EDITOR’S NOTE: Sports editor Mitch Lucas and family are attending the wedding of his daughter, Teresa Leigh, and her fiancé, Nate Gurany, as well as his niece, Jennifer Thompson, and her fiancé, Sam Engel. This is the fourth of a series this week that finds them traveling for the weddings.

This is my first journey to a foreign country – yes, I’m a hick from Alabama – and while I did have some other language courses in high school and college, and do have basic working knowledge of Spanish beyond how to order at restaurants, I’ve noticed some of our party picking up on greeting the staff at the resort here with their own greetings, goodbyes, etc., instead of our own.

For example, instead of hello, hey, what’s up, or Jacob’s traditional head-nod that I used to do myself back in 1987, I hear members of our group telling the staff, “Hola” (hello), “Buenos Dias” (good morning, or good day), “Buenos Noches” (good evening), and “gracias” (thank you), just courtesy.

We all had to add a new one to our repertoire on Monday when we arrived at the resort were Nathan and my daughter, Teresa, are to be wed on Tuesday evening, and it goes a little something like this: “Ten cuidado, o el mono te agarrara los tobillos,” or that is to say, “Be careful, or the monkey will grab your ankles.”

No, I’m not kidding. Just read on.

-Strange coincidences. What in the world are the odds you’d go to a resort in Cancun and meet someone from Texas?

Ok, pretty good.

What are the odds you’d go to Cancun, maybe your parents having grown up in Texarkana, and meet someone from Texarkana?

A little higher, but not astronomical.

What are the odds you’d go to a resort in Cancun, be in a pick-up volleyball game, meet someone from Texarkana who is the best friend of your first cousin, and sees them on a daily basis?

Struck-by-lighting high yet?

That’s what happened over the weekend. My wife Jenna and members of the party were playing in a volleyball game, and ran into a group from Texarkana, specifically with ties to Liberty-Eylau, where Jenna’s family members have gone to school.

Turns out, one of the ladies – I’ll just use her first name, Angela – is the best friend of Jenna’s first cousin, Jessica Attaway.

Jenna and Angela then took a photo together, and sent it to Jessica there from the beach. It apparently freaked her out. Her reply: “WHAT?”

-Frankentoe still looks purple. If you read this space on day three, you know that, trying to be Superman (which I do try frequently and rarely achieve) and helping people with loading an elevator, my toe was crushed in an elevator door, my middle toe on my left foot. I had said it’s a Vivid Violet shade of purple, from the old Crayola 64 box.

After about a day of sort-of healing, it’s graduated to Fuchsia. At least it’s not Eggplant. Yuck.

-Dealing with something new and different today (Monday) and that’s not always good. Myself and another member of our group, my brother-in-law, Greg Howell, have picked up something on the trip, and it’s not a T-shirt or a sombrero. Neither of us are feeling like running any races, and that’s putting it mildly.

Greg has whatever “it” is far worse than me, but seems to have the worst of it behind him. I, on the other hand, am just journeying into the land of the blah, and it is awful. I didn’t get to go walk-run on the treadmill today, or anything else, and when I don’t get to do that, after months of it, it makes me kind of – we’ll say “exigente” (fussy; boy, are you guys gonna be sick of this by the time this column is over).

-Masks. The rest of the world, or at least Cancun, seems to be in the same place the U.S. is regarding when to wear the COVID masks and when to not. I think the idea is wear them into medical facilities (at least that’s what I do) and when you’re personally uncomfortable. That’s my advice.

Anyway, one of the restaurants on property – World Café, a breakfast extravaganza, and I don’t use that word often in this space – insists on wearing masks upon entry, and then you can just do what you want when you get inside. Someone (ahem) lost his mask and so did his wife, and we both had to go purchase more, or so we though, before going to breakfast.

We bought them, and went to meet our breakfast party when we ran into new-bride Jennifer, a bundle of energy (positively so) as always, bounding up the ramp on her way to World Café.

“What are you guys doing?,” she asked Jenna, in her Minnesota accent that I now find amazing.

“Um, buying masks to go into World Café with you,” Jenna answered.

“Why didn’t you just take the free ones?,” Jennifer asked.

Long pause.

“There’s free ones?,” I say, somewhat gritting my teeth after using my card to buy n95 masks.

“Yeah!,” Jen says. “They just hand them out down there all the time.” And she holds hers up. “Let’s go!”

She bounds off down the steps to breakfast and I just stand there with a stupid-looking smirk on my face. What an idiot. Shouldn’t have lost it anyway. My own fault.

-Ate breakfast this morning with Jennifer and Sam. They’re still both glowing two days later from a fantastic wedding, and they should be. They owned it, right down to the final notes on the dance floor after it was all said and done.

They did have one bad experience, though, and that continued to be a topic of conversation on Monday. But it had nothing to do with the wedding and everything to do with an excursion off the resort – booked outside of resort business – for a snorkeling trip.

The snorkeling trip from, well, the bad place, if you get my drift, the way it turned out.

Jen and Sam had planned this for months, I imagine, at a large cost per head, a snorkeling trip on the day after the wedding for a large group, but private, where members of their wedding party would be bused out to a beautiful area, have a time to themselves on the water, get a seafood buffet lunch, more time on the water, then a bus-ride home in time for dinner.

What they got was something far different.

Rather than the 45 minutes-to-an-hour one-way bus-ride, the ride turned into two-hours-plus.

“I knew something was up when he took a right turn, then another right turn, and then another right turn,” Jennifer explained to us, at breakfast.

“We were trying to give him the benefit of the doubt,” Sam said. “I mean, we don’t live here. We didn’t know for sure where he was going.”

So the journey continued. And then their party – supposed to be on its own, and already 31 people on the bus – was joined by about 15 to 17 more people.

The entire group of now almost 60 was taken to the water, taken out to the snorkeling area, and then instructed they had a (using Jennifer’s words here) “ultra-small” area in which to snorkel.

Jennifer and Sam, by the way, are both more than accomplished swimmers: Jen was a college swimmer and Sam is a swim coach.

“You had about 60 people trying to move around in this one little area,” she said.

Sam added, “It was awkward because we kept bumping into each other.”

Still, he said the group did have fun, and the food was very good. “We didn’t feel completely cheated, but we don’t feel like what we got was what we paid for, if that makes sense. Just not the greatest experience.”

Fast-forward a couple of hours later to Jennifer’s dad, Chris Thompson, getting into a dispute with one of the bookers of the snorkeling trip in the resort lobby. It ended up in an uncomfortable shouting match that got moved into an office area before our shuttle (thankfully) took our group – including Jennifer’s parents, Chris and Kris – to the resort where Tee and Nate are to be wed on Tuesday.

At one point after we arrived at the new resort, everybody was accounted for, except Kris and Chris.

I turned to Jenna. “Where are they?”

Jenna, alluding to Chris’s very public argument at the other resort, said they were pulled aside after our arrival. “They told them they had a “special” room for them,” and she laughed. It was all in good fun, but we were glad to see them when they showed back up later.

-The monkeys. We get to the resort where Tee and Nate are, but the guests of honor are busy today, meeting with wedding coordinators, and they’re on their own snorkeling trip, as it turns out, and it went 1,000 times better than the one Jen and Sam had.

At any rate, after some waiting… and waiting… and waiting… and more waiting… we get our room, and we’re shuffled there. And on the walk to dinner, we see them.

The monkeys.

We’re told basically they come and go, they’ll be by and to leave them alone.

My son, Jacob, jokes, “How do you say, ‘The monkey will grab you by the ankles’ in Spanish?”

I quietly answered. “Jacob, if that monkey or any other monkey grabs me by the ankles, I’ll scream like a little girl and it will be uncomfortable for both you and Ashtyn to watch your dad in that position.”

Jacob and big Tyler both agreed they would do the same thing.

-Midnight basketball. After a phenomenal night-before-the-wedding dinner with Tee and Nate, our family, Nate’s family and other wedding guests, Jacob, his cousins Ryan and Benjamin, and then my sister’s sons Tyler and Spencer whisked a lot of us away to watch them play basketball.

Once we found out the court was on the outer reaches of the resort, and at midnight to boot, we decided a few adults better tag along, despite the fact that all the boys are good-sized, except little Spencer, but what Spencer lacks in size – he’s in elementary school – he makes up for in energy and heart.

Ryan and Benjamin have both played basketball, Ryan in high school, and of course, Tyler and Jacob both have. Tyler played throughout high school and probably could be playing now at junior college in Mississippi, if he chose to do so, and even though football was Jacob’s sport, Jacob can hold his own at anything, too. Jacob is the most competitive human I’ve ever seen in my entire life, but this one – this was all in good fun.

Even several of the resort staff had finished their duties for the day and were hanging out around the court, watching the trash-talking, and there was that.

Spencer was all over the place, a little ball of fire playing with the big boys. Jacob and Tyler both stand over 6-foot-2, and Spencer was regularly knocking the ball free. He hit his own shots, knocked down some free throws, and earned some respect from his brother Ty, cousin Jacob and the brothers Howell.

He picked the ball off from Jacob as Jacob brought it up-court, and Ryan screamed. “JACOB!,” in frustration.

“Dude, he’s ball-level!,” Jacob answered, as Spencer grinned.

Finally got everyone settled down and back to the rooms Monday night – monkey free – and went to bed with the big day ahead: Teresa and Nate’s wedding on Tuesday. It seems like it’s been a few weeks since I was picking her up from Maude Laird Middle School, and now I’m going to be walking her down the aisle.

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Sports editor

Mitch Lucas is the sports editor for the Kilgore News Herald, and has been since June 1, 2002.

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