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ContrabandoConfessions of a Drug-Smuggling Texas Cowboy
By Don Ford
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2006 Don Ford
All right reserved.
The year is 1980, and I am twenty-three years old. My Suburban floats over the road to Del Rio, Texas. Slightly over two thousand dollars in cash creates a bulge in my billfold. Some of it's mine -- some "borrowed" from hay sales at my dad's farm. So -- the money is my dad's. Or does it belong to the bank? Who knows? I justify taking the money -- after all, this is a business venture to save the farm, isn't it? And I'll pay it back with interest. I rent a cheap motel room and stash an ounce of marijuana and a couple of hundred bucks in the room before crossing the bridge that leads to Ciudad Acuna. I roll three joints. I smoke one before crossing the bridge and take two with me. I avoid the zona de tolerencia -- the red-light district -- due to previous bad experiences. A bar on the main drag catches my eye and I stop.
The cantina is small -- two pool tables and eight or ten tables hosting beer-drinking customers, even at this early hour. I order a beer and begin to play pool, sip my beer and breathe in the smoke of others. Within minutes, a young heavyset Mexican man about my age comes up to the table and challenges me to a game. We talk in Spanish. I've known Spanishfrom growing up and working on the farms and ranches and from my travels to Ecuador and Columbia with my father. We talk as we play -- each of us feeling out the other. I ask if he likes marijuana.
"Sure," he replies.
"Where can I buy some?" I ask.
"I know people. How much would you like?"
"That depends on how much it costs."
"How much it costs depends on how much you want."
"I need ten pounds."
At this, he perks up. "You have money to buy ten pounds?"
"On you? Here?"
"I can get it for you but not until later."
"How much later?"
"This afternoon -- today!"
We play a few more games of pool. My game, never very good, is worse than usual. He beats me again and again. I get tired of this and ask if he wants to go out and burn a joint. We smoke about half of the joint, passing it back and forth while driving around town. I put the rest of it alongside the other prerolled cigarette in the ashtray of my Suburban. Smoking the marijuana leaves me comfortable with my newfound friend. He directs me to the zona, insisting all will be well because he knows people. We walk into a bar and take a seat. He whispers quietly to several women and a young boy and then tells me he is making arrangements for a meeting with his suppliers.
We drive back to the first cantina. I park, at his direction, in the alley behind the bar. We enter and start playing pool again. By this time, the bar is filling with people, predominately older local types. I buy us another round. My friend glances at my open billfold. We play some more, and he continues to beat me at the pool table.
Two men enter the cantina, dressed in nice clothes and expensive black leather jackets, with slicked back hair and dark sunglasses, looking not unlike the Blues Brothers.
"Here they are," my young associate tells me.
He walks over as they take a seat and speaks briefly with them. He returns and we play another game. I am poised to win. I line up a shot on the eight ball, draw back the pool cue and stroke. The eight ball sails into the prescribed pocket. So does the cue ball.
"Damn!" I exclaim. The two men at the bar watch.
"Let's play another," my friend suggests.
I remove a couple of quarters from my pocket, insert them into the pool table and prepare to release the balls. Then I feel someone grab me from behind.
The son of a bitch!
One man struggles to hold me from behind. I fight -- many hours on the end of a shovel and loading heavy bales of hay have left me with a muscled body my fat Mexican assailant isn't able to control. I back across the room and slam him into the wall. He loses his grip and collapses to the floor. I step into the other man, eyes locked on the point of his chin where my fist will connect, like a big cat homing in on its prey. I see fear in his face. He backs up and whips out a badge, holding it up like a shield, or the cross of a frightened priest in the face of an approaching vampire. I stop short of hitting him.
"Police!" he yells, with a hint of panic in his voice.
I raise my arms into the air. The guy I slammed is up again and pissed off. He grabs one arm, his accomplice the other, and they hustle me through the back door and into the alley. They shove me against the wall and try to hit me in the abdomen. I repel them.
"I'll go with you, but not this way!"
"Get in your vehicle," one shouts.
I climb into the front seat of my Suburban. One of them gets behind the wheel. The fat guy rides shotgun. I sit between them.
"Where are you taking me?" I ask, fearing the worst.
The guy riding shotgun opens the ashtray and removes the joint-and-a-half.
That bastard set me up!
We drive to a police station. The building is small and made of adobe but a marked police car sits parked in front. At least they really are police. The alternative could be much worse. I've heard the stories.
They lead me into the building and into a small office containing a desk and two chairs, one behind the desk and one in front. They put me on the one in front. . . .
Excerpted from Contrabando by Don Ford Copyright © 2006 by Don Ford. Excerpted by permission.
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