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Hollifield: Readers react to hole in the ground

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After writing about the reemergence of my yard’s sinkhole — or The Terrifying Hole in the Ground — I was flooded with emails from readers sharing their own experiences, theories and possible solutions.

There were so many emails I could print them out, wad them up and partially fill the hole.

But should I? This has now become a regionally famous hole and perhaps a money-making opportunity.

To recap, I first wrote in April about the hole mysteriously appearing. The opening, near a city street, was slightly larger than a basketball. It was several feet deep with a brick facing on one side, leading to neighborhood speculation that it was either part of an old drain tied to the former cotton mill down the street, a portal to another dimension or the gateway to hell.

We filled it with dirt and forgot about it until it reappeared following The Great Flood of October 2021, which led to a second column a few weeks ago.

Readers were intrigued.

Faith wrote: “The hole in my yard started as just a ‘dent’ in a flat area of the backyard. My brother in Washington State suggested it was where the root system of a long ago removed tree had rotted and sunk. Sounded plausible.

“Sometime later an actual hole appeared. I stuck a stick down into it and discovered it was deeper than the stick was long. I turned a medium-sized clay flower pot upside down over the hole and put a circle of ugly concrete blocks around the area to prevent anyone from breaking a leg.”

The hole continued to grow. Faith contacted various authorities and hole experts.

I wager most them said, “Have you tried covering it with a flower pot?”

Eventually, someone came up with a likely cause.

“Its origin, they were sure — was a disintegrated septic tank. Given that my house was built in 1930, this unromantic explanation made sense.”

Since then, Faith has filled the hole with soiled cedar mulch from her “very elderly, very arthritic dog’s pee place.”

“Thus the hole has reclaimed its original important but inelegant purpose.”

Helen wrote about a similar experience:

“I was on my lawn mower and noticed a low spot in my yard about 6 feet from the culvert at the street. When I finished mowing I went back to take a look. I pressed down on it with my foot and felt a sensation of falling into the hole! I put a bucket of dirt in the hole and the next day it was down again. Did I have a sink hole in the front yard?”

Some experts at this point would advise Helen to put a flower pot over it, but she pursued other solutions, such as calling the state — no help there — and then a lawn maintenance company.

The problem, the company determined, was a deteriorated culvert. Helen, a 79-year-old widow, had a good attitude about it.

“It was a costly project for me, but it’s safe now to ride my mower over the area. I felt cheated by the state but s—- happens.”

Yes, it does happen. Sometimes it happens in pee-soaked cedar mulch that you can chuck into a hole, and sometimes you just live with it.

Steve shared no hole experience. He just wants to know what in the gateway to hell this void is:

“I’m sure you’ve already considered contacting a plumber or similar ilk who has a fiber optic camera, aka tunnel-scope? I’m dying to read the final chapter of this mystery!”

I know from experience a plumber can be pricey. That means I need quick cash. Could this be the way to get it?

“Ladies and gentlemen, children of all ages, step right up for the amazingly low price of $5 per person — children under 6 half price — and get a look at the regionally famous, most amazing Terrifying Hole in the Ground! Do you dare gaze into the abyss when I remove the flower pot?”

Gates open at noon.

Scott Hollifield is editor/GM of The McDowell News in Marion, N.C., and a humor columnist. Contact him at

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