as told by
There was something strangely rewarding about looking at marijuana plant carcasses that were 6-8 ft in length. But each of these plant carcasses was a federal offense so Johnny was careful about not keeping them on site after the plants had been stripped clean of any buds and leaves. He yelled to B-Man, his ten year old son who was playing with the dogs, and they walked towards the grow field where a large Rastafarian was headed in a small truck.
The Toyota truck belonging to Rasta’s girlfriend (or the Rastafarian equivalent of a girlfriend) was not something that the island man had much experience with. So watching him as he maneuvered the truck backwards across the yard and onto the dirt trail next to the grow field didn’t inspire much confidence in Johnny. But growing marijuana had never been a quest for perfection the way it was for other growers. There was a different purpose at this farm and however things were presented, he did his best to try and make it work.
Johnny was glad the boy’s mother was not present as she had avoided the grow field the entire time she lived at the farm. With her gone there was now a freedom from the judgments she always directed at the one thing that offered the farm a chance, marijuana. Johnny chuckled as he imagined the look on her face if this particular story ever reached her ears.
“Back it up here,” Johnny pointed as he stood in front of the plant carcasses that had been pulled out from one of the eight greenhouses that sat in the field. Rasta responded by stripping the gear shift as he tried to find reverse again while at the same time puffing on the fat joint that never left his lips. Multi-tasking was always something that pot-heads took seriously. They knew that otherwise very little was going to get done in their world.
The Toyota finally found its way to the ground in front of the plant carcasses and Johnny and his son began loading them onto the truck bed. Rasta jumped out of the cab and joined them after passing the joint over to the only other eligible smoker within arms’ reach. He knew that as a Rastafarian he was given a lot of latitude by growers due to the long black dreadlocks hanging from his head. But he was still expected to abide by some version of the puff, puff, pass rule that dictated the norms among North American pot smokers.
After a few minutes the pile of plant carcasses had grown to at least six feet over the top of the truck cab and they all took a step back to admire the scene. “Nice work”, Johnny said looking directly at B-Man and he could see that the boy was proud of being accepted as part of a work crew. On some level having his young son working in this particular trade was still a little awkward and Johnny remembered more than one gut check over the years. But the same conclusion kept returning to him repeatedly; this is a farm, marijuana is the primary cash crop for the farm, and for generations is was understood that farming especially harvest time, was work time for the whole family, top to bottom.
Johnny reminded Rasta that he would precede him in another vehicle down the road by a couple of minutes to ensure that there was no unwanted traffic on the mountain road. If he had not returned after his lead time was up, then Rasta was to move the Toyota away from the field and onto the dirt road moving as fast as he could to catch up. He and Johnny would then drive onward to a ravine where they could deposit the carcasses into a plant graveyard. Rasta nodded his head and gave his standard “Yeah man!” as a response. Johnny and the boy then climbed up the farm hill and hopped into a 1996 Subaru that hung out in the driveway like an old dog and backed out into the road.
As he shot down the hill he passed the entrance to the grow field and saw that Rasta had already moved the truck out to the edge of the road. When he passed the truck and looked into the rear view mirror he could see the Toyota shoot out onto the road only twenty feet or so behind the Subaru. As a smile crept onto his lips he laughed realizing that Rasta had once again understood only a piece of what Johnny had said and that the only thing left to do at this point was to throw caution to the wind, put on some banjo music and hope for the best.
The two vehicles were soon hitting 35 mph on a road best suited for 10mph. Smiling Johnny told his son not to worry about coming across any law enforcement.
“Just act real scared and I’ll tell the cop that a large black man with pot plants was chasing us and could he help?” he said and laughed. There wasn’t much held as sacred up at the farm and he knew that Rasta generally appreciated the humor the crew sent his way. If he was going to throw his lot in with white people, these were the ones best fitted to the task.
About a mile and a half down Johnny spun the wheel and took a sharp right turn onto a road that followed the river. Rasta soon followed and the two vehicles were now part of a parade that also included two of the farm dogs who always enjoyed stretching their legs. Johnny couldn’t help it but part of him was actually looking forward to crossing paths with another vehicle just to see the look of wonder and bemusement that was sure to appear after viewing the unique scene unfolding on the road.
But after roughly two miles without any company, the car came upon the ravine that Johnny had scouted out earlier in the day. He pulled up to the edge and Rasta quickly pulled up behind him. Without any hesitation the plant carcasses were sent hurtling one by one over the burm and down into what would serve as their graveyard.
When they were done unloading the plants they took a moment to stare in silence at the scene twenty five feet below. Shaking his head Johnny climbed back into the car and his son followed. In the rear view mirror he saw Rasta spark up another medicine stick as he once again failed to negotiate the gear shift. Johnny had to admit that as much as he wanted the time to come when marijuana was legal, he would miss moments like this. Nothing pleased him more than giving the finger to the caretakers of the drug war. They had destroyed enough lives and the time had come for growers to move things to another level.
Crazy Pill Head
It was a bright and lovely spring morning when the loud sound of an overworked truck echoed though the old farm house. “Redneck must be on to some crazy project out there,” Jezebel thought to herself. Then remembering that she was home alone she ran to the window. There she gazed out upon a flushed red man and his angry white vehicle. With the mechanical beast still running hard, the adrenalin filled man jumped out of the driver’s seat. Puffing his chest out like a rooster, he began to yell and shout at the house, his words hardly recognizable due to the lack of breaths in-between them.
Jezebel’s first reaction was to go out and help calm the man down, certain that he had the wrong address. But as she approached the door her urge to help the man was overridden with fear. For his car was still live with rage and there was no indication of calm in the man’s projecting voice. Remembering that she was home alone, she hastily locked the door, ran for the Johnny’s shotgun, and after two shaky misdials had Redneck on the phone.
“Redneck, there’s some crazy guy here in the driveway shouting like the devil! I do believe he may be possessed! You better get up here quickly before I do something that Jesus frowns upon.
“Hang on, we’re headed!” Redneck shouted into the phone.
Redneck gunned the engine on his truck and took it from a casual 35mph to 70mph in a matter of seconds, while relaying the story to Johnny who was puffing next to him in the passenger seat. Johnny took a strong hit off his joint. “Never fucking dull”, he sighed, and then braced himself as they tore through old country roads like a redneck ambulance, hitting bumps, and puddles, just missing a cat and countless squirrels.
In a matter of minutes they were back on the mountain road and quickly approaching the farm pond that sat at the bottom of the hill. Redneck jacked the truck up to full throttle and they began to make the final climb towards the farmhouse. At this very moment a white truck came shooting down the hill with the urgency of a wet cat causing Redneck to swerve into a ditch where the road runoff usually went. Johnny was thrown to the side of the truck before he was able to get a clear look at the face of the driver but in the back of his mind he already knew who it was.
“What the fuck” said Redneck as he pulled the truck back out of the ditch and headed up the hill.
Redneck’s truck pulled into the farmhouse driveway. Johnny jumped out and ran into the house where Jezebel sat in a chair holding the shot gun that Johnny owned. “Be right back!” he said after giving her a hug and quickly exiting the house just as Redneck came up the stairs.
“Who was it?” Redneck asked following Johnny back to his truck.
“Pretty sure it was our good friend Kyle” Johnny responded with sarcasm as they both climbed back into the pick-up. Redneck gunned the engine and shot the truck backwards out of the driveway and in the direction of Kyle’s house. The growers in the area had dealt with Kyle before. Johnny knew that this was going to either end with a handshake and an apology from Kyle or a likely trip to the emergency room to stitch together whatever remained of his face after Redneck wrapped things up.
Kyle belonged to the legions of pill head’s that made a shot gun and a German Sheppard required for anyone in Johnny’s line of work. Take any B-grade Zombie movie and replace the monsters with young men hooked on painkillers and opiates and you had life in the hills surrounding Somewhere, ME. They would remain asleep until sometime in the late afternoon and then use the cover of darkness to make their connections, steal from their own family, or break into a neighbor’s farmhouse.
Johnny had first become aware of Kyle when he began noticing the ongoing presence of parked cars in one of the wood lots near the start of the dirt road. It became real clear that Kyle, who had recently been released from jail, was continuing his work selling pharmaceuticals to all the pill heads in the area. And the old mountain road was being used as a meet up location for his customers.
At this point it would have been easy enough to simply call the Sherriff’s office and trust that they would begin a stronger presence in the area. But that didn’t really sound like much of a business plan for anyone already a few steps over the line. The consensus among the local growers was that frontier justice was both morally superior to calling in the state and a better long term plan for everyone involved.
So for a few weeks, any time Johnny and his crew would come across a vehicle parked in the wood lot, they would park a little ways away from the customer’s vehicle and aim their headlights at the customer’s car. This generally ensured that the vehicle was gone within thirty seconds and most likely led to some angry phone calls between Kyle and his customer base. To make things a little more uncomfortable for the customers Jezebel made a sign reading, “If you think someone is watching, you are right” and Johnny placed it across from the wood lot, nailed to a tree about twenty five feet off the ground.
For a few months things were fine with Kyle and the road was quieter. But it didn’t last. It was after 10pm on a Friday in late April when Johnny returned to his farmhouse after checking out his friends band Trailer Trash at Tucker’s Pub in nearby Normal, ME. He noticed right away that the dogs were agitated but in the dark he didn’t notice anything unusual and all his security checks on his buildings had not been triggered so he didn’t bother checking the surveillance tapes.
A half hour later he got a text from a neighbor on the road which only read “…I’ve been hit…headed over…” Five minutes later his truck shot into the driveway of the farm and his neighbor jumped out of the cab.
“Same vehicle’s been here” he said as he pointed his flashlight at tire marks that could now be seen in the mud of Johnny’s driveway. As the flashlight continued its search it became clear that the same vehicle that had left his neighbor’s house with 5lbs of Maine homegrown had also made a stop in Johnny’s driveway before continuing back down the road in the direction of Kyle’s house.
The neighbor jumped into the driver side of his truck and Johnny hopped in the passenger side and they took off down the road at a slow pace as they followed the tire tracks with a flashlight. After about a mile and a half the tire tracks left the road and headed up the steep driveway of Kyle’s house.
The next morning people all over area found a flyer in their mailbox which listed the names of those responsible for the theft, along with their ages, home and work address. Three days later, Kyle was picked up by his probation officer and taken back to prison for another eight months. The break ins’ stopped.
All of this remained in the back of Johnny’s head as they arrived at Kyle’s driveway, pulled in a bit, leaned on the horn and waited. Fifteen seconds later Kyle emerged from his house agitated, carrying a baseball bat, and stood there shaking while Redneck and Johnny sat in the car finishing their joint.
“Here we go,” Redneck said as he began exiting the truck.
Immediately Kyle began moving down the driveway waving the baseball bat and screaming incoherently…”I’m not afraid of you. I’ve been in prison and I’ll go back. Don’t come up here!” he said trying to appear menacing.
“Calm the fuck down, Kyle” Redneck said. “It’s me,” he said referencing a time in Rednecks own life where he traveled in the very same circles and was a captive to the very same darkness. Seeing Redneck and hearing his voice had a weirdly calming effect upon Kyle and he lowered the bat.
“Why were you at my farm?” Johnny asked sharply.
At this question Kyle again appeared agitated and he began spitting out accusations about “… cars racing by his house at crazy speeds…my kid are playing out in the road…fucking hippies...…”Johnny listened to the dialogue that Redneck and Kyle were having for a short time and then unloaded on Kyle.
“I don’t give a shit what issues you have Kyle. You do not ever go to a man’s house and threaten him or his family. What the fuck is your problem! You wanna go back to jail? You got issues with someone then you come talk with them. Otherwise you're gonna get shot. You understand?”
Kyle slowly became less agitated and began issuing apologies for what he had done and began talking about the mother of his children and the needles she kept in her arms full time.
Sunday morning on the hill resembled a gathering of zombies who were only a bit more fashionable then the kind seen in most Hollywood horror movies. Everywhere you looked you saw the walking dead in all their splendor; the non-glam hippies, the rippies (redneck hippies), the hill cats, all refugees from the sketchy underground, and most of them trying to piece together the previous evening and the sins they may have committed (or had committed on them).
Of all these sub species the hill cats were the ones you most wanted to avoid. Taking their cues from the wife of the landowner, these women would usually possess any number of personalities, all depending upon how drunk they were. As the evening grew darker so generally did their disposition. Around dusk they would begin making their break from whichever guy was playing the part of husband/boyfriend/payer of bills/provider of baby food and begin wandering into the heart of the hill where they could find plenty of men willing to share their cocaine, ecstasy, or the hippie crack that came in the form of nitrous tanks.
At some point the next morning they would find their way back to the tent/pick up of whomever they had come with and the hills would begin. echoing with the screams of domestic turmoil.
The patron saint of the hill cats was the wife of the landowner who was a modern day Madam Defarge. Everyone knew that at some point during any of the festivals that took place on the hill, she would have a breakdown and someone close to her would pay the price. Under the cover of her illness she had covertly maneuvered her way into full control of the farm and it's most precious asset, the owner.
Waiting for the End of the World with Mr. Bean
There was no better place in Maine to consider that the Mayan Calendar was right on target then the farm. With the colorful mural that Johnny’s long time friend Jah Sun had recently completed in the 3 story barn (along with his own version of Mayan Hieroglyphics that lined the second floor balcony), the farm was ready for whatever the end of the world might bring.
Mr. Bean had called earlier in the morning and inquired about the event scheduled to happen that evening. He introduced himself, and asked whether the hot tub would indeed be available that night and then oddly enough, whether he could enjoy it fully clothed. Johnny had laughed and given him a verbal o.k. to enjoy it any way he deemed interesting and had ended the call with a smile on his face as he considered the presence of one more odd fellow attending a farm gathering.
That evening, despite being in the midst of the worst ice storm of the year, the barn was packed. Rasta had prepared trays and trays of lasagna for attendees and on cue his friends from the city began circulating three large jars of special honey. The honey was a staple of most events at the farm and Johnny was certain that not only did it help folks get fully engaged in the evening it also helped drive away the drunken energy that too often engulfed parties in the hills of western Maine. Johnny wasn’t against people getting drunk but there were opportunities to take that particular trip any night of the week. He wanted events at the farm to embrace a different ethic and he knew that this would only be possible with the help of a few of the creators more compelling creations, mushrooms and marijuana.
Mr. Bean arrived as he had indicated and he immediately inquired about the hot tub and Johnny walked him over to the porch overlooking it. “Still O.K. to go in with my clothes on?” he asked and Johnny nodded, thinking that this simply going to be an ongoing joke. But after leading Mr. Bean back into the barn he made his security staff aware of this strange man and suggested they watch him with a cautious eye.
A half hour later Redneck came over and motioned to Johnny to follow him. They crossed through the crowd and over to the side door leading out to the hot tub. In it sat Mr. Bean, fully clothed as he had promised. Johnny was too high to be concerned about anyone's choice of hot tub clothing, still he felt compelled to ask him the most pertinent thing coming to Johnny's mind. "Did you bring a towel and change of clothes?"
Mr. Bean looked relieved that no one considered his behavior out of bounds and replied, "I do!".
"Alright then. Enjoy!" Johnny said, turned around and walked back into the barn. 'It's good to be among the freaks', he thought to himself and chuckled.
Johnny Crashed Medicine Man
Johnny had first learned to grow the medicine as a teenager back when he lived on the Micmac reservation north of Bangor. But this was something altogether different. Driving around the state with close to a pound of marijuana in his vehicle without the fear of some asshole cop throwing him in jail took a huge weight off his shoulders.
The ballot initiative campaign to win this right had been an interesting one to watch and Johnny had slowly become acquainted with the guy who ran the campaign. He and his family would often visit the farm during one of the public events and it was clear to Johnny that a heavy toll was being extracted.
What had excited Johnny about the campaign was the opportunity to become a medical marijuana caregiver and to both grow and provide marijuana (or medicine as it was now being referred) for patients in need. And once he started down this road he decided to embrace it fully. During the year that followed the passing of the initiative Johnny became familiar with hundreds of patients that stretched from towns just over the bridge that connected New Hampshire to Maine all the way up to the desolate town of Island Falls.
The junkies or former junkies were the worst to deal with. Harboring a deep mistrust of everyone, they would first welcome u as their personal savior and then fill up your voice mail with threats if they deemed the medicine less than stellar.
What all of them failed to understand was the logistics involved with accessing affordable medicine for hundreds of patients at prices that those patients could actually afford. Johnny could only grow so much medicine himself and had to beg and plead with growers who could easily dump their product in Massachusetts for significantly more than they could get from patients with only a monthly social security check to draw from.
Johnny held out special disdain for people like his neighbor, Rizza. By the time Johnny had met him, Rizza had been growing weed for at least fifteen years and had made so much money that Johnny often spotted him buying gold on Lisbon St. in the city to bury in his back yard. Rizza looked the part, with long dreads and a hot girlfriend. But Johnny knew him as the guy who would show up at the farmhouse drunk at 10pm, with his girlfriend, waking up the farm and Johnny's newborn. Rizza's girlfriend would then pass the time pressing her breasts against Johnny while openly insulting Rizza standing only a few feet away.
What Johnny disliked most about Rizza, other then his arrogance, was his refusal to give up any of his ample weed at prices that people living below the poverty line could afford. Johnny invited him to join him on a six hour journey north to get an ounce of weed to a patient days away from death in hospice. But Rizza wasn't interested in the trip or even a price break for Johnny's patient. Johnny knew where this relationship would end up. More then once he thought quietly about sleeping with Rizza's girlfriend before the inevitable demise of the friendship.
If the Hot Tub Could Speak
She hadn’t always felt comfortable in a two piece. And this, she did blame on the church. Her body was nothing to be ashamed of. In fact it had never been. She was beautiful. She had long dark hair, glowing skin and a wonderfully proportionate figure. Still, she had been condition though church related youth programs to feel self-conscious about her body, and had only recently been able to jump this mental hurdle. She knew he’d be watching her as she made her way from the back deck and into the hot tub. Men always did. So she kept a towel wrapped tightly around her body.
It was a bright night, thanks to the almost full moon hanging high above them, and she figured she had made a good call by going with the towel. His eyes were dead on her as she made her way down to the hot tub. Whether or not he realized this, she was unsure. She assumed he was high. Quickly, she then removed the cloth that was separating his eyes from what they were after, and dipped into the warn bath like water. He smiled.
To Johnny the hot tub was a place of relaxation, meditation and mostly silences. Occasionally though, this silence was broken by what would often start out as small talk but always lead to more personal matters or interrogations as Jezebel sometimes like to think of them. On their first night together in the isolated waters he had asked her about her past relationships. “I’m not nice to boys” She had told him. This response left him only to wonder in his own head of course, what this must mean. Leading him to the conclusion that it must have something to do with the recent abandonment and difficult relationship she had with her father.
Though a bit awkward at first, Jezebel had quickly come to learn how to equally enjoy and take advantage of these moments of silence in the hot tub. She was now able to immerse herself into thought or meditation seemingly just as well as Johnny. And it was that in one of these moments of bliss that her trance was broken.
“So wait, you’ve never kissed anyone before?” He asked. Her face felt hot, she took a sip of the ice water resting on the hot tubs edge.
“Why do you say that?” She questioned him.
“Well you don’t date right?”
“Not really.” She answered.
“God, you’ve never even kissed anyone before have you?” How could she lie? He had her.
“Man, some guy out there is gonna be really lucky when he finds you.” Desire hid in his voice. Feeling more embarrassed than ever. Jezebel was glad that here in this hot tub silence was always a viable option. She said nothing.
By the third night, not only did Jezebel understand the ways of the hot tub, but she was feeling a level of excitement growing inside of her. Johnny’s interest in her personal life was both flattering and frightening to her. He was pushing her out of her comfort zone, under the protection of warn water and moonlit sky’s. On the other end of things, Johnny was becoming more and more intoxicated by her. Medicating himself almost religiously every evening before their time together in the hot tub. Marijuana help to settle his nerves, and beside he liked being high. On this particular night though, he had gotten himself so stoned, that he had actually forgotten to wear anything into the hot tub.
As not to embarrass anyone, mostly herself really, Jezebel had pretended not to notice his lack of coverings as she slipped into the familiar waters. Taking a deep breath, she closed her eyes. “He was somewhat of a hippie.” She thought to herself. As conservative in comparison as she might be, she had actually been surprised to see he had even worn anything into the hot tub on that first night. Ten minutes or so past by peacefully and quietly, with only the sounds of night critters and a soft wind rustling through the leaves of the trees. “So… have you ever had an orgasm before?” He asked her, his tone soft but normal. It was as if he were asking if she had ever been on a plane before.
Feeling the heat of embarrassment run across her face hotter than any of the nights before, she didn’t move. With her eyes still closed, “I don’t have sex.” She told him.
“I didn’t ask you if you’ve had sex. He smirked knowingly. “I ask if you have ever had an orgasm before. You know, you don’t need to have sex, in order to get yourself off.”
Thanking God that he could not fully see her face in the dark of the night, she replied “I know.” Maybe just a little too quickly. A gap filled the air, and for a moment they listened to the calling cries and howls of some coyotes in the distance.
“So then… have you?” He asked again.
“You’re being inappropriate.” She sat up and opened her eyes.
“I’ll take that as a no.”
“Good.” She thought. Silence and they listened again. "Do you hear those coyotes?" She asked him.
“Yeah,” He said. “I do.” His eyes were closed now and she knew they were headed back towards a peaceful stillness.
She began to relax, once more shutting her own eyes and reclining back into her seat. Still, something was happening. And they could both feel it.
After the Crash
Sweaty and tried from dance, Jezebel’s phone went off just as she reached home and pulled into the drive way. It was Johnny. A wave of vibrant energy entered her body and lit up her face. Smiling, she answered. “Hello” she said. There was a pause of silence. And then in a quite numb voice he spoke, “I did something awful.” “What?” She asked, now only half smiling. “I almost killed my family today.” A moment of silence accompanied their conversion once again. “What do mean?” She asked. Her half smile now completely dissolved. “She left me.” He said, his voice laced with the sound of regret. “She packed her bags, and told me it was over. She put the kids in the car and asked me to drive her down to Portland.” “I almost killed my family.” He repeated. “I went way to fast down the dirt road. I crashed the car. I could have killed my family.” A long and desperate silence filled the air yet again. It was her turn to say something, she knew this. But what could she say? This was real. He was hurting. In this moment she felt useless to him as a friend. “Go smoke some pot” She finally told him. “I’m sick of weed.” He told her. “I’ll pray for you.” She said. He hung up. Leaving only the silence.
He put down his guitar, stood up from his chair and walked over to her. Placing one hand on the back of her chair and the other on her shoulder he whispered gently, “Don’t you feel it? It’s like were making love. How can we not be together?” He was right. She did feel it. Still, not looking at him she shook her head. “I told you,” She lied. “I’m not interested.” Johnny lifted his warm callused hand from her shoulder and made his way back to his guitar. Maybe they couldn’t have a physical romance, but the music was more than enough for now. He thought. “Okay let try old Joe Clark.” Johnny said, picking up his guitar.