Today I have a crazy story for you from my days of trudging through the dark fields and mushy swamplands of Illinois, in the dead of the night, hoping to pull off fat crops without getting caught by the Man.
And on this particular evening, I experienced every grower’s worst nightmare…
It was the early ’90s and I was growing both outdoors and indoors. I’ve always loved growing indoors in an environment that I could completely control, but outdoors is my favorite. There’s just something about being out in nature, under the stars, the way Mother Earth intended.
Now, I usually liked to have one sacrificial crop that I harvested earlier than the rest, and would use the money from that crop to fund my workforce—ya know, like my lookouts, harvest hands, and trimmers.
Typically I had seven or eight crops going in different locations so my eggs weren’t all in one basket. And I’d harvest each crop a few days apart from each other, so I wouldn’t have the issue of having too much bud on my hands, to dry and trim, at any one time.
Well, one night, me and the boys went out to harvest one of these crops, and things got a bit intense…
No, scratch that. Things got way intense.
There was a serious drought that year. And the creek that ran by this particular garden was almost bone dry and my plants were almost dead. They were so shriveled and frail looking and about a day away from going straight brown.
They did, however, have a tiny bit of green still left in ‘em and I figured if we could just get enough water to ‘em, they’d make a comeback. I’ve always been a big fan of comebacks.
So we dug a hole in the creek, filled a bunch of five-gallon buckets with water, and toted the buckets to the garden and watered the plants by hand. And then, as luck would have it, a big rain came.
And holy shit, these damn things grew into beasts. In fact, they got so big they would’ve easily produced a pound-and-a-half of high quality bud each.
I’ll explain why I say “would’ve” in just a moment…
Now, since there were eighty plants in the garden, we were looking at pulling in over a hundred pounds just from this one crop.
So on harvest night I marched a seasoned crew of four or five of my best guys into the field with me and stationed two counter-surveillance guys on the outside, as lookouts.
Now, with the exception of my senior and junior grow partners—I had one of each—no one else in the crew had ever been to this field before. That was the deal, all season, up until harvest, only me and two other guys would know where the crop was.
And then, on harvest night, I’d bring in the crew. Their job was to pop into the garden with us and help us get in and out as quickly as possible with the booty.
So we drove to the spot. And once we pulled off the road and into the bush, I killed both the headlights and taillights. I had two kill switches installed in the truck that would kibosh both the brake and back-up lights and I wore night vision goggles so I could see where we were going and avoid plowing into a tree or ending up in a ditch. This way, we could see our way in, but no one could spot us making our way to the crop.
And then, to allow us to see what we were doing when we were actually in the garden—yanking out the plants—we wore miner’s helmets that had these little lights on ‘em. We covered the lights with red lenses. That way, our lights couldn’t be seen by law enforcement officers or some late night creeper off in the distance, but we could still make out what was in front of us as we worked.
I also carried a scanner with me that had a little earpiece on it and allowed me to monitor the radio activity of local law enforcement.
Ok, so it’s pitch black and we’re at the grow site hacking down plants and I notice a change in the dispatcher’s voice.
I’d been recording and decoding scanner activity of local, state, and federal law enforcement 24/7, and would spend three to four hours a day listening to the recordings and monitoring live radio activity. And I was very accustomed to this particular dispatcher’s voice.
But this time, something was off…
She sounded a helluva lot more anxious than normal. And then suddenly, I hear her start dispatching cars to two streets, using only the street’s initials.
Now, the field we were in, was bordered by four roads—two running parallel one way, and two running parallel the other way. And the two roads running one way intersected with the two roads running the other way, approximately a mile apart from each other, creating a perimeter of one square mile.
And it hit me like a slap to the face…
The initials of the two roads she was dispatching the cars to, were the roads that ran the perimeter of the field we were in. Adrenaline shot through my body like a bullet.
I told the crew, “Let’s go guys, they’re coming in. We gotta get outta here, now. Follow me.”
I hauled ass through a briar patch—like a blackberry bush—with my boys right behind me.
And as we’re blowin’ dodge, I heard a voice through my earpiece, “They’re running. They’re running.”
There was a cop in the field with us. Looking back, I’m fairly confident he’d been in the bush with us the entire time, watching us harvest from this big tree that was near the garden and waiting for the cavalry to arrive.
I hopped over a creek, which ran along a cornfield, and saw two dudes charging through the field straight at me. So I jumped back over and told the crew to run the other way.
Now, to get away, I knew we had to break the perimeter. We had to get across the road and to another field. We were completely boxed in. But I knew if we could just break the perimeter—if we could cross one of those roads—we’d be ok.
As I’m trying to figure out how we can shoot across one of these roads to safety, I hear the chief of police come on the radio and spout, “Be careful boys, these guys probably have automatic weapons.”
They thought they were dealing with Scarface or something—instead of just a bunch of buddies out growing a little weed. Ok, well, maybe we were growing more than a little, but we never brought guns with us to the grows. It just wasn’t that kind of operation.
Now, inside, I’m kinda freaking out because I’m thinking these guys are just gonna shoot us. Back then, in Illinois, if law enforcement thought you were committing a felony, they could just blast ya and ask questions later. But by then, we’d be dead, so there wasn’t a helluva lot we coulda added to the conversation in our defense.
Using high quality digitally encrypted radios—the same kind the federal government was using at the time—I radioed my counterintelligence guys, who were waiting in cars on the outside of the field, and told ‘em that cops were barreling down on us.
They both said that, as far as they could tell, everything was clear. I told ‘em, “Hell no it ain’t clear, you don’t understand. I heard like eight or ten cars get dispatched out here and there are guys in the field with us right now. A whole shitload of cops are about to swoop down on us at any second. Get outta here.” They asked if I was sure. I told ‘em I was as sure as a dead man stinks. “Roll. Roll. Roll.”
As they’re leaving the scene and hop onto the highway, they got back to me and said they saw like twenty cars racing in—local cops, state cops, marked cars, unmarked cars, you name it. They were descending on the field in droves.
So, as my crew and I crept up along one of the roads, I used my night vision goggles to peek down the asphalt one way, and then the other. I wasn’t just looking for moving cars, I was looking for guys stationed in parked cars or even walking around, who’d probably be using night vision goggles themselves.
I didn’t see anything so I told my guys, “Come on, let’s go. Follow me.” We darted across the road and into a cornfield that, thank God, hadn’t been cut in a while—otherwise they’d have spotted us for sure.
We raced through the field and as soon as we put some distance between ourselves and the garden and the cops that now occupied it, I called one of the drivers, and he came back and scooped us up.
We were free.
Now, I always had a lawyer all lined up for situations like these, and had one of the drivers call him that night and tell him to expect some phone calls. But we never heard from anyone. The cops never figured it out. We slipped right out of their snare and into the darkness. But man, that was a close call.
After that, the guys in my crew liked to say, “If anything ever happens, just follow Big Mike out of the field.” It made me feel good that not only had I kept my men safe, but also that they trusted me in that way—with their freedom, ya know.
The next day they all thanked me for getting ‘em outta dodge, for keeping my cool, and for making the right moves and everything.
I’m glad they didn’t know that inside I’d been shitting a brick, even though I didn’t let it show—the last thing I needed was for my team to panic and lose their heads.
Somehow I just kinda went into the zone, like you hear athletes talking about—a state of hyper focus. And I was focused on only one thing: getting our asses outta that field without bullet holes in our backs or handcuffs on our wrists.
Fortunately, it all worked out. And probably the biggest reason for this is that we were prepared. Now, I’m not going to discount the fact that we had a little bit of luck cheering us on from the sidelines that night. But had we not been prepared, I suspect luck may not have smiled so kindly on us. In fact, we would’ve been caught—I’m sure of it.
Luck is preparation meeting opportunity. And the preparation part—the first half of the equation—is key. Without it, you’re screwed.
You see, I was big on learning everything I could to help my grow operations be as successful as possible. And part of that meant keepin’ my ass outta jail. It’s pretty hard to grow weed when you’re locked in cell. So on top of learning how to grow the best weed I possibly could, I also took counter-terrorism classes and classes that taught counter-surveillance, learned how to monitor police radio activity, took race car driving and escape and evasion classes, and researched a whole buncha other stuff to keep my operations safe and my butt outta jail.
In my counter-terrorism classes I learned the five principles of an attack. And I definitely classify the cops coming to raid my garden as an attack.
The five principles are…
1. You need the element of surprise—which the police didn’t have because I had my lookouts in place and the scanner running.
2. You need superior firepower—the cops had this, since we had no guns of any kind.
3. You need superior knowledge of the terrain—which I had. I knew the area way better than the cops did.
4. You need total control of the situation—and the police quickly lost control of the situation that night.
5. You need an escape route—I had a number of escape routes in place.
If someone tries to attack you—be it terrorists, kidnappers, law enforcement…whoever—if they’re missing any one of these five, your odds of escaping that attack shoot through the roof. Just one working in your favor can save your life, and I had four of ’em working for me that night.
Had I not had a plan—had I not been prepared—we’d have been headed to the pokey faster than you can say, “Pot ain’t a hard drug, man.” But I had a plan, and made sure we were well prepared should things go south. And because of this, while I may have lost that crop, I pulled off a half dozen others that year—along with some nice indoor grows—and was able to keep doing my thing. And that thing had nothing to do with orange jumpsuits, conjugal visits, or yard time. It involved growing pot plants—a shitload of ’em—thanks to a little preparation and having a well-laid-out plan.
I hope you enjoyed this little story. I’d love to hear some of your own in the comment section down below.