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This story starts with a guy we’ll call Donny, when we were sitting at his farm smoking doobies one hot Hawaiian summer day. It was my second year growing with Donny, a hunter who grew pot everywhere on the island. We were strictly guerrilla growing back then, and treated it like a full-time job.
I was the rookie. My first year I was cracking thousands of seeds in flat seedling trays, each tray filled up to 100 seeds. Sounds nuts, especially nowadays where every plant is given ultra-special care, but this is how the old-school guys did it, and I learned from them.
Operation Green Harvest, Hawaii’s marijuana eradication program would fly by regularly. U.S Attorney Ed Kubo spoke after a 10-day Operation Green Harvest run in 2008 that 30,000 plants were seized or destroyed. At least once a week you could hear them grinding on the hunt. When the chopper flies low, it makes this haunting high-pitched scream that pierces through the air. Whooomp!
The Op. Green Harvest helicopter is often equipped with a spray boom that doses plants with a mixture of diesel(or Round-Up) and coloring, destroying them. At other times they have men drop down from the helicopter to chop and seize plants.
Uncle Donny had been in the game a long time, and could hear a chopper on the hunt from wayyy out. Someone was always on guard at our farm property, and if you heard that grind sound you run out and hide all the seed trays as fast as you can.
Pot seedlings grow up to about 6 – 12 inches in the trays by the time they’re ready for transplant. By then you should have already prepped your hole, so it’s just take ’em out and plant. Walking backwards through brush carrying trays full of a hundred 12-inch pot starts is the most difficult and nerve-wracking part.. or so I thought
From there you just go back every few days, making sure not to beat down a path, pull declared males and water/fertilize until you get buds. You can create a natural camouflage depending on your surroundings. What we do in tall grass fields is prop metal fencing wire above the patch. You can weave & tie in the living grass around your hole to create an alive camo net.
That first year I had about a dozen patches planted this way. At least 500 female plants. I didn’t have a motorcycle or car, so I would walk miles on foot around the Hamakua Coast all day – my backpack filled of slug bait, fertilizer, and drinking water. I had set up my patches close to gulches that had collected rain water I could use for cannabis plants.
Unfortunately my own “greenness” caused me to miss spotting more-than-a-few males and for that I payed the price. While not all of the first year’s pot was seeded, almost half of it was. I learned a good lesson, made some money, and had more to bring into the game next year.
Flash-forward into the second year I had replanted my patches and expanded more as well. It was going to be “THE YEAR” for me, and I was trying to go big. Maybe it was greed that got a hold of me, but I started to disregard some of the camouflage tactics I explained previously. None of my patches had ever been seen by Green Harvest, so I figured I’d open them up a little more to get more light in.
I stomped, cut down and opened up most of the foliage surrounding my area – and decided on keeping just a thin layer of living grass around the patch. This I thought, combined with strategic placement and the top camo lid would be enough to break the patch’s visibility from the sky. Well.. I was wrong.
As we were enjoying that nice doobie-filled Hawaiian morning, all of a sudden from Hilo-side(east) is the sound of a helicopter coming in low and fast. Whooomp! Seed trays are hidden immediately and we watch what is about to happen.
The chopper is LOW, barely above the tree-line about half-a-mile mauka(up mountain) from where we are. It’s Green Harvest for sure, and you can see the spray boom is on. I had a field directly in their line of travel, with two of my best patches. The chopper flew RIGHT OVER it. What they did next should have made my heart drop, but it didn’t – I was naive.
The Operation Green Harvest helicopter circles around my spot once, and then heads out west. I thought I was safe, I mean, the chopper didn’t stop, so clearly they didn’t spot it. Wrong again.
Uncle Donny asks me “How covered are your spots?”. I tell him “Eh, they’re fine”. He responds “No way, they saw your spots for sure. We gotta go up there NOW!”. I was reluctant to go, but I couldn’t say no so we ran up there together through the bushes.
When we arrived to my patches, Donny was clearly not pleased. He scolded me and said that my patches are WAY too open. My reluctant ego said to myself “Yeah, you just don’t want me to pull danker pot than you.” I still hadn’t gotten the reality of the situation, but I kept my mouth shut.
Donny and I immediately start closing my pot patches up, stomping down the surrounding tall grass to cover them, and adding more brush camo to the wire lid.
Literally just as we finished the second pot patch, Donny’s super-sensitive ears pick up on a helicopter coming back. I don’t hear it at first, but I listen carefully and soon I realize he’s right! Whooomp! again. Now he goes into full military-mode, my instincts kick in and I follow his lead.
Donny begins ripping the tall guinea grass (full of needles) with his hands and starts throwing it directly onto my plants. I follow suit, running to my other patch to do the same. As the screaming chopper approaches, I hustle back to meet Donny and he says “Go for the trees NOW!”.
We sprint faster than I may ever have in my life and make it to some big norfolk pine trees JUST AS THE HELICOPTER FLIES IN. It’s literally right over us, sweeps and banks into a circle. Donny tells me to “stay out of sight!” and we shimmy around the base of the trees trying to stay in the choppers blind spots. Green Harvest does 2 initial circles around us. I remember seeing the pilot as he was in front of the tree I was at, I hope he didn’t see me too.
I don’t know if it was my bad movements, or whether it was just the right time to do it, but Donny made the decision for us to move it! The chopper had not yet left. We run down the hill at full speed, Donny trips over an old refrigerator someone had dumped, SLAMMING his shins into it. Must have been painful. Not for him though, he gets right up like it was nothing and we run like mad getting out of there.
We make it back to the farm and looked up towards the area. By then the helicopter had already left. We decide to wait a day before we go back and check – in case they had men on the ground waiting, or someone else up there.
The next day we head back out to the patches. I remember feeling very paranoid, as if I was walking into a trap. We already planned a few escape routes in case of an encounter. My heart was pounding and I was sick to my stomach.
As we arrived to the spot, I got the ultimate surprise… ALL MY PLANTS WERE STILL THERE! They never found ’em. No spray, nothing! I got lucky… real lucky.
Looking back at this experience I learned two things:
One is to never take for granted the words of someone who’s been at it longer than you, even if you pulled better looking pot. Donny put himself in the line of fire for my stupid mistakes, and is the hero of this whole story – his selfless heart and super-skills saved my ass, and my crop. I can never repay enough him for that.
Two is that guerrilla growing is not a game. We call it a game, but it is real-deal crime with a high level of danger and consequence. Letting greed control your operations will get you busted.
-By Jared Cox
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