe did not know until later that the good-ole-boys were hopping freight cars for fun on weekends when he wasn’t supervising. One day they persuaded Gayl to go on a ride with them. Gayl did not enjoy the experience. As soon as they reached Cincinnati, he left the group and booked a flight back to Knoxville. For ever after, he was known as Sky King.

Gayl Morse, 1963-66

I'll relate SKY KING and the Spelunking adventures if you'd like to hear them. Sky King starts in Knoxville where Ray Kodres, Ernie Wale and someone else (Bob Redington ?) and I hopped an L&N freight train which eventually got us to Cincinnati. I got off the train in the Cincinnati rail yards and walked into Cincinnati and reunited with Ray and Ernie who had ridden the train across the Ohio River and jumped off on the bridge while it was moving slowly. Glad I didn't stay with them or I might have ended up in the river. We stayed up the entire weekend and started home, but no trains were moving South, so after several hours, I decided to hitchhike back to Knoxville. After 6 hours I had hitchhiked 30 miles, so I decided to go back to Cincinnati and fly home. It was only after I had purchased my ticket for a flight that departed in an hour did I discover the Cincinnati Airport was on the other side of the Ohio river in Covington, Kentucky. Needless to say I missed that flight and probably a few others, but finally got on a flight to Knoxville and UT. By the time I got to the dorm, I had missed my Monday classes, and Ernie and Ray were already home. Apparently, just after I left, a freight train arrived, and they rode home in new cars being transported by the freight train.

Once again, Ernie and Ray got interested in cave exploring. Ray had a book on Caves of Tennessee. Apparently, Tennessee is second to Kentucky in numbers of caves. Our first experience was a cave on the east side of the river across from the stadium. We were ill prepared, with flashlights and no extra batteries, but determined to see if the cave went under the river, which it didn't. I soon discovered that my batteries were almost dead. When we came to a particularly tight squeeze, I decided to exit the cave. Then my flashlight died, so I turned it off, waited a short time and got a little light for a few steps and then off again. It sure was dark without a light, but I finally got back out. They came out a while later after failing to get completely under the river. Our second experience was better as we had carbide lights and ropes. The cave was located on private land, so we got permission from the landowner and found the cave. It was a bat cave, so we had bat guano to contend with as well as a huge cavern and finally we found some civil war relics, as the cave had been a saltpeter mine during the Civil War. After crawling on our bellies we finally reached a hole that looked like a well. Ray tied the rope on a pillar and climbed down it. When he reached the end of the 50 foot rope, he let go and dropped into an underground stream. After retracing our route, we got near the cave mouth only to be bombarded by bats, who apparently didn't like the smokey campfire someone built near the mouth of the cave. After leaving the cave, we found the entrance to a lower cave where the underground river ran and found Ray. On a later trip to the lower cave on a rainy day we found the water level 15 or 20 feet deeper and the river running very fast. Glad Ray didn't pick that day to drop from the upper cave into the river.