“One of the first things Charlie did was build a paddock on top for the animals,” said Malone, 58, who lives in Santa Clara, Calif. “My grandmother was born in Kansas … but she spent her infancy in the cave. My uncle was born in the cave. They had boxes and a stove in there. They’d put the kids in boxes at night with blankets around them, and the adults slept on a cot. The logistics were crazy.”
How did his great-grandmother care for the children in such conditions? Did she leave them in the cave while she went to collect water each day? Did she bring them with her? How must it have been in the spring, when worms would burrow through the walls?
The book considers other significant events in the family’s history. For years, rumors had circulated about Hasbrook’s mother and her possible role in the deaths of her two husbands (one of whom was Hasbrook’s father). Her descendants had candy-coated the story, minimizing the drama, but Malone dug into it and reached a painful conclusion.
“She was very likely an accessory before and after the fact. … The truth was almost too much to bear,” he said.
The story has a happy ending, though.
After Malone’s father died, his widow became fixated on reclaiming the Oklahoma homestead. Malone set out to make that happen for her, balancing business meetings with calls to an Enid real estate broker. Along the way, he said, he became obsessed with the property.
Eventually things worked out. Malone owns the homestead now. The property is being restored. The house and barn, Malone said, are safe. So is the cave. A tenant farmer is tending to the acreage, and Malone hopes one day to make it a “living, breathing farm again,” possibly occupied by his youngest son, a budding botanist.
“It took so much for Charlie to get that place and to keep it,” Malone said. “We owe it to him never to lose it again.”