The war on drugs in the state of Arkansas has taken some nasty turns in the last few years due to the meth lab epidemic. But, back in the day, it consisted mostly of rural police agencies using good common sense, mountaineer intuition and some balls out illegal search and seizures that would stand up in their court.
I can talk about this due to the statute of limitations having run out about 30 some years ago, but suffice it to say, at one time I could not visit certain counties in this beautiful, rugged state.
I wrote in an earlier post about having Wyatt’s ’65 goat break down and nearly getting caught with a couple of ounces of pot in Stone County, having my pistol confiscated, but being let go. A year or so later, we camped in the same area and got busted for pot. Long story, but in those days they wrote you a ticket and you appeared in court on a set date. Well, let’s say I didn’t make it back for that date.
I knew the judge would not look kindly on my case with the concealed weapons thing on my record and all. So I figured I was better off taking my chances two hours away in the city.
This would serve to cause some tingly episodes when I would be lured back into that part of the country on various adventures and of course, narrowly escaping re-capture. America’s Most Wanted – did I mention that the statute of limitations has expired on this?
One such occasion was when some mountain hippy music producers decided to throw a rock festival called the Ozark Mountain Strawberry Jam. My bud Bill and I decided to attend. Being the ex boy scouts that we were, we prepared for every contingency and loaded the car with food, water, blankets, clothes, a trunk full of cut, split firewood and two cases of beer in an ice chest. Oh, and a bag of doob in the glove compartment.
My pard, Bill, is probably a certifiable genius. I’ve been known to have a good idea occasionally, but we’re not so observant that any alarms went off as we saw police cars of various and sundry jurisdictions and constabularies, filled with hippies and driving the opposite direction. Hind sight tells me now that this should have raised an eyebrow or something.
We rounded the last curve coming into Shirley and ran smack into a roadblock situated such that there was no turning back. Instinct said to place the open beers between our feet on the floorboard. Cop instinct said look down at their feet when you ask for dl and registration. It was at that moment that our attention was directed to a church parking lot down an incline from the highway and the lot was full of cars, each having the legs of some kind of cop sticking out of the open doors as they looked under seats and dashboards.
Since I wasn’t driving, I was able to get away with not having identification to present so I passed myself off with the name of some kid I went to school with that I knew had never been in trouble with the law, much less in Stone County. But I was a little nervous about the ounce of dried green substance rolled up in a sandwich bag, laying at the bottom of the glove box.
The cop looks through the car pretty well, opens the ice chest, counts the number of beers to determine if it was too many to be in possession of in a dry county and swung up and out of the car.
“I couldn’t get the glove compartment open,” he said. “Can you open it for me?”
Bill nodded and started to walk around to the passenger side with the cop in tow. “Wait,” he said as they got to the back of the car. “Let me see in the trunk.”
Bill dutifully opened the trunk to reveal the entire compartment loaded level to the top with beautifully split oak firewood. “What the hell?” the sheriff exclaimed.
“It’s firewood,” said Bill, “want me to take it out so you can look underneath it?”
“Naw, that’s alright,” he said, “but I need to look in the glove box.”
About that time, a real Gomer Pyle looking fellow in jeans and a Levi’s jacket with a police badge hanging from a chain around his neck comes running up yelling, “Leon, get over here! We got possession of LSD with intent to deliver, possession of heroine with intent to deliver, possession of…”
Our assigned officer started to walk off and I called after him, “Are we done?”
“Yeah, have a good time at the concert. Hope you enjoy your stay in Stone County.”
We did have a good time, but we smoked up the herb as fast as we could when we got there so we wouldn’t have to face that problem again…