The Selected Quirks of Madjag

The Madjag Chronicles were compiled as memoirs and mental snapshots of my experiences during the 1978-1982 guerrilla growing years in Madjag Canyon and beyond. Importing weed from Mexico, lining up connections with the Colombians, and living for months in Jamaica to set up a 1/2 ton Ganja flight were some of my subsequent adventures. In recent years I have been a medical marijuana grower, a pollen chucker, and an Admin/Moderator for several online cannabis forums.

What You Need, What You Want

Life, what a fucking mystery”. My youngest daughter, #2,  is quite the Oracle. She has some intense awareness at levels she is not consciously aware of yet. I marvel sometimes when she speaks about heart matters or world politics. She’s usually right on and with gusto.

She became a helicopter pilot on her own, no military training or Iraqi war subsidization. She took out a student loan and went for it. Now she is one of maybe 250 non-military women in the USA that have their CFII, Certified Flight Instructor Instrument, which means she can not only teach private pilot for helicopter but she can also teach instrument rating as well. Rare.

When she turned 16 she borrowed her older sister’s new car, a tricked out California VW with a big engine, tinted in the glass windows, front lowered and raked chassis, wide tires, and a totally clean white Emron aircraft paint job with chrome mini bumpers. It was a classy car built by my friend and air-cooled-only VW mechanic, BB. I paid him 5K cash under the table for that artwork. Heads always turned when it cruised by. Her older sister had just gotten it for her 18th birthday from me and her mom so it wasn’t even christened. Younger daughter borrowed it and rolled it 3 times behind her high school while zooming around an S-curve on the gravel encrusted pavement there.

Gravel won.

Life gives us messages and signs whether we recognize them or not. Wise folk are those that when needed can and do something, anything, to change the path they are headed down. The Chinese have a saying, actually many sayings, but this is one of the more memorable, “If we are not careful we will end up where we are headed”. If only we knew. My second favorite Chinese aphorism is, “Money can by you a clock, but not time”. Indeed.

I know you can relate. If you’re growing weed then you’ve felt the heat. It comes from going beyond the norm and searching for something personal. Green gardening, surfing, motocross, extreme skiing, skydiving, base jumping, knife throwing, stamp collecting whatever. If you’ve crossed the line and you can never go back.

How does one know when to make a change? And I mean make a significant life-altering move. When the messages rain down sufficiently, so much that we can’t live in denial any longer, how do we change? My view is that most of us, at such a momentous tipping point in our life, unconsciously allow the Universe to choose for us. The result is not always fun, easy, or what we may have wanted had we made the choice ourselves in a conscious way, but it sure is clear.

It’s that instant in time that you think to yourself, “If only I had…..”.

Fill in the spaces, they’re all the same. You know what I mean. It’s so much better to be self-correcting in response to the feedback all around you. It’s definitely less costly if you make the changes yourself rather than have changes made to you. Ken Kesey said, “Always stay in your own movie”. If you don’t then someone else is will be the director.

Daughter #2 became a careful and excellent driver after that incident. That day she kicked out the windshield so her friend and she could escape, climbed out of her sister’s totaled car, and while still in shock had a revelation that no parent could have provided no matter how hard they tried. Reality is the best, though not the kindest, teacher. Awakenings aren’t always inexpensive. Now she wears night-vision goggles when she flies in pitch dark out to remote spots on Interstate-10 and lands to meet paramedics. The casualty, sometimes just a lifeless body, lies horizontally next to her, stretched out awkwardly, as they boogie to an emergency room and toward hope.

Some messages take repeating. In every grower’s life comes a point when they should have walked away from a deal, a remote grow site, a new contact, or their overused rental home. Rock stars have bad concerts but they still get paid; lawyers, even if they lose a case, still walk out with a hefty fee. Everyday people involved in illegal acts rarely get the prize, though, and often get the hammer instead.

What goes around comes around. My good friend Peter and I were down on our luck. Our Colombo connection had moved into coke and we resisted. We were herbmen and though we powdered our noses for plain old fun, we didn’t want the Karma of becoming “Coke Dealers”. Just the name made straight people hate you back then even though the in-crowd loved a man with a pile of powder, oh how they loved them. During the Disco Days it seemed like everyone we knew had been hypnotized and started moving white powder. What the hell, the ladies sure responded. Who doesn’t remember, if you were witness to those days, the split when weed hippies were left behind in favor of the powder people?

I was driving a fork lift, loading trucks at a warehouse depot in Phoenix for lack of a better livelihood. I had two little girls and I didn’t want to become a dealer like so many of my pals. The work was not that difficult, driving electric carts and forklifts, and the days shot past quickly. I was planning my second shot at guerrilla growing, this time on my own and without my previous partner, so I knew it was just a matter of time before my day in the sun (literally) would come. In the meantime I was working the truck docks and biding my time.

Honey the Driver” was one of the truckers serviced the factory that I worked at every week and picked up or dropped off semi-truck loads. We became good friends in the sense that we liked to talk about interesting subjects, not the usual sports team mumbo jumbo that consumed most of the other dock loaders and truckers. I could care less about that stuff and Honey was also uninterested in the usual chatter. Our talks rambled toward the forbidden realms.

One fine day Honey showed up to drop a heavily loaded trailer and began talking about his weekend. Little did I know how skilled he was in so many ways. Honey, it turns out, could fly airplanes, even larger twin engines, as well as helicopters. 16-wheelers were child’s play, because he also operated heavy equipment like D-9 Cats and had driven a few road graders in Nam as well. If it could be driven or flown, Honey was at home.

I imagine that you think that you know where I’m going with this line of thinking. You’re partly right and partly wrong. Honey was excited that day because on his weekend he had been flying over the Barry Goldwater Bombing Range west of Ajo at the edge of Organ Pipe National Monument and had seen a large fuel tank nose down in the dirt. He theorized that it might be filled with weed, and jettisoned during delivery to the US, and was thinking of driving out to check on it. His question for me was, “If I find it and bring back hundred of pounds of marijuana, could you sell it?

Actually I was quite taken aback. How did he know that I could possibly sell it in the first place. I had cut my waist-length hair when I entered the job market and went to work at the warehouse. I never talked smack about weed or drugs with anyone at work, let alone him. So what gave me away?

I didn’t ask him and merely said yes. He smiled and went on with his day, leaving our dock once his truck was picked clean by the fleet of hungry forklifts swarming that day. I went home with a renewed sense of hope and dreamt of colas packed tightly in a jettisoned fuel tank. I was excited because it could be the way out that I needed for my next big move back into herb cultivation. My Colombian pal Peter was revved up as well and could use the excitement more than the pay in the interim between his own familia’s next shipment. Any cash I made would free me for better things. It was merely my youthful, 26 year-old mind hallucinating big time, but at the time I didn’t realize it.

Weeks passed without a visit to the docks by Honey. I began getting paranoid. What if he was merely testing me, what if he was undercover, what if he was a snitch setting me up, blah blah blah… My mind ran over the details and came up with the conclusion that Honey was what he appeared to be. He was skilled at piloting and driving but he was not clever, sneaky, or conniving. With him, what you saw was what you got. I felt relieved as I still anticipated him showing up with good news one day soon.

Honey did finally show up but he wasn’t smiling. He told me how he had driven way out onto the the Barry M. Goldwater Air Force Range, illegally of course, with his 3 kids and a far-fetched alibi just in case he got nabbed off-road in the forbidden zone. Once, long ago at night, I drove next to this same area as I traveled north from Ajo toward Gila Bend. I was coming back from a quick recon of the Pinacates, the psychedelic volcanic crater zone just northwest of Rocky Point in the very northern-most section of Mexico just below the Arizona border. I was totally transfixed by the endless bursts of light and loud explosions sparking out in the desert that hot July night. I never saw one of the jets but I heard them as they pushed back and forth across the target zone. I was witnessing a night-time war scene practice, like one of those dark moments in the movie “Apocalypse Now”. So cool, man. And we were so high.

Honey had found the jettisoned fuel tank, but that was exactly all it was, an empty fuel tank smashed into the dirt. At that moment our weed dreams disappeared into thin air. But just then something occurred to me when I was about to say, “Oh well” and let it all go. I had found the ultimate pilot and driver. I had an expert who wanted to get involved in the shadow economy. Honey was ready for an assignment! His name rose to the top of my Rolodex for future tasks. Why, we could have him pick up our harvest, already boxed of course, and fly it out of our remote canyon; it could save the many round-trip hikes necessary by 4 or 5 people carrying big frame packs loaded with harvest herb if we were as successful as I hoped that year, and it could….dreamer, dreamer, come back, come back! Alright…….

Over the next few months I saw Honey regularly but we only made small talk. Why talk about paradise lost? Then, in the last quarter of the year, around harvest time in Mexico, Honey showed up at the docks with a big dog smile and laid it on me. Some Mexican friends had finally contacted him and wanted him to fly down to the Guadalajara area and pick up a load. Though Honey had never even seen a joint let alone smoked one, his motors were already on an imaginary runway taking off to mota land and flying back with the prize. As if !! Here he was, like me, hallucinating without any experience in a field that was fraught with agents, snitches, guns, wiretaps, and true life-or-death danger. This was big time.

Not far from his initial thoughts, a few weeks later he actually was sippin’ a margarita in Motaville. Just a slight twist was injected into this cozy vision though; Honey did fly down to Guadalajara but in a stolen twin-engine Cessna that the cartel wanted real bad. It was his initiation and he jumped at the opportunity. One day a straight trucker, the next day a full-on drug pilot transporting stolen goods across international lines. I was floored and laughed in his face. Composing myself the best that I could I asked him what he would be doing from then on and he replied that he would only have to wait for loads to come to him. It seems that the brothers in Mexico had bigger plans for Honey and didn’t want to waste him on weed runs. He bluffed and had told them that he had friends who could easily move weight. You can probably guess where this went. Though none of us truly knew, all of us suspected.

I grew up loving James Bond movies and had read The Craft of Intelligence, in fact I had an autographed copy signed for me personally by the author Allen Dulles, head of the CIA. I had written him in Washington, D.C. in the late 1960’s to gain more knowledge about a possible future career for me in the CIA. Whether it was Michael Caine in the groundbreaking spy movie “The Ipcress File”, or reading more history of the spies in WWII and the Cold War, I admired their tradecraft. I knew it was probably not as glorious as it appeared in the movies but being a young guy I was hooked. I began my collection of spy tool catalogs, eavesdropping equipment catalogs, and every book on spies that I could find when I was only 16 years-old. I was certifiable. That knowledge helped immensely once I walked the path of weed.

Months passed with no contact from Honey. Slowly but surely I continued my life and forgot about him. I was planning my next guerrilla grow and had been on several recons in a likely canyon-filled area. One of those exploratory trips became the deciding factor for my herb’s brand name, “Mad Jag”, and I wrote about that incident in another MadJag Chronicle. Visions of weed loads flying in from Mexico had retreated far to the back of my mind.

Ring-ring, ring-ring. I grabbed the proverbial kitchen phone (an A.T.&T. Princess phone!) and there he was, Honey, mumbling quickly and unable to focus his words. It didn’t take but a second to decipher his message though….not only had he delivered the Cessna, he had also escorted a nice Bell Ranger Jet helicopter south as well. My oh my, what would be next? A Lear jet? Hundreds of thoughts melted and mixed in my mind as he continued to rant excitedly. “The load is going to be here next week, are you ready?,” is what I incredulously thought he had said. “They need an airstrip for the drop and will be on the ground only long enough to toss out the bales, 500 kilos.” We were in for it.

Thanks to my earlier training in the secretive arts as well as in reconnaissance, the plan evolved lightning fast. My team was assembled and it was their first time in this kind of action. Everyone was mighty fidgety as we spent the night camped in the field, preparing for military-grade timing and the  smooth execution of our plan. I was the only real spy in the group so I had been the driving force in the plan’s design. My friends were more than willing once they heard the pay: $2,500 each for two days work as well as an at cost price for any amount of herb that they wanted to buy later. Damn, for poor growers and small-time dealers this was a windfall.

Courtesy Boston Police Department

That load from Honey’s Sinaloa Air Force friends in Mexico, about 500 kilos, was dozens of cellophane-wrapped bales that took up so much room in our white, stretch panel van that we ended up with 3 of the 20 lb. bales up front in the passenger side covered with a few jackets and towels. We discovered that you could smell the van 50 feet away, even with the windows all closed tightly, when we got it to Phoenix later and parked on the street awaiting a friend to arrive. That’s sometimes the game and you have to run with it, like it or not. The paranoia, the stress, the adrenaline rush…..

Anyway……we had used a remote airstrip in Northern Arizona that was outside of a very small town. The 10 mile dirt road that went past the airport and on to other private ranches and cabins further out was unpredictable when it came to traffic. Some days only 5 vehicles might pass that way; other days only 2 early in the morning; and on vacation weekends that dusty passage could see 20 campers or hunters going past at odd times.

We rented a 2 ton flatbed truck from U-Haul and drove it 200 miles to the remote airstrip area. One of my guys camped in it overnight since we were expecting the load at 8 am precisely. The airstrip was 20 feet above the grade of  the road that passed by and ran lengthwise to the strip. The public road section immediately next to the flat mesa that held the airstrip ran through a dry riverbed gully about 40 feet lower than the strip area. This was the “pinch point” that we would use, a section where the dirt road was narrow enough and surrounded by such thick vegetation that there was no way to drive around a stopped vehicle. We had the big truck parked in the middle of the road pretending that it was broken down. This would make any vehicles coming from either direction stop in the gully section of the road below,  well out of sight from the airstrip above that we had chosen for this strategic move. My friend stood next to the truck, ready, just in case any vehicles came along the road so he could quickly lie under the truck and play the role. He had disconnected a wire to the starter so that it truly couldn’t move.

Good thing he did so and that we had pushed our plan to the “Mission Impossible” level. Two rancher pickup trucks drove up at 10 minutes to 8am and were effectively blocked. One rancher got extra-helpful and climbed into our flatbed to “help” start it. It turned over and over with no start, just the sound of the tired solenoid trying its best. While this drama was playing out below us, the Sinaloa Air Force Cessna did an immediate landing without even making a quick fly-by as a safety  check (for rocks or animals on the runway or to check for LEO or other bogies in the immediate airstrip area) and began kicking out 20 pound, cellophane-wrapped bales of primo mountain-grown Mexican sinsemilla.

Our panel van was at the loading end so they just taxied up nearby and began the unloading process. The pilot and his helper finished in a mere 3 minutes, gunned their motor, and blew off the runway and back to Old Mexico. Their job was finished far before our two guys could load the panel van so there was this big pile of bales laying on the open runway. Good thing we blocked the road because it was very obvious what the airplane noise was connected to. If someone had driven by the upper part of the road that had the short connector driveway leading to the airstrip it would have been a mess. It was pre-cell phone days back then in 1982 but many ranchers had CBs (Citizen Band radios) and a few even had wireless FM radios to connect to their ranch’s telephone land line.

Hard to imagine how the Sinaloan Air Force could be on time coming from 500+ miles away in a twin-engine Cessna 414, but they were within 2-4 minutes of the predicted hour. They would have most likely crossed the US-Mexico border flying 200 feet above the ground, balls-to-the-wall. No GPS back then and these guys had never even visited our strip. In a meeting in Guadalajara a month before we showed them the airstrip location on a detailed aviation map of the area, the most accurate tool for pilots back then. Their perfect, on-time arrival surprised all of us because we had been having nightmares about “What if they don’t show up on time”? Would we sit there for hours and just react when we heard a plane coming in? What if we waited a whole day and it’s a no-show?

Our boys finally got all the bales into the van and drove down into the gully and stopped when they came to the “broken down” flatbed truck. This signaled Jon to quickly re-attach the starter cable and ask the rancher to give it another try. It started immediately, of course, and Jon moved the flatbed toward the nearest wide space in the road where the ranchers had room to drive past. The two ranch trucks then passed our Sinsemilla van, waved thanks, and disappeared. The van moved on down the road, taking a back dirt track to the main paved highway that connected to the Interstate and down into Phoenix and the Valley of The Sun.

Only one problem, where the hell were we going to sell 1200 pounds? Each one of us had a friend who had a friend that knew a guy who could move weight, but none of us had ever entered that world or knew exactly what it would take to do so. It turned out to be easy, though, and we all left that week with fond memories and fat wallets. Later loads would prove even easier once we had all of our ducks in a row. Honey was our new hero and though we didn’t move in the same world that he did we still met once in awhile to discuss the next time. And before we had even returned to Phoenix a few days later, Sinaloa was ready with more. Ah yes, Capitalism.

The rest was history:  that fine herb made its way to its final destination in New York City and Brooklyn without a glitch, thanks to our cross-country driving team that specialized in moves like that. The Brooklyn Rastas and a Soho Chinese fellow sold it all in record time.

We met Honey in the next phase of our relationship at a groovy bar in Scottsdale, one of those nouveau trendy places. The restaurant and bar, Dr. Munchies, was about as trippy as you could find in the desert back then. The maitre’d wore a full-length white tuxedo, a real French accent, and had wild, black hair down to his waist. The place had great food and was always packed from 10pm to well past midnight. Sometimes there was actually a huge line of hipsters waiting to get in, something hitherto unseen before those sexy days of wine and roses. Our short string of three drop loads had come to an end and at that point my partner and I were thinking about next year’s serious canyon weed growing plan. Honey showed up at the bar with a brand new look. Instead of Honey the everyday trucker he was now sporting a big cowboy fedora, several gold necklaces, and a fancy western-looking outfit that included some flashy boots. He carried in one of the first mobile phones I had ever seen up close, the type they used in Miami Vice that were the size of a brick. He was driving a brand-new Camaro and had a hot girlfriend 20 years younger than him as he sauntered into the fiesta..

It was a sign. The Universe was talking and luckily we had no problem listening. We were not happy. Honey had gone from 0 – 60 in like five seconds and had not been able to keep track of where his road was leading. Money came in so large and fast that he had forgotten what a day’s work actually paid on Planet Earth and had become used to his new found wealth. He made us an offer to join him.

Still a redneck trucker at heart, Honey worked hard to fit his new image. His path diverged from ours the moment he said the word “coke”. We were herb men and heeded the signs. The three loads we pulled off at that little public airstrip perfectly funded our next year as we delved into our canyon growing season with renewed enthusiasm and energy. Our families were covered and the only work we had to do for the next 12 months was to prepare, grow, harvest, and sell amazing weed. It was still all good after we cut ties with our crazy, pilot friend. We didn’t have to deliberate long in order to give him our answer and it was a clear “no”. It had all been in the name of supporting our passion for growing the weed so we never looked back.

photo by Kerry Skarbakka

We heard through the grapevine and later on local TV news that Honey had become fabulously wealthy. He also caught the flu in a big way and had to spend 10 years inside the state prison getting well. I never forgot my friend Honey though unfortunately I did forget some of the lessons of his story. I too let fast money go to my head and one day got sick myself. I had to spend a couple of years at the federal monastery because I didn’t remember to heed the signs that were coming from all directions in a multitude of forms. When I got out it took me about 10, perhaps even 15 years to fully recover and return to where I had left off. Looking back I realized that the signs were so plain and obvious that I had definitely been suffering from a serious case of denial. I had wanted something so deeply that I couldn’t see the messages telling me to take a break and reconsider what it was that I truly wanted.

It’s rarely money or power we want. They just make it seemingly easier to get what we think we want. Once you recognize your true passion and know that you can follow that path forever if you don’t stray, you become tuned into signs in a whole new way. It becomes second nature to question. You “sleep” on it more often, allowing time to pass before you make a major decision. You find that many things turn out to be equal in value and only a few shine above the rest. Those that do are usually free for the taking, and giving, once you learn to see.

As Castaneda’s teacher Don Juan said, The trick is in what one emphasizes. One either makes oneself strong or one makes oneself miserable. The amount of work is the same.”


Painting by Teddy Pancake

Most people will disagree. It seems so much easier to be unhappy or unfulfilled. It’s an attitude of gratitude, though, that can make the difference in understanding this little parable. Signs are everywhere. We are all sent them. Do you see them? Do you pay attention and at least allow your body to feel their message? Like the ensuing high that comes from a powerful toke of weed, signs come in many forms and flavors but always can be felt on some level. Take your time to know what you truly want, stay aware, and you’re home free. Peace.