I knew a bit about Rusty. We weren’t friends – he didn’t have friends – but Joe Dias and I were as close to friends as he had. On the surface, the three of us couldn’t be more different, but Rusty had recognized something at core level that we all shared. I couldn’t say what; Rusty’s mind works too differently from anyone else for me to say with certainty what goes on inside it. I think it might have been a willingness to look life in the face, without illusions.
Rusty was in his forties. He had been in Viet Nam. No one complained louder than Rusty about the mismanagement of that war, but his complaints hadn’t kept him from volunteering for second tour of duty. He came home, as he said, “shot full of holes and leaking like a bloody sieve.” Once he had recovered, he headed north to Fort Bragg where he was born, and spent the next decade or so there. That was right in the heart of the country I was about to enter.
“If you want to understand pot farming, you have to forget what you read in the papers,” Rusty said. “Pot farming is farming. It’s damned hard work. To do it right is not easy and no one in their right mind would work that hard if there wasn’t a big money payoff.
“You hear people talk about throwing out a few seeds and coming back months later to harvest a fortune. That’s bullshit. The land they raise pot on wouldn’t raise anything if they didn’t work it, fertilize it, and irrigate it. And harvest – man, harvest is a bitch. You have to cut it and trim it and dry it and if you don’t do the job just right, it goes moldy and worthless. You have to do all that at just the right time because of the plant, but also because at that time, the weed is worth big bucks and someone will steal it if you don’t stand guard night and day.
“Most of the growers are small time. Some of them just grow a few plants for their own use, and others just try to make enough money to keep them going. You’ve got to understand where these people are coming from.
“People have been growing weed and smoking it since the Indians were there, and nobody thought anything about it. It grew wild and you smoked weed when you couldn’t afford booze. My granddaddy was a deacon in the local Methodist church and wouldn’t touch liquor, but he smoked it just as easy as he smoked cigarettes. It wasn’t illegal. Nobody thought it was wrong. Nobody cared.
“Then along came the sixties. Some of us went off to Viet Nam and landed in pot heaven. Other kids my age went down to the cities and became hippies. When all that peace and love shit started to fall apart, a big bunch of hippies, lots of them from San Francisco and L.A., decided the new big thing was to go ‘back to the land’. Course most of them had never been on the land, so they weren’t really going back to it. If they had, they’d have known better. I mean, I never saw any kid raised on a farm that went in for that shit.” more tomorrow