Trucker: Yeah, the government took our threat very seriously and did everything they could to smash us. But they couldn't.
Once the war was finally over, I and lots of other people were totally burnt out. We needed a break, to depressurize. But after a while exhaustion turned to apathy, and many people lost interest in the ongoing struggle.
I remember when Nixon violated the Paris Peace Agreement by refusing to pay the reparations we'd promised to help Vietnam rebuild their infrastructure and buy medical supplies. Refusing this humanitarian aid was an outrageous, criminal act, and some of us tried to organize a mass protest. We ended up with a hundred people on the steps of the San Francisco County Courthouse. The momentum was gone.
I too began to focus more on my personal life. I'd met a woman I wanted to build a future with. We were both tired of being poor. Living on the fringe is a struggle, it wears you down. Neither of us wanted to work for the Man and go the yuppie route, and we wanted something with a bit of adventure to it.
I'd done a little dealing before, but now we got into it in a big way. Just grass and hash, though -- natural plants. I never liked hard drugs. Went to Mexico and spent a long time in MichoacÃ¡n finding a good connection. Not just price and quality, but also good personal vibes.
We moved to San Diego, and I cut my hair and shaved my beard. Customs was using dogs on the border by then, but we came up with a way to beat that. Formed a little company called Baha Divers, stenciled this on the sides of a van. I'd drive south across the border about every other day with the van full of scuba tanks and gear, supposedly to give diving lessons to the tourists at Rosarito Beach. The US border guards thought of course American tourists would rather learn to dive from an American. In Mexico we sealed the stuff inside the tanks. We filled them with hash because it's more concentrated. I had cut the tanks in the middle and had an airtight way to reseal them. Then we would wash them off with ammonia, to get rid of any smell. The first couple of times I was totally nervous and was afraid the guards would pick up on that, but they didn't. Pretty dull bunch. After a while they didn't even bother to put the dog in the van, just waved me through.
People I'd known in the Bay area were now spread all over the West Coast, so before long we were supplying all the way up to Vancouver.
But one day the border guards flagged me into the inspection lane. They knew exactly what they were looking for, took the tanks apart and handcuffed me. It turned out that one of our guys on the Mexican side had got busted by the Federales , and he traded his way into a lower sentence by ratting me out.
It looked bad, like I'd be going back to the Bay area -- all the way to San Quentin. But we hired a very good, VERY expensive lawyer, and he got me off. I had to plead guilty as part of a plea bargain but ended up with a suspended sentence.
I decided to get out of the business. By then our savings were enough to buy a spread of land with an old farmhouse in Oregon. We settled down, went back to college, got involved in local issues and environmental organizing.
Then it all exploded in our faces. We let a guy, friend of a friend, stay with us for a couple of weeks. He was going through hard times and needed some peace and quiet out in the country. He was active in the Black Panthers, and so of course the cops were hassling him, but what we didn't know was that they had warrants on him for the armed robbery of three supermarkets. They tracked him out to our farm and arrested everybody there, charged us all with the robberies. He had some of the loot with him, and he'd given us some bills that turned out to be marked, so that tied us in. Cops found a few pot plants in our garden and added drug charges. They could tell we were radicals, so they wanted to send us away for as long as they could. Considering the other busts, I was looking at major time as a repeat offender.
We decided to scram. Sold the house and land. Our forfeited bail took a huge chunk of that, but since we weren't going to pay taxes, we came out OK. With the help of some of our old contacts, we transferred the money off shore, then followed it and kept moving, got passports under new names. We thought about staying overseas and becoming ex-pats, but we both missed the USA. The thing is, we like the country. We just don't like the people running it.
We had some facial surgery -- my wife loves her new nose -- and after a couple of years came back as different people. We haven't been back to the West Coast, though, don't want to push our luck. And we're super law-abiding, except of course for the small matter of burning military vehicles.
Cutting ties was hard. Both our are families are conservative and had shut us out a long time ago, so that part wasn't so difficult. That was pain we'd already gone through. But we had to let go of a lot of friendships. We have webmail with a few close and trusted folks like you, but none of them know where we live or our names.
Hathaway : Thanks for including me on your list.
Trucker: Well, we go back a long time. And those were very formative times.