The Cave Where the Water Always Drips
Robert DeMayo’s latest book, The Cave Where the Water Always Drips, combines legends on lost treasures and forgotten gold mines with local creation myths. The inspiration for the book stemmed from the folklore surrounding Montezuma’s Well, a flooded sink hole located in Rimrock. “When we first moved to Arizona from Alaska we lived next to the site,” said DeMayo. “I often went there during the full moon and sat on the Well’s rim, listening to the night.”
The Yavapai/Apache creation legend begins there, when someone did something wrong and it flooded, causing everyone to die except a young woman named Kamala. The legend states that while the water rose the village united in sealing Kamala in a hollow log so she alone would live.
“There was something very spiritual about that place, and maybe a little dark,” said DeMayo. “Looking down at the moon reflecting in the still water, one naturally asks; what could someone have done that would make their god angry enough to kill all but one? Or what could have been so special about Kamala that they all worked together to save her life—while everyone around them drowned? This story offers a suggestion as to what might have happened to the young girl who had to live alone after everyone died—I believe in every story there is a kernel of truth, and I wanted to explore it.”
DeMayo’s book is based on fictional characters, including the heroine, Jules Collins. Jules lives near modern day Sedona, and has her own reasons for finding “truth” in the creation legend. So does Marcos DeNiza, a manic, Hispanic archaeologist with an interesting map. “I’ve always been obsessed with stories of lost cities and forgotten treasure. While I guided in Sedona I learned most of the local tales and decided to use what I could to help visitors image what might have been here before there was even a town.”
The book contains legends of Spaniards, a lost treasure, and a local gold mine that no one has found in modern times, “A pioneer from Tucson supposedly rediscovered it, but then got shot. And then in 1910 one of Sedona’s first pioneers, Bear Howard, came across it, but couldn’t find it again. The reason it was so illusive was it was in a box canyon with a hidden entrance—a theme which is a common with a lot of the local legends.”
DeMayo added, “The Spanish were in the area long before the pioneers, and people still come across Spanish suits of armor, helmets and other treasures. In nearby Sycamore Canyon, a man found a large bell made of solid silver—which was mysteriously gone when he returned. And there are plenty of stories of old time residents who paid for everything with gold, but never talked. If you look closely, those connections are everywhere. I work with a man named Richard Perez, who is co-owner of Trailhorse Adventures. His ancestor came into this area as the cartographer of the Espejo Expedition in 1582.
Essentially, DeMayo has been researching this book, one way or another, throughout his adult life. “We are all searching for something. For answers that are clear and easy to read. I left home at twenty and for a year and a half traveled through Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Southeast Asia and the Far East. I crawled through any ruin I could find, and made my way to wilderness areas and National Parks everywhere like a magnet. The entire time my head was filled with questions.”
A life of carefree travel led to journalism, and for the next 12 years (from 1988 to 2000), DeMayo wrote extensively for The Telegraph—out of Hudson, N.H. His first assignment was to drive from New Hampshire to Panama in 1988, reporting and corresponding while he explored each country along the way. The journey to Panama ended with him being hospitalized in Ecuador after being caught in riots in Panama City during Noriega’s expulsion.
It did however fuel a lifelong obsession with overland journeys. To date he has traveled through over 100 countries, crossing most of them overland—Africa three times. “I traveled for at least six months a year, for ten years,” said DeMayo. “And then did another five years like that with my wife, Diana.”
Eventually his wife became pregnant while they were living on the Stampede Trail in Healy, Alaska and they settled in Keene, N.H. for three years while they worked for a travel office marketing exploration tours and safaris.
“In 1999 I became involved with the Explorers’ Club, whose members include all the astronauts, arctic and Antarctic voyagers, and other major explorers from the last 100 years. It was an incredible opportunity for me to be able to work with explorers like Neil Armstrong, Robert Ballard and the Leakey Family. I marketed deep sea dives to the Titanic and Bismark, African safaris, and archaeological tours throughout the world.
It was only then that he realized the significance of some of the places he had been. “Eventually I made it into the Explorers Club. They made me write out and document all the travel I’d done in a ten page travel resume.”
After 9-11, DeMayo and family hit the road again, “We had friends in Alaska so we loaded up our girls and drove across the northern states in early spring—they were 9 months and 3 years at the time. When we first moved into the wall-tent there was still snow on the ground. Once there I picked up work as a tour guide bringing cruise ship passengers into the Yukon for horseback rides and hikes.”
Eventually he landed in Sedona where he worked for A Day in the West exploring the high desert as a jeep tour guide; a few years later he moved into management. He is currently one of vice-mayor, John Bradshaw’s General Managers, helping to run A Day in the West and Sedona Photo Express. His wife, Diana, is a massage therapist, and owns Uptown Massage (located on Jordan Road). His two daughters are now enrolled in West Sedona: Tavish (10) and Saydrin Scout (8).
“Does the cave really exist?” said DeMayo. “I don’t know. I also don’t know if someone could get pregnant from a drop of water hitting their forehead. For that matter, could someone turn water into wine, or raise people from the dead? You’ve got to decide for yourself, and latch onto whatever plausible explanation works for you. But as far as Kamala is concerned, I believe something happened or they wouldn’t be still retelling the legend.”
Robert’s book, The Cave Where the Water Always Drips, hits Sedona stores this week, and is available online.