It Came out of the Sky!
A boom-box booms; a skill saw shrieks; an ice-jammed blender happily clamors for your attention. But a helicopter swooping in over your home, is an ear-splitting, cacophonous pandemonium, which thunders out over the landscape, intimidating and terrorizing every living creature, including pregnant Annie, and toddlers Casey and Benny. The date was July 23, 1985, and by the time this attacking barbarian had retreated, one of the goons had debarked from this invasive intruder and come surging up the slope, to use the heel of his steel-toed boot, to obliterate the bejeweled gates of my homestead. Upon this mangled portal, the trooper had posted a message, mandating that my home, and the accompanying twenty-acre parcel of land, were now the property of the United States Federal Government. We had been “camped” on.
There were thirty-three marijuana plants confiscated, but I cannot provide for you the salient details, as far as variety or quality of the plants, because I do not know them. My number in the draft lottery, held in 1971, for men born in 1952, was lucky number thirty-three. If I were looking for a fifth number to complete my lottery numbers, and 33 were the only number left, I would pass on it. It has never proven lucky for me.
The steel-bladed mammoth mosquito had put down in the field below and to the south-west of us; therefore, a terrified Annie gathered up two small children, and herded them up our driveway, coincidentally aimed in a north-easterly direction. When she got three-fourths of the way up the driveway, she cut across the top of three parcels, parallel to Bell Springs Road, and labored across treacherous expanses to reach my parents’ home, situated above the action, overlooking, in the distance, the field where the invaders had touched down. From this vantage point, she and my folks were able to observe the carnage. Lito was born four months later, almost to the day.
Where was the man of the house? I was straddling the rafters of the home we were building for Jeff and Carol, installing the blocks below the eaves, when the call came in.
“Mark, a helicopter just landed on the field, the next parcel over!” Annie sounded agitated.
“Did you ask them what they wanted?” I didn’t know what else to say.
“NO, I DID NOT ASK THEM WHAT THEY WANTED! I was running too hard, and I’m worried about Ben. He’s struggling.”
Quick snort. “Casey thinks it’s pretty fun. He asked if he could go for a ride in the helicopter.” * Casey was two years, ten months old, to the day. This was the same time period as that, when I was standing in line at the checkout counter at Geiger’s, with Casey toeing the lower rail of his backpack, peering over my left shoulder (a foreshadowing of his left-handedness), when the following dialogue took place.
“Hey there, little guy. Are you helping your dad?” As always, the clerk at Geiger’s was friendly and upbeat.
“Hmmmm...” Casey was uncharacteristically quiet.
“Do you like riding in Daddy’s backpack?”
Latching on to a deli item, the clerk picked it up and said, “Can you say liverwurst?” He waited expectantly, beaming.
That got midget Casey’s attention.
Smiling radiantly, he burst out with, “Braunschweiger!” The head-beams on the clerk’s face dimmed momentarily, but quickly returned. True story, as with this entire narrative.
There were six of the rogues, dressed in military apparel, physically conditioned, and obviously passionate about their industry. They seemed to derive great pleasure in their work. With machine-like precision they were seen going about their destructive mission, producing green blurs of obvious goodness, cut down in the prime of life. Sigh. It was hard to determine the source, from the balcony vantage point, as the folks and my family watched from their back deck, resting their forearms on the railing, the snapdragons and petunias creating the false impression, that the setting was light and breezy. Unfortunately, the members of this gallery were not having that much fun.
Now it was all over. We were back inside the demolished front gate, reading the posted edict, stating that our home and property had been seized by the federal government, for the reprehensible crime of growing thirty-three marijuana plants. “You! Take this man out-and have him shot!”
In addition to the destroyed front gate, the trespassers annihilated Annie’s hope-chest, looking for-I don’t know-you tell me. Exactly what did they think they were going to find in my apple blossom’s hope chest, that would irrefutably link me to an illegal marijuana grow of fabulous potential, in terms of lucrative reverberations? Let’s face it; the perpetrators of this dastardly deed, growing marijuana, were obviously clutching greed’s throat, determined to be able to include a vacation in Acapulco, with the ill-gotten gains of this latest caper. Thirty-three plants. I don’t even know whether they were Indica or Sativa, the only two designations for cannabis, in the pre Train-Wreck/OG Kush or my personal favorite, Blackberry Kush, days.
The trespassers stole nine hundred dollars of mine, that I had been paid by Woodrow, ** for services that were not even rendered yet. I had to work ninety hours after the bust, to break even, before I could start registering hours/dollars in the black. There were no job security issues. I had been working with Woodrow for a while now, building an addition, refurbishing a redwood deck, constructed back in the thirties, and building a new deck to encompass the new addition.
The trespassers violated the sanctity of my home and that of Annie and my sons. And there wasn’t a gosh-darned thing I could do about it, except hire a lawyer. We paid an introductory visit to the law offices of Ron Sinnoway, and he lent us his attention, having come into the office on an off-day, cradling a toddler within his slender arms, as he gently rotated his chair so that the child would be content to listen to her daddy use big words, in a comforting tone, while Annie and I emptied out our pockets.
I am not dissing on the venerable Mr. Sinnoway; he accomplished the task I hired him to tackle, and I paid him the 17,500 dollars he asked for with a brilliant smile. It was money well-spent. $17,500 in 1985, does not represent the same hit on your wallet, as it would today. Just think of it as one thousand seven hundred fifty hours of construction, at ten dollars an hour. It’s easy to do the math, when zeros are involved. Even this retired language teacher can handle it.
We were on that blistering seat for nine months exactly. I was at Maxine Grace Shins’s home, working on the oak paneling inside her kitchen, when Annie called and Grace fetched me to the phone.
A bubbling Annie exclaimed, "It’s over! They’ve given up trying to pin it on us. There’s not enough evidence, and there are several connections being made, between the grow site and a neighbor’s home, on an adjacent parcel.”
I thanked my girl, finally breathing freely again, and hung up the phone.
And all this turmoil for what? Thirty-three plants.
* Disclaimer: I have no idea what Casey said; I was not there.
** Not Woodrow's actual name.