New book dives into Ab's spelunking adventures

Texas Folklore Society
By Texas Folklore Society
Posted June 30, 2022 to News.

Tags: TFS, TFS Fellows, Texas Folklore Society, folkore, Ab Abernethy, F.E. Abernethy, Francis E. Abernethy, caving, spelunking

As many longtime Texas Folklore Society members will tell you, F.E. “Ab” Abernethy was a spelunker and explorer in every facet. Ab was also the Secretary-Editor for the for TFS from 1971–2004.

Side note: A deep, dark cave would offer a welcome respite from the soaring heat, but enough about the weather.

TFS staff recently received news that some of Ab’s cavernous adventures have been posthumously published by Dr. William “Bill” Elliott, a retired biologist residing in Georgetown who became friends with Ab while attending grad school in the 1970s. Caving with Mitch is the true and humorous adventure story of three great friends, Ab, Robert W. Mitchell (“Mitch” or “Bob”), and William L. Rhodes (“Dusty”). They were active at the beginning of American caving in Mexico, and only Dusty survives today.

Caving buddies Mitch, Dub, and Ab in Belize, 1977

“Ab was working on his memoirs then,” Bill recalled of the passing of Mitch in 2010. “He sent me his long chapter, ‘Caving with Mitch,’ and he entrusted it to me to edit the Spanish and biology terms. He wanted to publish at least this one chapter.”

Ab died on March 21, 2015, at his home in Nacogdoches prior to finishing his larger memoir, which Bill said was going to be titled "I Write of Things Then and Now.”

“I have decided to publish ‘Caving with Mitch’ on behalf of Ab and his family,” Bill said. “It will be a free online PDF book in my new, nonprofit journal called Cuevas Históricas. I am collaborating in this publishing project with Linda Mitchell, Bob’s widow, Sharon Mitchell, Bob’s daughter, and Dusty Rhodes” 

Aware that the memoir will be of interest to cavers, biologists, and folklorists who knew Ab, Bill is offering a chance for TFS members to purchase a rare, limited print edition of the memoir.

“It is a humorous adventure story ranging over 20 years, with a lot of natural history and Mexican culture too,” Bill said. “It will be about 82 pages with many photographs and perfect bound color covers.” 

The pdf is free and copyrighted, and you can download your copy here. A run of 50 to 100 printed books will be for sale from now until July 15, 2022, followed by the printing and mailout. The books will be perfectly bound with glossy covers and a spine.

To order one or more printed books, TFS members can email Linda Mitchell at and copy Bill at Payment should be made Venmo or PayPal to Checks or cash will not be accepted. Your full name, street address, email, and phone with should be included in your email order. The cost is $20 per book, which includes postage to the 48 contiguous United States. Payment must be made to reserve a book.