I don’t tell that many mission stories, because most people don’t really care about how a dog once almost bit you and then you stepped into a puddle. However, I did meet an extraordinary person while living in Argentina, the account of which I feel would prove entertaining to some. HOW EXTRAORDINARY was this person you ask? Well, without going into hyperbole, Eddie Pope is the most outlandish character to walk the face of the earth since the likes of Pecos Bill, John Henry or Orville Redenbacher. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was revealed someday that the pacific ocean was actually Eddie Pope’s bathtub or that he used baseball bats as toothpicks and steel cables for dental floss.
Who is Eddie Pope?
Eddie Pope is a 6 ft 11 in, 350 pound black man from Mississippi who I met in Rio Gallegos, Argentina (Rio Gallegos is located at the very tip of South America). Eddie ended up in Argentina because he was a professional basketball player who was sent to prison (“prison” being a subjective term since he actually lived in a guarded house and we would routinely see him walking around town) because he accidentally killed his wife, an Argentinian beauty queen. How did he do this? By “accidentally” falling off a 5th story balcony and taking her with him. Eddie was in a coma for five months and when he woke up he found himself without a wife and convicted of manslaughter by the Argentina courts.
This is pretty much what Eddie looked like:
Now, this is the story that Eddie told us, but based on my dealings with Eddie, I have learned that about 50% of what he said was patently untrue, 20% was grossly exaggerated, and the rest was probably something he dreamed and mistook for reality. According to Eddie, he has lived a Forrest Gump-like life, traveling the world and taking part in every major cultural even of the past thirty years. Eddie was a nice guy (despite being a convicted killer) and we used to visit him at his prison-house weekly (if we didn’t, he would call our apartment and beg us to bring him lunch meat and speed stick deodorant). As far as I can remember the most amazing/dubious Eddie Pope stories were:
1. Gambling Scandal/Howard Marshall
Eddie once told us that when he was playing basketball in college, a group of men (Eddie suspected it was mainly Donald Trump, but he wasn’t sure) paid his team to fix a game, and then when the team didn’t manage to lose Eddie had to flee to Europe with the help of a wealthy benefactor. Later, Eddie said that the person who helped him escape to Europe was Howard Marshall (the old guy that Anna Nicole Smith married for his money) and that one time he went to Marshall’s ranch and was given a rifle and a 4 wheel drive vehicle and told that he could “drive around and shoot all the cows he wanted.”
2. Europe Basketball/Illegitimate children
Eddie told us that once he was in Europe he played for twelve different teams in several countries, and that he would always seek out Mormon missionaries during his downtime because he knew they would probably be American and want to play basketball with him. He also casually mentioned that he had children in Italy, France, Germany, and Spain. Later he had Russian girlfriend who moved in with his mother in Mississippi along with their son, Elder (named of course in honor of all his missionary friends).
3. Jail Violence
Eddie told us horror stories of having to stab guys in the face to survive his first prison stay in Buenos Aires. Another time, we showed up at the jail and learned that we couldn’t visit Eddie (or Eduardo, as the guards called him) because he was in “the hole” for a week. Eddie explained that he was attacked by several other inmates and ended up bashing someone’s head in with a lead pipe.
4. Jon Huntsman Sr. Asks Eddie to Pull a Rambo
This is the most incredible of all the stories he told us, and I have to admit that I can’t rule it out as completely false. Eddie said that before he went to jail in Argentina, he was contacted by “some rich Mormon dude with his own airplane” to see if he could rescue some kidnapped missionaries, and if he did he would be paid $5000. When I asked Eddie what the rich guy’s name was he came up with Huntsman, but couldn’t remember his first name. Anyways, Eddie found out where they were holding the missionaries and waltzed into a house filled with machine-gun-wielding kidnappers with nothing more than his winning personality. Eddie was somehow able to talk the men into letting the missionaries go by first telling them that it would be the right thing to do, and then offering to buy them all television sets. After Eddie got the missionaries out, he drove them to an airport where the “rich Mormon dude” met them in his private jet and took them back to the United States (and presumably paid Eddie $5000). Truly epic, and I’m kind of thinking about writing a screenplay based on this event (with the part of Eddie Pope played by Samuel L. Jackson).