Jack Wesley Hardin’s
(a smuggler’s memoir) #8

It was Gordo that saw it first. My fenced in front yard had about a dozen very large Diamond Backed Rattlesnakes. There in the middle of the mass of silvering motion sat Tonga in a trance. I stopped Gordo as he slowly began to raise his revolver. “Easy”, I said. “They’re not in the house yet.” We looked at each other and I nodded my head and told Gordo, “I think we have found your real Father.”

Gordo’s jaw dropped as he squinted his threatening beady eyes.

A voice from behind greeted us – “Yeah, there’s your Daddy, Gordo, that big dirty snake that’s jumping up and down, trying to fornicate with Tongo’s ponch.” It was the Kid of course. The rest of the morning was filled with the Kid’s stories of his recent life and times along the border. Alcohol and the white devil were put on hold in anticipation of our coming game that evening. We are all aware this would be a true group effort.

Breakfast of Huevos Rancherous, refried beans and hot corn tortillas were soon served up by our new cook and co-conspirator, the lovely Sangrita. She moved around the kitchen like a black panther in search of fresh meat in a mortuary. I appreciated her speed and great sense of humor when she tossed an egg into the air and caught it in the grip of her mouth without breaking it. The possibilities were endless.

It was during breakfast that we all began to realize that none of us knew Tonga. We had all assumed one of us did. Nobody could recall just when he arrived, it was like he, well just materialized. Tonga had taken a break from his new rattling friends to eat. I began to quiz Tonga so soon he handed me a card. It was Colonel Manzanares (General now) business card. On the back it was written, Peachy Gringo Coordinator-Peachy Jack, please call.

By this time it was time to check in one last time, so Gordo and I traveled fifteen miles to our local pay phone. After an hour we finally spoke to our buddy The Rookie General. He was attending a bullfight but was still sober enough to inform me my amigos Duck and Ace were ready to go. We were to use “Number Seven”.

Let’s see, Number Seven, oh, yeah, the Red Rock exit between Tucson and Picacho Peak, about halfway up to Phoenix. Exit west and soon dirt roads leading surrounded by the Santa Rosa Mountains. Nothing but dead cattle bones and dried out deflated cactus littered the hilly terrain. Several old burned remains of smuggling planes that misjudged the darkness lay crumpled like broken beer cans in a sandbox.

Number Seven was a flight that left Airport Corborca, Mexico at the last light of day. Hopefully the fuel was water/trash free. Sometimes the cheesecloth filtering failed. Anyway, lets think positive. So flying around 300 to 500 feet off the deck, the Duck will steer directly North crossing the invisible line of the border. If you have a map of Arizona, or you are still mentally capable of turning on your government watched computer, check out these areas. Follow our fun. Flying low now watching the rising Full Moon off to his right, the Duck will follow several dry washes North to Covered Wells, well into the Tohono O’ ODham Apache Nation, then following the Santa Rosa River North to the Peaks of the Santa Rosa Mountains. Dropping through very narrow pass, flying under a stone arch, the Duck would exit into the flat sandy floor at 180 mph. A constant sandstorm would follow in his wake, blasting everything on the ground. The red lights inside the cramped cockpit would permit him to take full advantage of the ever-brightening moonlight. Night vision goggles not required. Duck would throttle down, once in the valley. He’d add flaps, slowing to around 100mph. the engine was powered up, straining at weight and 100 degree desert heat. Grabbing his portable air to ground radio, he’d ring me up. Now at this point if the Duck was quacking on all cylinders, that meant the dozen or more things that could go wrong didn’t.

Take a deep draw off your nitros and lets return to yesterday year – Easy – exhale. Lets spin the clock back six hours to the ranch. The afternoon oozed by. Waiting is the mental torture of pre-game time. Be it waiting to go over the hill in combat or waiting for your first lay, it can cause temporary blindness and sudden uncontrollable shaking. Every time is the same but also always different. I’ve been around Tonga too much! Besides Plato in Spanish means something you eat off a Mexican buffet. The Kid and Sangrita were to leave first around 6:00 pm in a pick-up truck. They would carry nothing with them except their powerful C.B. radio. If they ran into problems they were just a hot couple with a cooler full of cold beer, firewood, and a basket of food for their romantic camping. A tent was tossed in; this was our early warning system. If the area was a NO GO then Sangrita would be left hiding in the desert with the radio to tell Duck to pass. She would then tell him the number of the alternate strip number 3 to make the delivery.

Going back to Mexico with a full load of greenry would not be well received by the General Manzanares. Only if you had a DEA propeller up your rudder, was that allowed. The Kid would also look for any recent tire tracks and foot prints in the area. Tell-tale tricycle wheel tracks in the sand and dirt could tell us things might get crowded.

Next Gordo would leave in pick-up truck number two. Gordo was now in his uniform complete with name tag to match the U.S. Department of Agriculture emblems on each side of his doors. He carried tools and two ten gallon plastic water coolers strapped to the rear of his bumper. Water is life. The ruse had saved us before. Gordo, acting the part one night, got rid of a crew of nosey Indian police in Apache land. He told them he was sneaking around trying to catch some sheep predators that were having their way with the local wooly residents. He asked them to help him check sheep vaginas for recent sperm. Refusing his handshake, they fled into the night. Gordo told me he did his duty planting evidence of such disgusting activities. I won’t go into the grisly wooly facts.

The crew would wait at the “strip”, their vehicles covered with desert camouflage traps brought by Inspector Gordo. Tongo and I would be last. Since his divinity and spiritually was no longer in question, he revealed something to me. Dear God had let it be known that his rattlesnake round-up was not in jest. Now Tonga was to put a rattler in the covered bed of each pick-up truck. After we thought about it, what the hell. Besides Tonga had given them a rodent peyote treat and they had become strangely quiet.

The bloody red sky had dried to a dark purple above the western craggy mountaintops. Tonga and I turned off the freeway into darkness. Running with our lights out we dipped down to cross numerous gullies and rock strewn dry stream beds. Around sharp corners some of the turns were tighter than a roach clip. The view was blocked by the jutting sides of overhanging rocks. Once in the past I crashed head on with a large cow rounding one of these blind spots. Smuggling friends have told me that they have seen this cow with part of my front fog light still bent around it’s left horn. All this means is the law or banditos can be up your bumper ass before you could clutch your coke bottle.

We finally rolled out onto a flat sandy dry lakebed. They only landscaping are bleached cow bones. Pulling the microphone up from our C.B. radio, I called the crew. They were waiting. I dropped Tongo off about two miles from our strip with a radio and a full canteen. He would be a barking dog if someone or something came down the road. This small task also included watching the sky for unfriendly planes. We all understood it could become kill or be killed. Places like this were full of unmarked graves of the not so lucky.

Tongo mumbled something about the Bat God, as he got out, or was it bat shit?

As I pulled off a pearl-like shade of light stained the eastern horizon. With wild moonglow arising out of the otherworldly haze, Showtime was here, sports fans.

Sangrita gave the “All Clear” so I drove on finally surrounding the anxious crew in my dust cloud as I stopped. We were standing on one end of our airstrip. Gordo had driven up and down the sandy runway, clearing any debris out of the way. He had already chained up a dead cow and drug it off to the side. A stack of fire wood stood stacked on each end of the runway. I told Sangrita to go to the other end with her trusty Zippo lighter. The idea was to light up each end so Duck could drop in over either fire to touch down. This would mark the runway. With no wind blowing, direction would be a duck call. I told the Kid to go stand by the other stack of wood, Zippo at the ready. Sangrita and I backed the remaining two pick-up trucks into a sparse group of arm waving cactus. Silence is now the game. Silence so you could hear the enemy creeping up if that was the case. Silence so you could hear the distant pistons throbbing your way. Silence so you could hear a possible terrifying second set of pistons coming to put your ever tightening ass in the State or Federal prison, depending on who you’ve pissed off or insulted. Silence so I could hear the Duck call on the ground to air radio. This is the time Mexican Sweat begins to form, covering your body with it’s foul smell of pending doom. At this time, I and my crew are past the “lets go back button.” The moon’s bright top bubbled over the eastern range. The blackness began to melt away replaced by a pale glow off the valley floor. Coyotes began their favorite tunes, serenading us in an insane operatic chorus. Time was standing still.

To Be Continued

#7 @ http://smokesignalsmag.com/7/?p=2882
#6 @ http://smokesignalsmag.com/7/?p=2776
#5 @ http://smokesignalsmag.com/7/?p=2741
#4 @ http://smokesignalsmag.com/7/?p=2286
#3 @ http://smokesignalsmag.com/7/?p=2090
#2 @ http://smokesignalsmag.com/7/?p=1340
#1 @ http://smokesignalsmag.com/7/?p=10

Jack Wesley Hardin is the nom de plume for a legendary Private Investigator involved in some of the biggest and most controversial high profile criminal and civil cases in the United States. A television series is presently being developed based on his exploits and involvement in those cases. A one time college football star, gonzo NFL linebacker, Green Beret, soldier of fortune, and hippie John Wayne on the Mexican side of the law (in the good ole days of his spent youth), Mexican Sweat (the anatomy of a dope deal) is a memoir from those early years that will be serialized in Smoke Signals. Stay tuned.

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