Malheur Cave Event
Malheur Cave is a classic example of a large lava tube cave. The cave is 17 miles east of Crane Hot Springs and is owned by the Masonic Lodge of Burns. The cave is 3,000 feet long, and the height varies from 8 feet near the entrance to a maximum of 20 feet far back in the cave. An underground lake fills the lower end of the cave, and fluctuation can cause the water to rise within 1,000 feet of the entrance.
In 1938 two members of the lodge, Ulysses S. Hackney and Charles W. Loggan, came up with the idea of holding an outdoor stated meeting in the Malheur Cave 52 miles east of Burns. They devised a plan to use the Malheur Cave for an outdoor meeting of Masons in Oregon. Their idea was well received, and the first official outdoor meeting of Masons in the Western United States was held at the Malheur Cave at a stated meeting, under Special Dispensation, at 8:00 pm, October 1st, 1938.
That evening an old-fashioned “Buckaroo" supper was held at the entrance of the cave. After supper the Lodge was opened in the cave on the Master Mason degree, and the MM degree was conferred upon Brother Fellowcraft William Merle Bennett.
Forty-nine masons registered, and twenty-one different lodges from seven states and one foreign country were represented. Lighting was by gas lanterns.
A Masonic Landmark
The Malheur Cave Event has become a landmark function for Burns Lodge. August 29, 2009 will be the 71st year that this special, one-of-a-kind event, has been held. Many thousands of Master Masons have attended this outstanding event. It has gone from a single evening with a “Buckaroo” super around the mouth of the cave and then the degree itself, to a weekend camp-out with Brothers sleeping in “state of the art” tents, in the back of their pickups, to, travel trailers of all sizes up to class “A” motor-homes.
This all happens in a “Collapsed Lava Tube meadow about 500 yards north of the Cave entrance. This beautiful grass covered meadow opens up at its east end into the mouth of the south fork of the Malheur River.
It too is part of the draw to Masons from the many states that are represented, as well as countries each year. The return rate is phenomenal. For there is no place to get down to the heart of Masonry, like the Annual Malheur Cave Event, with all of it’s tenets and values, with the camaraderie among all, meeting new friends, and seeing again, friends that it has been too long since you’ve seen them last.
Then, there is the FOOD!!!. As part of the fame of the Malheur Cave Event you’ll hear it over and over, Wow, the food is something special. The menu stretches from Roast loin of Pork & Grilled Breast of Chicken, through a couple of belt busting, giant breakfasts, to a superb Deli lunch and a Grill Steak dinner.
(The following account of the legend of Malheur Cave, written by Julian Byrd, pioneer Burns editor, was given at one of the early sessions of Burns Lodge, held in the cave;)
Why the entrance to Malheur Cave was found barricaded by the first white man who visited it was told by Captain Louie, Paiute Indian chief who recently died in Burns; The legend dates back many years and Captain Louie had it handed down to him by an aged ancestor.
The legend was given by Dr. W. L. Marsden, a Past Master of Burns Lodge, at least 50 years ago and is retold from memory, therefore much of the detail is omitted because of the lapse of time and faulty memory; The essentials, however, are as follows:
Many, many years ago, long before the white man came to this country, when Malheur Lake was high and flowed out through the old river channel past the Malheur Cave and was the headwaters of the south fork of the Malheur River, a large party of Paiutes, warriors, women and children, were camped on the border of Malheur Lake while the women gathered roots, herbs and seeds to dry for winter food – An epidemic came which was taking the lives of many, especially the children. The Paiute medicine men were unable to cope with it. There was much misery, women weeping, children dying and mothers grumbling against the priests and beginning to doubt their potency.
It happened that a group of Bannocks from Idaho, or other points east were visiting at the camp with the Paiutes. The medicine men, who were becoming discredited and feared they would lose the respect and confidence of the Paiutes, in their extremity to save their faces and reputation, accused the visiting Bannocks of having cast a spell over the sick persons, and so eloquently pleaded their cause that the Paiute warriors attacked the Bannocks and all but exterminated the entire party.
However, one or more, at least a small remnant of the Bannock party escaped death and returned to Idaho. Upon being told of the cruel massacre of their tribesmen and the reason for it. Bannock warriors assembled a large party and started for Malheur Lake with the intention of avenging the death of their fellows. When the invading party was yet several days off and in camp, a coyote slipped into camp and overheard the boasts of the Bannocks and their intention to kill the entire band of Paiutes.
The coyote, being a friend of the Paiutes, ran ahead of the invaders and warned the Paiutes, telling them of the overwhelming numbers and advised the Paiutes to take refuge in some safe place as they could not hope to withstand the invaders. The coyote told the Paiutes of Malheur Cave with its living water, where even though they were less in numbers, they could hold out against the greater odds.
The Paiutes heeded the advice of the coyote, gathered up their supply of food and camp equipment and hurried to the cave. The entrance was barricaded with rocks and, although the warring Bannocks discovered the Paiutes, they were able to keep them off.
At first the Bannocks believed they could starve the Paiutes out not knowing of the water and food supplies and remained around the mouth of the cave for days, sending hundreds of obsidian-pointed arrows into the entrance and around the mouth of the cave. After many days the invading party withdrew and the coyote followed them on their journey for a few days, finally returning to his Paiute friends with the assurance that their enemy was well out of the country and it was safe for them to come out.
The Paiutes removed only enough of the rocks to provide an exit, and that is how the entrance was found barricaded by the first white men and the reason for the presence of hundreds of arrowheads at its mouth and for some distance back into the cave. That, also is why the Paiutes, in the long ago, revered the coyote and would not kill him. He was considered the wisest, slyest and most cunning of animals.
In the days before the coming of the white man, Paiute Indians believed in transmigration of souls to the coyote and later to a heaven, where all were restored to youth and lived forever midst plentiful wild game, flowers, trees, lakes and streams.