Set the scene: July 1980 in a rural town in Northwest Louisiana. Very rural. From the post office, you can look directly across the two lane road into a cornfield. It's early morning and the dew is still on the grass. The corn is tall and heavy on the stalk. A deputy leaves the sub-station and before he is very far out of town, nature calls. The coffee he drank at daylight needs to go away. He turns the cruiser through an open gate and drives down the turnrow for a short distance before the puts in in park and climbs out of the car. He is in a small nondescript cornfield about three miles from town.
He steps through the first row of corn and unzips his pants. While relieving himself he looks past the rows of crops, then looks closely at the plants in the third row. His head jerks, then he looks again. He zips himself up, walks back to the cruiser and calls the station.
Over the course of the next hour, the world descends to tour his little cornfield. Detectives, narcotics, the newly-elected-sheriff-hisself. USDA, the State Police and the County agent. The report writing will go on for hours. Deputies of all stripes will be posted as guards and news agencies will come and go. The new sheriff sets up a command post at the substation and starts contracting for a combine.
Our small town deputy has found a seven acre field of marijuana.
No, I wasn't the deputy. I know him and he'll remain anonymous in his retirement, but still talks about the day he stopped to take a leak.
I was there the day we burned the evidence. Your scribe was a rookie, the enamel not yet dried on my sparkling badge and I was pressed into service to keep out the curious and the mildly hippified who wanted to be there when we lit the torch. The sheriff had combined the whole crop, after pictures were taken and samples obtained. Critters had been arrested and the news agencies briefed. The crop was piled in the center of the field and allowed to dry for four days, under constant guard, then a forester had been contracted to burn the excess.
He brought in stumpage from a cut-over and laced it with dry logs from the local sawmill. I can hear his briefing today as plain as it was that dry, sunny day so long ago. "Boys, I've got to punch through that inversion layer at 5,000 feet with a big dose of hot air. We've got to get it going straight up, so the smoke will disperse above the layer. If we don't do this right, and the smoke stays low, the whole north end of the parish will be high until sundown."
He made it, by the way. The critters went to jail for a long time. The head honcho is still there today, and I don't know why I am recalling this story, except that I am in a mood to reminisce.
It was a beautiful sight.