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My Mendo Life in Cars & Cannabis (Part 1)

The other day, I was driving with the legendary, Oaky Joe Munson. We were in Santa Rosa on the way to the fair grounds. Joe was driving really slow and stopping at all the stop signs and following all the rules of the road. “So, Joe,” I said. “How about telling me a story about cars and cannabis. You must have a few up your sleeve.” What follows is the story Joe told me.

“I left the ranch where I was living, up above Lake Pillsbury. I had just finished the harvest and had forty pounds in my big old Chevy Suburban. It was all trimmed and triple wrapped in garbage bags. I passed a National Forest police officer named Ramon Pallo going the opposite direction. Ramon was slick; he’d cover a lot of territory. He was doing his fuckin' job and putting your tax dollars at work. Sometimes he’d sit in his vehicle on Elk Mountain Road where the pavement ends and where he could see in every direction.

When I saw him that day with the garbage bags in the back seat, I kept going and then stopped at the store and told them I was leaving. I always did that so they’d know if I didn’t show up for a few days to go up the mountain and look for me because just about anything could happen up in the national forest. 

Then, I head to Potter Valley. I go up hill and along the ridge and look back in my rear view mirror and there’s Ramon, the cop, about one-quarter of a mile behind me and with his balls to the wall. I figured I had to punch it. I had those four bags ten-pound bags on the back seat. I chuck them out the window and make it to a friend’s house. There’s no dust on the road. It had just rained, so Ramon has to keep a sharp eye for me. He never got close enough to read my license plate.

I stash my car in the woods, along with my favorite yellow jacket. I go to the front door and look over my shoulder and I see Ramon drive by the house real slow. My friend asks, “What are you doing here?” I tell him, “I’m running from the cops.” He says, “That’s fucked I have a crop here.” I hadn't known that. If I had I wouldn’t have knocked on his door. My buddy says, “I have to get you out of here.” We go in his truck and he gets me to Redwood Valley and the house of another friend I’d known for twenty years. He takes me in his white Ford pickup, which I always made fun of, and he made fun of my Chevy. I ask him to take me to my weed, because I knew if I didn’t get it soon, tweakers would find it. You know, they look for soda bottles and beer cans along the side of the road and cash them in and buy speed. If they found my weed they’d have forty pounds, which in those days, back in the early 2000s, was going for $2500 a pound. We found all four bags, put them inside his camper shell and went back on the road.

That same year my friend Richard—the baddest guy in Mendocino—had plants at his mother’s place. He made millions and lived alone and quit drinking and had no expenses. Now, he’s healthy as a horse. I asked him once to give me some money and he said, “I lost it all and I can’t find it.” He’s a white guy. There were lots of white guys growing weed up there; just as many white guys as the Mexicans, though the Mexicans get most of the blame. Later that year, I sold my Chevy so Ramon wouldn’t see my vehicle ever again, and went back to growing in the same place behind a locked gate. It was up high on the mountain, 6000 feet above Lake Pillsbury. My wife and I were living in a trailer that had a generator, hot water, TV, and a outhouse that got the first sunlight of the day and that had a great view. You could see down Panther Canyon all the way to the Lake. It was beautiful.

Ramon was back on the job, but he didn’t want to take the time to go into the national forest and look for my field with about 1000 plants. Plus, I also gave away 500 plants to growers, so that the properties around the lake would be saturated with weed. If the cops raided those gardens they wouldn’t go up the mountain and come after me.

Fast forward, three years later, East of Covelo at Black Butte Market. I’m on my dirt bike; a Honda 650 R with had an oversized gas tank to take long journeys over back roads. I’m looking at the poster board with all fishing regulations for the Eel River. I felt something behind me and I turned around and it’s Ramon again and he asks, “Can I help you?” and “What are you doing here.” I tell him. “Reading the regulations” I go inside the market and buy a soda, roll a joint and smoke it with an old timer and we talk about Ramon who’s still outside. The older timer says, “Ramon don’t like no tomatoes.” I went back on the road. I was going to Upper Lake on Elk Mountain road. This was at night. I stopped to piss and I hear a vehicle that has no lights. It’s Ramon again. I waited until he left and then I got the fuck out of there. Later, I told my friend Jerry, a mechanic who works on the cop cars, about Ramon and his car without lights. He says, “Yeah they do that all the time.” Ramon would go in stealth mode, looking for anyone doing anything illegal. That was a good season and scary, too. “So, Joe is this all true?” I asked. He looks at me and says, “Yes, hypothetically.”

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