Someone, I don’t remember who, said “Joe Munson has a target on his back. He’s an outlier with a history.” In fact, it’s not much of an exaggeration to say that I’ve had guns pulled on me in every state west of the Mississippi. Mark Twain, who tangled with western gunslingers, would know what I’m talking about and he’d be tickled by my account of dancing with Pete Hoyle, who called me “a drug dealer”—though I was growing medical marijuana for patients. I called him a “rogue cop.” I also told him to make sure not to perjure himself in front of Judge Faulder because Judge Faulder would bounce him around like a rubber ball. There’s no escaping the righteous wrath of Faulder.
Before I get into my days with Peter Hoyle, when there was never a dull moment, I want to say this about cops as a group. I’ve often heard it said that cops rip off dealers and growers. Hey, man, cops don’t take pot, except once in a great while. It’s not because cops are inherently honest, but rather because the higher-ups are watching them like hawks and they know it. If a cop were to grab $100,000 in cash, which might be lying around at the scene of a bust, and if he’s also making $100,000, he’ll get in trouble, especially if he starts spending it. Most law enforcement guys are career cops. They don’t want to jeopardize their salary, their pension and their status in the community.
But now let’s get back to Hoyle. I often thought that he had a hard-on just for me, but in fact he had a hard-on for everyone. He was a terminator cop: one bad hombre and a very cocky baldheaded white boy. I must have pissed him off a few times. I didn’t realize it when I moved to Redwood Valley, but there I was living right next door to old Pete. It was quite a coincidence. He’d drove by in his undercover cop truck or ride his bicycle past my place. He was on recon.
Soon after I arrived in Redwood Valley we had words. I wished him a good morning and he asked if he could turn on his tape recorder so that he had an accurate account of our conversation and it couldn’t be misunderstood, misheard or misconstrued. I told him to keep it off because I wasn’t going to talk nice. I told him that whatever was going to happen, ought to play itself out in court and not on the side of the road, so he wouldn’t have to live through his nightmare twice. We parted company.
Then, a couple of days later, I’m driving in my beater—a piece of shit vehicle—with my wife, Atsuko, and my mother-in-law Nobuko, who was visiting from Japan where she’s a famous calligrapher. She had been invited to take part in the haiku festival in Ukiah and to bring it up a notch or two with her art. There was also an exhibit of her calligraphy.
We’re on our way to the festival. I look in the rearview mirror and I see Pete right behind me, and then right behind him are four Mendocino County sheriff’s vehicles. I turn to my wife and say, “They’re probably for us.” She says, “Hai,” which is “Yes” in Japanese. At the Gobi Street exit there are six cop cars behind us. I pull into the parking lot for what was Wendy’s and that burned down. Pete disappears. He knows that I know he’s an undercover cop, but he doesn’t want the whole county to see him with the real cops and to realize he’s undercover. So he makes himself scarce.
The sheriffs put on their cherries, the swirling lights on the roof of the vehicles. Deputy Hendry, the biggest, baddest cop in Mendo is there, but oddly enough, or maybe not, he seems to like me. He’s a muscle-bound, ex-marine type guy. In the parking lot, Hendry is civil to me. My mother-in-law gets out of the car, which she’s not supposed to do, but she doesn’t know the rules. She starts cussing the cops in Japanese.
My wife sees Hendry reaching for something. She says, “He’s gonna shoot grandma.” Hendry says, “No, I’m not, I’m turning down my radio.” Then, oddly enough, the cops let us go. They figured we were Hoyle’s target and they didn’t want to mess with us. We went to the haiku festival where my mother-in-law sold some of her work and we had a fun time. That was the last time I saw Hoyle, except once I ran into him when he was buying a 12-pack of beer at a convenience store. His truck and his boat were in the parking lot. I figured he was going to the lake. “Have a lovely day,” I say. He turns to me and says, “Thanks James.” Only he and Keith Faulder have ever called me by my birth name.