Raised By Weasels Part 3 – Mexican Terror from Below

“I think I see it.”

“You can see it with one good eye?  In the dark?”
“Yeah, it’s glimmering at me,” I said.
“Everything in here glimmers.  Why don’t you just leave it?” asked Mack.
“Leave it?  That’s crazy talk!  Do you know how expensive these…”
“OK, OK!  You continue down and I’ll see if I can find it,” offered Mack.

I was suspended upside down, the climbing harness constricting my shoulders and crotch, and all my blood was rushing to my head.  With Mack behind me I had no easy way to back out of the tiny tunnel.  This vent tunnel was only 30 inches in diameter at its widest point.  My shoulders and back were touching the sharp rock around me and we were at least twenty feet into this section of the cave.  I wanted to continue my search but with only one good eye it seemed futile.  I grabbed the rope and descending device and inched headlong into total darkness.

Three days earlier Mack and I were scuba diving off the coast of Cabo San Lucas, in the Sea of Cortez.  We had been studying Dosidicus gigas, better known as Red Devils or Humboldt Squid, for a Professor Edwin Ravelle of the Marsden Oceanographic Institute. These wily critters are known for their aggressive behavior towards divers and pretty much anything else in the water with them.  That being the case, and the fact that Professor Ravelle is an eminent marine biologist yet can’t swim and tans poorly, we agreed to gather data for the institute.  I tan incredibly well.

We met the charter at the dock, loaded our equipment and were off.  As soon as we were in open water Mack struck up a conversation with the captain, produced a cooler of Miller Lite, and before long Mack was climbing the ladder up to the flying bridge.  Mack likes to drive.  He gunned the throttle and soon we were skipping over five foot swells to our predetermined dive location. 

After feeding, filming, fighting, tagging and capturing squid for a day and a half an emergency call from the mainland came in.  A close friend of mine, the Mexican Secretary of the Interior, urgently needed my help.  It seemed that a large lead, zinc and silver mine had partially flooded and sections had collapsed.  Most of the water had subsequently drained back into the earth but twenty-seven miners, including Antonio Rodrigo Juarez, the famous blind salt and lead miner who found workable veins by taste, were trapped in a small cavern.

“Ees no good,” said the Mexican Secretary of the Interior.

“No good,” I asked?  I speak fluent Spanish yet the Mexican Secretary of the Interior always insists on practicing his English with me.

“No.  No good.”

Well, that was all I needed to know.  We got the cameras and equipment back on board, reeled in the stainless steel (and patent pending) non-lethal squid traps, stowed most of the Miller Lite and headed for land.  Mack didn’t spare the outboards and soon we were pulling into the marina.

Reaching the mainland, we found a government van waiting for us at the docks.  The driver, Juan, loaded our equipment into the van and a small trailer while Mack and I raced into town for additional supplies.  We needed essentials.  Water, emergency rations, a blender, small paper umbrellas and chile rellenos were stuffed into burlap sacks.  Mack also found a totally sweet hat at a small kiosk outside the cantina supply store and I searched but they only had the one hat.  We agreed to share the hat as we drove to the mine.  Mack suggested we switch every hour.  I thought that was a fine idea.

The journey from the marina to the mine through scorching deserts, deep canyons, and towering mesas was an adventure unto its own, and I will not relate it here.  Suffice it to say, they never found all of Juan’s body parts, the goat never gave milk again and just because urine can be crystal clear doesn’t mean it tastes like water.

We pulled into the mine complex and the Mexican Secretary of the Interior’s Assistant was there to greet us.  Various media outlets were there, snapping photos and filming television footage as Mack and I stepped out of the van.  I posed for some photo op’s, but only for twenty or so, as my concern for the trapped miners grew and I waded through the throng of photographers toward the Mexican Secretary of the Interior’s Assistant. He filled us in with all the details; a month ago heavy rains swept through the region.  As the water seeped down through the porous limestone it pooled in a cavern composed of denser rock.  The miners had broken through to this cavern and the water filled many of the tunnels, taking out the support beams and collapsing some of the shafts.  Most of the miners had made their way to the elevator in the upper shaft but some had been trapped behind a wall of debris and support structures.  These made their way to a shaft near the newly dry cavern and had limited fresh air but couldn’t reach a natural vent tunnel that was now about fifty feet above their heads.  The flooding had caused the floor of the main shaft to drop.  The Mexican Secretary of the Interior’s Assistant had related all this in Spanish, of course.  I quickly translated for Mack, as his Spanish is not as precise as mine, adding some bits about conquistadors, miners hair care products of choice, and a ghost that roams the mine, all for effect.  Mack was chewing at the bit to get started, as hair care products of various indigenous peoples are a particular interest of his. He holds a Doctorate in Paleoarchaeological Cosmetology.

Mack and I made our way through a series of mine shafts till we reasoned we should be directly above the trapped miners.  I’ve had some experience digging holes: in 1986 I was part of a team that drilled the world’s deepest hole, up to that time. I can’t recall exactly how deep this hole was because I’ve been a part of so many other hole-drilling ventures since then and after a while, hey, all those holes just kind of melt together in my mind, but as holes go, it was God-damned deep.

Mack manned the drill.  We took turns shoveling.  I took over pick axe duty as it allows me to show off my physique and you can’t pass up the fantastic lighting opportunity that comes with digging in a mine.

“Man, we should have brought a camera down here,” Mack yelled over the drill.

“Why’s that?” I screamed.

Mack raised the jackhammer and shredded an igneous basaltic trachyandesite.  Fucking shredded it.  “Because these high-powered halogen lights really make this place work!  I mean you’re ripped, but with the bleak endlessness of this tunnel and the highlights from the lamps, you looked like a superhero for a second!”

“Which one?” I yelled above the sound of crushing rock.

“Probably  Martian Manhunter or one of the Superfriends”, roared Mack.


“Yes!  But not Aquaman!”

“Of course not,” I screamed back.  I dropped my pick axe and sprinted the entire way back up to the mine complex offices.  The photographers were still milling about so I grabbed Annie Leibovitz.  I rushed her down to the emergency tunnel Mack and I were digging and there, thirty meters above twenty-seven trapped miners, Annie took the celebrated shot of me working to free the doomed Mexicans.

Realizing we may have mere minutes to free the miners, I escorted Annie through the mile or so of tunnels and quickly returned to the digging the emergency tunnel.  A few minutes later we broke through.  I moved the equipment and peered down the dark tunnel.  I yelled for the miners.  I listened.  Mack listened.  There was no sign of the miners.

‘Huh’, I said.

“We should see how close we are to the vent shaft.  That may have been what we hit,” inferred Mack.

Mack and I donned our climbing gear and proceeded down the hole.  I was creeping headfirst inch by inch.  The light on my helmet showed only dirt and rock.  After thirty minutes I suddenly saw the hole open up ahead.  “We got something, Mack.”

Slowly crawling, almost a controlled fall, down toward the opening I saw a flash in the darkness.  I reached the end of the emergency tunnel and a sparkling white vista was laid out before me.  Huge crystals, some three feet wide and four times as long, grew out of the sides of a natural cave.  Crystals were everywhere and grew on every surface.  I dropped down and stood on a crystal as big as a railroad tie.   Mack rappelled down and we stood in awe at the natural wonder before us, our headlamps reflected in a million different ways.

Sensing that the miners may have only minutes left, we searched for the natural vent that should have been somewhere close.  “I found it,” Mack exclaimed.

Again I plunged head first into the dark reaches of the earth.  But very carefully as the sides of this vent tunnel were covered in tiny crystals.  Mack was only a few feet behind me when I shouted.

“What happened,” asked Mack.

“I think I lost a contact,” I replied.

“I… I didn’t even know you wore glasses…”

“I don’t, I wear contacts, damn it.  I can’t see a thing out of one-half of my face right now,” I shot back.  “I don’t think I should go on.  Let’s back up.  I have a spare in the van.  We can be back here in two hours.”

“Hello?  Hey, help us!  We’re trapped in here!  Hello?” said voices from the stretch of tunnel below me.  But in Spanish.  I translated for Mack.

I yelled back that help was on its way and asked if anyone had some saline solution.

“Hey,” I shouted.  “I think I see it.”
“You can see it with one good eye?  In the dark?”
“Yeah, it’s glimmering at me,” I said.
“Everything in here glimmers.  Why don’t you just leave it?” asked Mack.
“Leave it?  That’s crazy talk!  Do you know how expensive these…”
“OK, OK!  You continue down and I’ll see if I can find it,” offered Mack.

Anyhow, we reached the miners, who were very happy to see us but had no saline solution.  Not that it mattered because somewhere down in the depths of the Mexican desert, my Bausch & Lomb daily wear lens is dried and glittering amongst all the sparkling crystals of one of the world’s most impressive caves.

The Mexican Secretary of the Interior’s Assistant was there when we finally hauled Antonio Rodrigo Juarez, the famous blind salt and lead tongue miner, to the surface.  Antonio is something of a Mexican superstar now, for whatever that’s worth.  Photos of me dragging Antonio through the mine entrance were on the cover of international papers internationally. Mack hooked up with Annie Leibovitz.

And that’s how I decided to get laser eye surgery.

By Jon A. Clarkson


Mexican Terror From Below (Mack’s Point of View)

Se trata de un calamar hermoso.

His Spanish is top notch and I admit mine is lacking, however I am well versed enough to know that the conversation went more like this.

Him: Es good?

Secretary :Es good?

Him: Ahhh es good.

Secretary: No, es no good.

Him: Es no good?

Secretary: Si, es good.

So you can imagine my confusion when I have a Miller Lite in one hand and a Humboldt Squid in the other as to why we have to pack up and make haste back to land.

It’s like that a lot with Him. I remember the time we had challenged  a couple of Cambodian wrestlers to test of skill. They weren’t a “couple” I mean there were two of them. I am well versed in Bando, the boxing art of Burma and He is an expert in an ancient form of Welsh wrestling. I had just talked them into making their small village the wager when He forgot we had committed to collecting extremophiles in a deep ocean vent. 

I have wanted my own village for a long time.

So we did pack up and start heading to land but there were two reasons for me pushing the engines to their breaking point.

The first you know.

Bla bla bla, mine, bla bla bla collapsed.

The second?

Although Professor Ravelle does not tan well, his wife does. It was time to move on.

It is true that we stepped into a media frenzy on land. My concern was for the sailors, or were they miners? I know there was a famous blind guy we were supposed to rescue. One detail I am unclear on is He referenced the Mexican Secretary of the Interior’s Assistant as male. The assistant that briefed me was female.

She knew a lot about shafts.

I do remember Him translating some foolishness about a mine but then He gave me some fascinating data on the hair care choices of the indigenous peoples. It is true that I am a Doctor of Paleoarchaeological Cosmetology. I am working on a theory that mascara was the driving force of primitive societies.

So we saved the miners as well as Antonio Rodrigo Juarez, who bares a striking resemblance to George Hamilton, but that was not the interesting thing.

It turns out that wasn’t the Mexican Secretary of the Interior’s Assistant but a  Mexican secretary of an interior design firm, but that was not the interesting thing.

While explaining to Annie that we are from different worlds and it would never work “His” contact fell out of my eye, I thought is was sand.

By E. T. Thompson


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E. Thompson

I make movies. Sometimes people see them. I have been a martial artist for a very long time. I'm in a personal war with the Oxford comma.

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