Drug War Zone: Frontline Dispatches from the Streets of El Paso and Juaarez

By Howard Campbell | Go to book overview

Excerpt from Weed: Adventures of a Dope
Smuggler, by Jerry Kamstra

There’s a pattern customs inspectors look for when rigs drive into the inspection stalls. A good inspector can sniff out a smuggling operation, picking up the little telltale signs some smugglers inevitably give off. It might be a look in the eye, it might be a too cool indifference on the part of the driver, it might be a jittery dance the smuggler goes through to keep his butterflies down. Experienced inspectors look for any action that is abnormal. In my case it was getting out of my car and raising the hood.

The irony was that I had a legitimate mechanical problem, and in the helter-skelter last-minute adjustments one makes when approaching a customs checkpoint with $40,000 worth of weed, my two-bit brain figured that the inspectors would be just as interested in the problem as I was. I was right with inspector numero uno, but numero dos had too many years on the job; he looked out of his window and smelled something fishy. When he started walking across the tarmac toward my rig I was already figuring distance and windage to the Mexican border. The approaching moment was one every smuggler imagines but there is really no adequate way to describe the feeling that goes through your body. Every nerve is exposed and tense, like a wire, and at the same time a weird floating unreality seems to seep under your skin; you see it happening but reality refuses to register. You don’t believe it.

As inspector number two approached I opened the driver’s door and sat down in the front seat. I suddenly remembered all the incriminating evidence I had in the car: photographs and notebooks, paraphernalia and accouterments you never think about until The Man’s about to come down on your ass. What I especially wanted to get was a photograph of Jesse [Kamstra’s drug-smuggling partner] and me that we’d had taken

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