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of the cave

Here's how it all came about...
Of course, Dave couldn't leave well enough alone. One day in 1989 he climbed into a cave high on the face of the rock bluff that overlooks the river. The cave was full of pigeon droppings and nests. It was dank. It was dark. Dave emerged and said to Connie: "You know, I bet I can build a restaurant up there." "You are out of your mind," Connie replied. Well, maybe, thought Dave. A religious man, he prayed about it, asking that his image of a restaurant in a cave go away. It didn't. So Dave started to work. Naturally, so did Connie, since wives always get lassoed into such schemes.    Dave bought a jackhammer. He bought carts. He bought sledgehammers, picks, shovels and pry bars. He hired a guy who knew about blasting. All the while, neighbors figured that Dave was certifiable, ready for the guys with the white coats and nets. No matter. Over four years, Dave, Connie and a few helpers almost broke their backs taking 2,160 tons of rock out of the cave and turning it into a magic place that can seat 225 people. They put in air conditioners and dehumidifiers. They built fish-stocked fountains and waterfalls to mask any remaining seepage that the mechanical devices couldn't take care of. The cave is dry.     And more. There's a huge panoramic window overlooking the river 100 feet below. There's an elevator and carpeting and furnishings and service that would do any high-class restaurant in St. Louis or Kansas City proud.      
"Since we've opened, we've fed 35,000 people. And not from just around here. Name a state or country and we've had people from there."     
The menu is American - steaks, fish and chicken. Dave said that folks don't go away hungry. The restaurant is open for dinner Wednesday through Friday, and lunch and dinner on weekends. "Back in the 1920's, believe it or not," said Dave, "this was a dance hall. That's what it was called - Dance Hall Cave. People would come, climb up an old rickety ladder and have dances."     
As Dave tells it, a hard charger named Ed Steckle built the resort and constructed the low-water bridge across the river. That bridge, incidentally, was Steckle's undoing. He was on it one day during high water, trying to clear off piled-up flotsam. A tree branch snagged a leg, and he drowned.      
"For years afterward this just sat empty," said Dave. "Old Steckle must've been a dreamer." No more so than Dave, who didn't see just an old Missouri cave. He saw a restaurant. Dig and they will come. "Some of the locals thought people would be attracted to the novelty," he said. "Well, novelty is fine, but you better have good food and service. "Are they surprised? I think so. Especially when the big tour buses pull in and people pile out."   
-Excerpt from article by James J. Fisher