Mom was always there for me when I needed help, but she was also there for my friends when we got in a tight situation. I have many stories, but this one sticks out for me the most. I hope it means as much to you as it did to me---My friend got in trouble once down in a South American country. I knew only one person could help me rescue her, Gail Elizabeth Shawhan.
Mom and I walked into an empty lobby, following the sound of a small printing press into a second room where a man is feeding single sheets of paper into the press. Mom inquires as to the whereabouts of my friend, who was a photographer, stating that she had been sent to find her. At this point, a female voice is heard, telling the man to let us into the nearby darkroom to speak with her. Once inside the darkroom, Mom informs my friend that we’re taking her back to the United States, due to the current military presence where she is. As we are talking, my friend continues to develop pictures, and Mom recognizes a man seen in two shots as Dave Pierson, a man she 'met once', and one that should not be in the hemisphere, unless it was behind bars.
My friend explains to Mom how she has been following the involvement of Dave Pierson and his crime syndicate with the head of the secret military police in the country, General Antonio Ortega. My friend implores Mom and I to assist my friend in capturing photos of a deal between the two parties, which will be taking place at Pierson's hacienda. We agree to help her on the condition that she leaves the country with us right after.
Outside the wall of the hacienda, Mom and I scale the wall with the photography equipment and hide behind some foliage while we watch General Antonio Ortega's car enter Pierson's complex. Mom and I, who have come closer and continue to snap pictures, learn that a supply of tanks is to come in three months as well. We run out of film and switch to another camera, whose shutter is heard by the guards. Mom and I are taken captive by Ortega and Pierson, who singles out Mom, introducing her as an "old buddy", and welcoming her to "our country.
As mom, me, General Ortega, and Dave Pierson trade insults and threats back and forth, Mom notices a supply of plastic explosives on the weapons table. When the men demand our cameras, Mom hands one over to them, and as we empty the film from it, Mom breaks off some of the plastique and improvises a bomb by "plugging in" the second camera to the wad of plastique and setting the camera's timer. We maneuvered ourselves out of the way just as the timer went off, creating a small explosion and mass confusion. We slipped out a side gate, knocked out a soldier, and lock the gate behind us.
Back in the village, Ortega's soldiers are ransacking the village. Because of the incident earlier, the entire area is under lockdown - increased military presence, roadblocks, and no airport - so Mom decides that the three of us will have to take the film across the border to Mexico ourselves, which is more than 100 kilometers away.
We watch from the village from a bell tower. Buses and jeeps containing soldiers are driving back and forth, and Ortega and Pierson arrive in their private car. Up in the bell tower, Mom takes out a camera strap, candle, and some firecrackers she had seen on the way into the church. Mom uses the strap to tighten the rope holding the bell of the tower. Pulling out a roll of duct tape, Mom attaches a piece of tape to the one half of the candle and fastens it to the chime of the bell. In a similar fashion, she attaches the firecrackers to the inner part of the bell, above the candle. Having also attached the second half of the candle to the leather strap with duct tape, Mom lights both candles with a match and returns to the church, where she makes a quick donation before leaving.
Outside, Mom leaves us and slides underneath a bus. She grabs a cable from a winch on the front of a jeep, slides with it back under the bus, and attaches it to another jeep. Returning to us, we prepare to depart. In the bell tower, the strap is burned through, and the bell begins to ring as the firecrackers go off. As the people below scramble, we climb into the bus through a window. Mom breaks off the rearview mirror and duct tapes it to the driver's seat. Using her compact as a second mirror, Mom starts the bus and drives, safe from gunfire, using the mirrors to see as she steers from the floor.
As we drive out of the village, one of the tethered jeeps follows close behind until the cable connecting it to the parked jeep is pulled taut, causing the jeep to flip over in dramatic fashion as we leave the village borders safely.
We are driving the bus down a long dirt road. We know Ortega and Pierson are searching for us, and have set up an extensive search net, including a spotter plane, which picks up the bus before Mom plunges it into thicker foliage. Losing control on the bumpy path, Mom steers the bus down a steep slope before plunging it into a river. The bus is now useless, so we continue on foot. Making camp for the night, Mom builds a fire and captures a lizard in a trap for dinner.
Soon we see some soldiers looking for us, Mom comes amicably out of the brush towards two soldiers patrolling the road. She is carrying my friend in her arms as if she is injured and walks right up to them. Mom literally tosses my friend into one of the soldiers' arms, and she uses the confusion to knock out the pair. We take the soldiers' jeep and drive away. As we approach the border, Mom stops the jeep in the protection of some bushes, and we see that there are several dozen soldiers waiting down the hill by the river that separates them from Mexico.
As we watch the soldiers downhill, we realize that there is no logical way to go around them, only through them. We drove back to an abandoned garage we had passed on the way to the border. After ripping off the hood of the jeep, Mom pours dirty oil over the engine of the jeep, in hopes it will create a thick cloud of smog when heated. Before leaving, Mom pours a clear liquid from an unmarked gas container into the jeep's leaky radiator, and then we drive off with a plan and a horsecart of barrels being towed behind us. As we head towards the border, we are once again spotted from the air, but continue on to the top of the hill overlooking the soldiers, river, and Mexico, but are covered from the enemy's sight by the smoke given off by their jeep.
We all get out of the jeep and begin to prepare by unloading the barrels. As the soldiers begin to advance up the hill towards us, Mom uses a few strips of rubber to tie down the jeep's steering wheel, and a piece of duct tape to hold down the gas pedal before shifting the jeep into drive, sending it careening towards the soldiers below, until it slams into another jeep and bursts into flames. Ortega gives the order to fire at anything that moves, and the first things to move are the barrels that we rolled downhill with burning rags as fuses. As the soldiers fire on them, they explode. Once the soldiers realize this and stop firing at the barrels, the three of us roll downhill in a larger wooden barrel, and plunge into the river before freeing ourselves and swimming to the Mexican shore.
Back on the Mexican side, Mom has dirtbikes waiting for us and we ride safely to the American consulate. Thanks for the help Mom!