[Virginia]: Every year, the seniors would go on a senior trip. There were all four of us seniors. There was only four of us. Two of us decided we would go to—there was a New Tribes base that was in a town a ways away. And they did let us go, but the other two seniors’ parents wouldn’t let them go because they were too afraid to let them go, which, as a parent now, I wouldn’t let my kids go. I would be like, “You’re staying with me!” At the time, being me, I stood up in the—we had meetings at the base so they could update them as to the what was going on and everything. And I stood up there and I said, “Guys you’re missionaries! You’re supposed to trust the Lord!” And that was my, I was kind of, I was mad because the other two kids couldn’t go. Their parents wouldn’t let them go with us.
[Heidi]: Those people wouldn’t trust the Lord.
[Virginia]: I know. I was like, “Come on!”
[Kathy]: [laughter; can’t hear]
[Virginia]: But anyway, then Chet got killed and of course that was very traumatic.
[Heidi]: Did that end the hiding?
[Virginia]: Yeah, then Dad was back.
[Heidi]: How did they figure that was the end of the crisis?
[Virginia]: I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t remember all of those details.
[Kathy]: I just reread the book. It’s called. . . .
[Virginia]: Oh, yeah. I knew Chet. I took care of his kids during conference.
[Kathy]: Called to Die. It’s very good if you want to read about the whole experience.
[Marcia]: Who wrote the book?
[Kathy]: Steve Estes.
[Virginia]: And someone said, who was it I was talking to? Oh, Jim Suderman. He said he kind of took, . . . or was it Jim? Anyway, he said they kind of embellished a little bit on that, in that book.
[Kathy]: It tells the story very well.
[Virginia]: Yup. Anyway, so then I graduated, and then Doug paid for you and Bruce and you were already down there for my graduation, right? Weren’t you in Colombia for my graduation?
[Gail]: [can’t hear] I don’t think he paid for my trip to go down there.
[Virginia]: No, I paid for your trip to go down for Doug’s graduation.
[Kathy]: No, I went down for your graduation.
[Virginia]: I think you were already—weren’t you already there because Allan was there?
[Kathy]: [can’t hear] Bryant College. Allan and I came—that was the summer we got. . . .
[Virginia]: Oh, Doug paid for everybody. I think, that could. . . . Oh, you didn’t?
[Kathy]: No, because we flew. Actually, Chet Bitterman’s sister’s, oh, no, Brenda Bitterman’s brother flew the plane down with the New Testaments. We flew with him from Dayton, Tennessee to Loma Linda in a little plane.
[Eric]: Where was I all this time?
[Virginia]: I don’t know.
[Kathy]: You were probably, I think you were in Peru.
[Virginia]: This was ’81.
[Eric]: Oh, we were still, we may have been, if this was ’81, we were still in the States. We had just gotten married.
[Virginia]: I don’t know, but I know that he paid for you [Gail] and he paid for Bruce and Brenda to come down. And they had Brett. Was it Brett?
[Bruce]: It was Brandon.
[Virginia]: Brandon. So, anyway, so they came down and the reason I brought that up was because then when I traveled to Bogota before I left, then—Doug had always said, you know, Bogota was notorious for pocket, you know, people that pick pockets and people stealing purses and whatnot. He used to say—you know, tough guy, as you all know—“I just wanna put money in my pocket. You know, I just wanna have the chance just to chase after somebody and grab somebody.”
[Kathy]: Egg somebody on.
[Virginia]: Egg somebody on.
Anyway, I had gotten this purse for my graduation gift. And we were in the taxi. We were in a taxi and I guess he and mom and I were in the back. Dad was up front with the driver. Well, I was sitting on the left hand side and I just happened to look up and there was a guy standing there. And I’m thinking, “I wonder if I should lock my door?”
Next thing I know, somebody’s knocking on the opposite side of the taxi. The guy that I had been looking at opened my door and pulled my, took my purse off my lap and started running.
Well, Doug had his chance. He and dad got out and they pursued those two guys and they. . . .
[Kathy]: Didn’t they go in opposite directions?
[Virginia]: Opposite directions, so Dad was going one way and Doug was going another way. Doug was so mad that he did not catch that guy. He was so furious with himself that he didn’t catch him, but Dad caught the other guy, the guy that did not have the purse. And they did take him to court, but—it’s just really weird—so the purse was taken, but somebody found it. They guy had gone through it. Didn’t find the money because I had the money in a pocket and he didn’t see it.
Because it had a letter—and this is another story I’ll go into—I had a letter from a couple in Houston, who I ended up going to work for. They had my address. Anyway, somebody called the group house and said, “We found this purse.” It was kind of cool. I still have that purse ‘til this day because of the journey it went on.
[Kathy]: So they took what they wanted, what they could get in haste because Doug was chasing them. Then they, in case they got caught, they just dumped the purse and kept going. So Doug didn’t catch them, but then the purse was returned.
[Eric]: So had Doug not been chasing them, they would have had more time to go through the purse. He would have found the money.
[Kathy]: Oh, yeah.
[Virginia]: Yup. I think he found the pesos, but he didn’t find the American money. There was American money that was still in there when I got it.
story told by Virginia (Lee’s daughter) with interjections by Bruce, Eric, Kathy and Gail (Lee’s kids), Heidi (Steve’s daughter) and Marcia (Steve’s wife) to the family reunion gathering on January 11, 2014; transcribed by Dawn Duncan Harrell (Steve’s daughter)
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- Who else has pick-pocketing stories that you can tell us?
- Can you tell other tough-guy Doug stories?