Cigar Guy the 34th Chilean Miner Rescued?

Santiago, Chile --

The Chilean mining authority has confirmed reports that a 34th man was extracted from the collapsed mine just hours after it was believed the last rescue worker was the last man to be pulled up to the surface.

“We couldn’t believe it when we got the radio message from the last rescue worker that there was another man still down there,” said a representative of the Chilean mining authority that took charge of the rescue operation days after the mine collapse and to its successful completion.

As the last rescue worker, Manuel Chavez, waved to the remote camera a half-mile beneath the earth from the now abandoned miners camp in preparation to be the last man to ascend to the surface, he half entered the elongated red, white and blue capsule only to unexpectedly pause.

The rescue crew monitoring his moves from the surface, waiting with unopened champagne bottles in hand called down, asking him what was wrong.

“What are you doing, Manuel?” jokingly asked the crane operator responsible for pulling up the capsule out of the cramped metal tube. “Don’t be such an attention whore. Get into the capsule so we can celebrate properly. El Presidente is buying us the first round of drinks.”

However, the crew chief, who was watching Manuel on a monitor, instantly knew something was seriously wrong and got on the radio.

“What’s wrong, Manuel?” said the crew chief. “Why don’t you get into the capsule?”

Manuel still paused mid stride with one foot inside the capsule and the other outside, did not respond but instead shook his head as if in disbelief as he turned away from his ride to freedom and turned back toward the cavernous interior.

“Everybody stop cheering!” yelled out the crew chief using a bullhorn.

Soon everybody’s attention was once again refocused on the live feed from the floor of the mine.

All watched as Manuel left the safety and security of the rescue vehicle and walked out of camera range toward something that had obviously drew his attention.

“Manuel radioed up to me, asking if I was sure that all the miners had been accounted for,” said the crew chief. “I told him, yes. I was sure. All 33 men were out of the mine. No one had been left behind. But he didn’t believe me and asked me to do another headcount.”

That is when the crew chief asked him why, but Manuel’s response was unintelligible. Drowned out by the cracking and popping sounds of a radio signal out of range, or encountering interference.

The crew chief asked Manuel several times to repeat his last transmission, but no response came.

Moments turned into minutes which seemed like hours but finally Manuel reestablished communication, even returning to the capsule. As he walked back into camera range, however, was not alone. He had his arm over the shoulders of a man wearing an ethnic headdress, sporting a heavy mustache and smoking a cigar.

“Cigar Guy?!” let out a collective cheer of relief and surprise from the rescuers on the surface.

“It was him,” said the crew chief, still in a state of disbelief. “You know, the man that first showed up in that famous Tiger Woods photo and everywhere since.”

Later, back up at the surface, Cigar Guy explained that as soon as he heard that the men were trapped in the mine, he decided he would take on his own to hike down into the mine to cheer them up.

“Only by the time he reached them. They were already rescued,” explained Manuel, still with his arm around Cigar Guy’s shoulder back on the surface.

In Manuel’s own words, he was ready to leave the mountainous tomb when he thought he saw a flash of light against the walls of the mineshaft, an orange glow in the dark behind him and detected the distinct odor of a fine Cuban cigar lingering in the air.

Walking toward the pleasant aroma, Manuel caught in the beam of his flashlight: Cigar Guy -- who was calmly sitting on a boulder, smoking a cigar.

As Manuel cautiously approached, Cigar Guy reached under his cloth hat covered in a thick white chalky dust and pulled out a cigar, which was unscathed and in perfect smoking condition and handed it over to him.

As the two men sat side-by-side on top of the boulder smoking away their cigars in the dark, a half-mile down in the bowel’s of the earth, no words, or translation, was necessary between them to say: job well done, job well done.

Copyright © 2008-2010 by Robert W. Armijo