This is Episode 29 in the story of the formation, rise and fall of the little education collective that used to exist up here on our mountain. I wrote and posted this account three years ago on my blog and then pulled it off because someone whose name I had not changed, objected. Now I have changed both the name of the little school itself, and the names of everyone who might be negatively impacted, and plan to re-post the story, one episode per day, until all 32 are again on my blog.
It Came out of the Sky!
A boom-box booms. and a skill saw shrieks. An ice-jammed blender happily clamors for your attention but a helicopter swooping in over your home, is ear-splitting, cacophonous pandemonium. It 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 who had debarked from this invasive intruder, and come surging up the slope to use the heel of his steel-toed boot to desecrate the bejeweled gates of my homestead, had left a document behind. 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 cannabis plants confiscated, and though I can provide for you the salient details, they did not belong to me. 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.
Who did they belong to? They belonged to my 63-year-old father, who had moved up on the mountain in 1977, as conservative of an individual as far as cannabis is concerned that you will ever meet. A neighbor showed him the ropes early on about the way he could supplement the income he earned doing carpentry and masonry in the area, by growing a few cannabis plants.
Having spent the previous twenty-five years working in a steel factory, welding, Papa was only too happy to shift his attention to the outdoors. He grew them in the middle of the manzanita and I did the hard labor of digging and hauling materials.
Papa had begun in 1979 and they had been grown on my twenty acres for the obvious reason that no one lived on that parcel. When Annie and I did move up onto the property in May of 1982, there were already plants being grown on my land and there really nothing that I wanted to do about it. With all of the commercial grows in operation in the area, who was going to care enough about thirty-three plants grown in the manzanita?
The steel-bladed mammoth mosquito had put down in the field below and to the south-west of our home. Therefore, an abjectly terrified Annie gathered up two small children and herded them the opposite direction 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, it provided a balcony and 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 in 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 when I was standing in line at the checkout counter at Geiger’s, Casey leaning to the left over my 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, he 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 from 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 as 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 cannabis plants. “You! Take this man out-and have heem shot!”
In addition to the destroyed front gate, the trespassers annihilated Annie’s hope-chest. 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 cannabis grow, of fabulous potential, in terms of lucrative reverberations?
Let’s face it; the perpetrators of this dastardly deed, growing cannabis, 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/Blackberry Kush days.
The trespassers stole nine hundred dollars of mine, that I had been paid by Michael for carpentry work that was 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 Michael for a while now building an addition, refurbishing a redwood deck constructed back in the thirties, and building a 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 anything 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. 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 revered 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 arts teacher knows that.
We were on that blistering seat for nine months exactly. I was at Corrine Rose Chintz’s home working on the oak paneling inside her kitchen, when Annie called and Corrine 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 never had to speak with any law enforcement personnel, I never had any connection with anyone but my lawyer and there were never any charges filed. Papa’s name never surfaced and the matter simply faded away. One comment that I made the night of the whole sordid affair has stuck with me all of this time: “Hey Annie, it all seems pretty bleak right now, but in ten years we’ll look back and laugh.”
And all this turmoil for what? Thirty-three plants.