The sun was falling low in the west, outlining the crest
of Bear Butte.
A lone cowboy was riding his steed through Humboldt County,
on his way north.
The Sheriff jumps from his hiding place, a huge Sequoia redwood
tree, one of the last of the giants.
"Hold up Cowboy!" he hollers out.
The cowboy reins in his mount and looks into the eyes of the
"You're under arrest, Cowboy."
"Arrest?" the Cowboy questions, dumbfounded by the
"Yep, climb down outta that saddle, son, and cuff up."
"Why, what for?" the Cowboy screams in disbelief.
"Conspiracy, son, pure and simple." The lawman flags
his pistols at the rider.
"Conspiracy?" the cowboy repeats.
"Yep, conspiracy for growin' marijuana."
"Marijuana?" the Cowboy continues.
"Yep, marijuana alright, ya see that southern ridge yonder?"
The Cowboy placed the palms of his hands over his eyes to
offer shade against the late afternoon rays, leaving long
shadows on the fertile landscape. "Yep, I see that ridge
"I arrested a fella over there a couple a days ago in
his marijuana patch," the Sheriff said, smiling - more
of a smirk than a smile.
"So?" the Cowboy questioned.
"So, that fella that was growin' weed, he said he was
growin' it for another fella."
"So?" the Cowboy pressed.
"So, the fella I arrested over on the ridge told me the
fella he was growin' it fer was a cowboy. You're a cowboy,
aren't ya, and that's a horse, ain't it?"
"Yep," the Cowboy answered.
"Jump down, son, you're under arrest for Conspiracy to
grow marijuana, and I'm takin' ya to jail."
Months later, the Cowboy less his horse was standing in front
of a Federal judge. The trial had ended with a guilty verdict.
"So ya got anything to say for yourself before I pronounce
sentence, Cowboy?" the judge asks, his voice all too
"Yep," the Cowboy answers.
"Well, Cowboy, spit it out, this is a busy court."
"I'm innocent, your honor, I was just ridin' north to
visit my mamma, she's dyin', your honor."
"Well, Cowboy, that ain't the way your pardner told it,
he sure as hell thought you was guilty, no mistakin' that."
" the Cowboy began but was cut short
by the judge's "but."
"But nothin', if you were innocent why would your pardner
say you was guilty, what reason would he have to lie?"
" I don't know," says the man.
"That's what Saint Peter said, and I believe we all know
how that story ended, don't we Cowboy? You're guilty and that's
the end of that. When you come ridin' that fancy horse down
through the Emerald Triangle, ya' made a big mistake, and
I'm obliged to give you ten years for it."
"Ten years, your honor, for riding my horse down Highway
"Yep, and another ten years for supervisin' your pardner,
who cooperated with the DEA and the Prosecutor."
"Twenty years for ridin' my horse down Highway 101, judge?"
"Conspiracy, Cowboy, you had your day in court, you could
have made a deal with the U.S. attorney and pled guilty. Then
I could have went easy on ya', Cowboy, but them mandatory
minimum sentencing laws is what did ya' in."
The gavel fell. The judge never looked at the Cowboy, but
turned his head to the bailiff.
"Bring in the next conspirator."
A month later, the Assistant Warden at the U.S. prison was
explaining to the new arrivals.
"The advantages of working at the Prison Industries is
simple, men. Money. If you decide you want a good paying job,
I suggest you hire on at Unicor. You be making 27 cents an
hour right from the gate, so to speak." His was the only
laugh that exploded at the gate joke.
"You mean that's the pay, Warden?"
"That's right, Cowboy, it's either take 27 cents an hour
working for Prison Industries or we can get you a job in landscaping
picking up those dirty cigarette butts for 12 cents an hour."
WHAT'S YOUR CHOICE? WE AIN'T GOT ALL DAY HERE, COWBOY."
(with apologies to Mark Twain)