Joe Munson had miles to go to reach his destination. It was time for another story that might seem glorious to some and inglorious to others. This one is about the time that “the cops won,” as Munson puts it. It’s also about his encounters with a 300-pound black bear that could fly through the air. Here’s raconteur Joe Munson in his own words...
It’s either boom or bust in the pot biz. You’re barely scraping by or you’re flush and buying a new car and a new washing machine and socks and shoes for the kids. A million things can go wrong on the way harvest. After the harvest you have to make the crop disappear. That means customers and that’s not easy. In the old days, the black market attracted a lot of people who couldn’t function in the real world. Used to be a lot of numb-chucks could make real money. Not anymore, not with all the regulations and inspections and detections.
Back in the day, I used to sit at Honey Fluff Donut on North State in Ukiah, and I swear every third car would be a high-rise pickup with all the bells and whistles. You knew the numb-chuck behind the wheel couldn’t hold down a real job and neither could the pot princess girlfriend who was sitting in the cab next to him. But sometimes numb-chucks like them lucked out. They’d get a hold of a strain like Blue Dream that was un-killable, and then they’d go out and make a killing on the market. That’s not me. I’ve been up and I’ve been down. I’ve been in jail and out of jail. I’ll say this about me: I have acquired some wisdom. Will it help me? That remains to be seen.
After a couple of seasons in the woods, I learned to set up camp in the winter, bring in the equipment and the soil, which I usually bought in Willits. It was really expensive: $500 a pallet at Spare Time. I trucked it in, learned how to dismantle the guardrails across the roads without damaging them, and then put them back so they looked like no one had touched them.
After the winter rains there’d be no sign that anyone had been up those roads. Tire marks were washed away. For a while, I was up there solo. I set up two tanks to hold water and ran half-a-mile of irrigation line through the forest, from the pond to my garden. Then after I was all set up, I found a partner. We were gonna split 60/40, with me getting 60 percent. He would be in the woods during the season. I’d pay for, and bring him, all supplies he needed.
The first problem was with the water. The storage tank near the garden didn’t fill up, so I walked the line. It was all chewed up. I had to repair it again and again. I knew it had to have been a bear. No other animal could have done it. I didn’t wanna kill him. Yeah, I know bears can be scary, but they’re also playful and very smart. They have as much fun in the woods as humans do, and maybe more. I figured the bear was getting a kind of spritzer in the woods on a hot summer day.
When I talked to a wise friend he suggested, ‘Give him something hot and spicy. That’ll keep him away.’ I fried up a big pork chop, added a whole lot of chili peppers and a ton of wasabi that would have choked a human. I set out the pork chop in the woods. Bye, bye, pork chop! After that no more damage to the waterline. The tank filled up with water. No more bear.
Then the cops came; a whole lot worse than a bear. First, they found a big grow that the Mexicans had, a couple thousand plants over on the next ridge. The cops had two helicopters. A crew dropped down into the garden, cut the plants and stacked them and then the helicopters took out load after load as fast as possible and brought them to Lake Pillsbury. Then, four days later the cops came for my plants, which were already dead because they hadn’t been watered.
My partner bailed when he saw the raid on the Mexican place. He changed his shoes and hiked for seven miles until he got to the nearest pay phone. “We’re done,” he said. That was all he needed to say. A couple of weeks later I went up to see what I could see. I was on my Kawasaki KLR 650, which had a six-gallon gas tank. In those days it was my weapon of choice. It was easy to hide. It went really fast and didn’t leave tracks.
I was having a great time on the 650. I went around a curve and out of nowhere a blur of black fur flew over the KLR and landed on all fours. I skidded to a stop. The bear took off on a run, crashed through the woods and was gone just as quickly as he’d arrived. It could have been the same bear that ate the pork chop, just letting me know that he was still around and that he could mess with me if he wanted to. When I got to our garden I saw that the cops shot holes in the water tank, and made off with the generator and the pump. That season was a bust. Not long after that, I was arrested and went to jail. But that’s another story for another day.