by Cecil Hoge
In the late 1970s, a family friend decided to take up gardening. At the time he was living in a sprawling farmhouse on 10 acres of prime potato growing land. This property was set on one of the back, back roads north of The Highway behind Watermill. This farmhouse was surrounded by potato farms of all sizes. I remember visiting this friend a few weekends in the winter and riding snow mobiles around the property and listening to loud music and drinking beer in the evening. It was the kind of place that you could host a party of 1500 people, bring in several loud bands and 200 cases of beer and no one would ever know.
I guess that is what gave this person the idea to take up gardening. There was lots of land to plant any kind of vegetable or plant one might choose. Ten acres of land is quite a spread and almost anything would grow because the land was very fertile. In fact I have often thought that this land might be ideal for planting a vineyard. This thought was born out a decade or two later when large vineyards were indeed planted and subsequently flourished just a few miles away.
No matter, this friend, whose shall remain nameless for reasons that will become obvious, had other ideas. It seems he had big plans which he relayed to no one. We found out about those plans when the local newspaper broke the story.
“Watermill man arrested for growing marijuana on potato farm.” This was alarming enough until one read a little further.
“The arrested suspect stated the marijuana was for medicinal purposes only,” said one of the newspaper accounts. The newspaper went on to state that this acquaintance told police that he was suffering from chronic back pain and that he found relief only by smoking pot.
The newspaper stated that this seemed like a stretch since the police had found 178 pot plants on the property, each 3 to 5 feet in height. That seemed like quite a lot of pot for personal medicinal purposes and the newspaper just didn’t buy explanation the 178 pot plants were for medicinal purposes only.
Here I have to intervene on the part of my friend. It is absolutely true that he had long suffered from chronic back pain. I know this because some years later he decided to have a back operation to get rid of his pain. As to the question as to whether he smoked pot to relieve his pain, I do not recall that he spoke to me about this. I do know that he smoked pot and he had back pain. This seems like pretty strong causal evidence that he was indeed telling the truth.
I can also say that this friend tended towards extremes.
“If it is worth doing,” he always said, “it is worth over doing.”
Now, I am not trying defend his point of view, but I am trying to give you a window into his mind. My friend had a natural tendency to overdo things. Even today, if you go out to dinner with him and he asks if you would like to share a nice bottle of wine, say no, because if you say yes, he will promptly order a $1200 bottle of wine. You may ask how many places serve a $1200 bottle of wine – well, that question might not be pertinent in The Hamptons, but no matter, $1200 is a lot for a bottle wine.
However, if you are going out with my friend, trust me, the restaurant will have a $1200 bottle of wine. And probably many other bottles of wine costing considerably more. This is because my friend does not go to restaurants that do not offer $1200 bottles of wine. And if you do have one bottle of $1200 wine, he is going to order another. Again, I am not trying to defend his actions, but rather give you an idea of his point of view.
Back to the 178 pot plants, I asked my friend about this. Why would he grow 178 marijuana plants? My friend immediately corrected me. This was a gross exaggeration, he said, the cops had miscounted, there were only 159 plants. On the other hand, he felt the cops had significantly understated the size of his plants, which he said were an easy 4 to 6 feet.
I asked my friend if all these plants were to relieve his back pain and he said that he had not expected so many plants to come up. Apparently, a friend had given him a large bag of seeds and he thought it was a shame not to plant all the seeds – waste not, want not was another of my friend’s mottoes.
Of course, the real surprise was that almost all the plants had actually come up. What was his secret of having so many plants come up? He told me that he really not done anything special. One day in late May, he began throwing the seeds on the ground and pressing down on them with his boot. After 3 beers, he went back into the house. That was it. Oh, yeah, he remembered one other detail, it rained that evening.
About two weeks later, little marijuana plants began to emerge. About month later he began pruning some of the plants to test for the quality of the product. It was pretty good, he thought. That summer he kept testing the quality of the product and, theoretically, easing his back pain.
My friend never told me about this until after the fact of his arrest. I do remember he was pretty cheerful that summer. He had a tall thin girl friend with blond hair and come to think of it, she seemed pretty cheerful. The two of them would come over to our house, giggle a lot and then suddenly ask what was in the refrigerator. It seemed that they both had a bad case of the munchies.
My friend told me that he was just getting ready to harvest his crop when the cops showed up. It certainly was a bummer day for my friend. He figured he would have enough marijuana to keep his back pain at bay for the next hundred years. And then all his plans came to naught.
My friend never found who alerted the cops. Maybe it was his blond girlfriend. He had just exchanged her for a brunette – if you can’t love the one you are with, love the one you want, my friend said.
I am not quite sure how my friend explained his 178 or 159 pot plants to the court – I think he claimed that he thought he had the legal right to grow marijuana for medical purposes. Apparently, the judge, while not very impressed with the legal defense, felt my friend had no intentions to be a criminal and gave him a minimal sentence. My friend must have had a good lawyer.
Today, my friend is a pillar of his community. He married a beautiful wife and raised several smart and beautiful kids. He has a special fondness for his mother and has made sure she was well supported in her old age. In fact, in almost every respect, he is a very respectable guy. He does still have a penchant for a $1200 bottle of wine every once in a while, but not more than twice a week. Fortunately, through hard work and somewhat limited wine consumption, he has been able support that habit.
I keep telling him that he should consider less expensive wine. His response is that if he needs to improve the condition of his heart, he has to be sure that the quality of the medicine is above average.
Some things never change.