Behind The Curtain 28: A Hard Row To Hoe – September 21, 2010

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Sharon Letts

Eye Correspondent

Greg slowly rose up from squatting position while backing out from beneath a canopy of Sour Diesel. It took a minute to stand, his legs feeling his age, the pain burning in his “correcting arm.” Twenty-five years of teaching essays and short stories burned in his memory with each strained movement.

His retirement now included tending bud for others, house-sitting, trimming, anything to subsidize his meager income. The irony was as thick as the canopy he crawled out of. Years of pain accompanying the work he did now, triggering memories of past pain, his past lives – from being a carefree kid, surfer, playing guitar in garage bands, to working hard as a serious college student, leading to years in the classroom, loving what he did, while at the same time, acquiring a lifetime of pain and anxiety.

Space was tight in these indoor grows. He’d only helped with one so far that was comfortable to work in. Most growers measured space by the pound, and this one was no exception.

The buds were nearly exploding with resin, shining from under the lights. It wouldn’t be long now before the “ladies” were harvested, but he wouldn’t be enjoying the cream of this crop. Depending on how tight the grower’s season had been, he’d end up with a fist full of much needed cash, and the perk of a bag of “pop-corn” buds.

His mind traveled back to the first time he took a drag off a joint. The SoCal surf culture he loved combined with playing guitar in garage bands made the perfect back drop for his love of the bud.

His mom understood. He remembered every milestone with a stony session with friends directly after. His mom, one hand on his bedroom door knob, leaning in to say, “Some idiot just shot and killed John Lennon. Go on over to your friend’s house and do what you do.” She got it.

You couldn’t really call it bud in the ’70s, though. One $10 “four-finger” ounce contained a dry, brown substance – more likely from Mexico. What we’d call “shake” in Humboldt. Floor droppings, the stuff others make into hash. In 1974 he remembered seeing an 80 gram slab of hash, with an ornate brand mark of, “Abar Kabul” on top. Who knew?

Into the ’80s it was Thai-Stick rolled in a “pinner.” Kona Gold started showing up from Hawaii. The four-finger, ten dollar Mexican bag became the $60 Sinsemilla bag, and improved and got stronger until one ounce was more than two hundred dollars.

These days he ended up with whatever the grower he was working for at the time could spare. He figured he’d have to grow his own to enjoy the big, sellable bud he tended. That stuff went south, or east – depending on the reach of the grower. His retirement had to include working on the stuff in order to be able to afford to enjoy it.

“One more row to water and I’m out of here,” he said aloud, straightening up, pushing his hands into his lower back. “One more row.”

Author’s Note: This story is in loving memory of Mary Margaret, my biggest fan.

Sharon Letts came out from behind the curtain last Tuesday evening on Center Stage with Mark Gordon, a radio talk show recorded live in Los Angeles (KXLU 88.9).

Letts, who has been penning the fictional account of growing in Humboldt since January of this year, said she wanted to put human faces on what has been a covert practice of growing cannabis in Humboldt for more than 30 years.

“I believe in these changing times, we need to begin talking about this very simple practice of growing an herb that can be beneficial to many,” she said. “I think the series did, indeed, start people talking and feeling more comfortable about looking to the future.

The series is currently being developed into a feature film in Los Angeles.

To hear the Center Stage with Mark Gordon interview visit