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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kermit Schweidel, co-founder of a successful Dallas advertising agency, grew up in El Paso, the site of a brief but eventful detour that would bring him face to face with the Department of Justice and result in a felony conviction. It is a label he has worn without regret: “I am troubled only by the chronically painful regret of a screaming lower lumbar. An illicit toke or two in the evening helps dull the pain and remains the organic remedy for a restless mind and the perfect way to laugh, to live, and to never take yourself more seriously than a fart in the wind.”
Cinco Puntos Press
Hardcover, 978-1-941026-82-3 (also available as ebook), 266 pages, $16.95
Reviewed by Si Dunn
It's tempting to describe Folly Cove as “Reefer Madness” toked up on steroids.
This well-written book offers much more information and entertainment than that 1936 anti-marijuana film.
Folly Cove takes the reader inside the methods and cash-only economics of marijuana smuggling during the early 1970s. It describes how border patrols and federal drug agents were evaded and how a smuggler, if arrested, could slow or even stop the wheels of justice with some well-placed money and a high-dollar attorney. But in those days, conviction for possessing even small amounts could bring a long prison sentence.
Written from an insider’s perspective, Kermit Schweidel’s book recounts how a small group of young men in El Paso, including some military veterans, became enamored of getting high on marijuana in the early 1970s. At first they bought small amounts for their own consumption. Later, they began sharing it with friends and getting bigger amounts to divide and sell.
Because the Mexican border was so close, smuggling marijuana into Texas on foot or by truck became their next obvious steps. Then, airplanes began hopping across with loads of weed to help meet Americans’ growing desire for getting stoned.
“El Paso,” Schweidel writes, “has always been a smugglers’ paradise, engraved with the colorful legend of a wide-open border town that defined the rules of commerce on its own terms. Smuggling was an important part of the area’s economy and largely viewed with a wink and a nod, as everything from human traffic and livestock to cosmetics and cigarettes flowed freely across the invisible boundary.”
Along the Texas-Mexico border in the early 1970s, he contends, “[l]aws were mere suggestions and contraband was just another word for bargain.”
Folly Cove includes the personal accounts of several Texans who made big money from marijuana smuggling before they finally were arrested and ended up with felony convictions and, in some cases, long prison sentences. The author became part of the group late in the game, and all stretched their luck too far.
The book gets its title not from a Texas place but a tourist beach near Boston, Mass., where the El Paso group pulled off their biggest job. Smuggling drugs was getting deadly, and the Texans found themselves trying to compete with dangerous cartels from Colombia and Mexico. In a haphazard operation best described as “The Gang That Couldn’t Smuggle Straight,” they and helpers managed to sail a shrimp boat from Colombia and landed 29 tons of pot in the dark at Folly Cove. Then they moved it inland without getting caught—until years later, when somebody snitched.
The participants now are senior citizens, and some have died from diseases. The survivors don’t express much remorse in their accounts. To them, marijuana was—and remains—less harmful than a bag of groceries.
“A lot of people got high,” Schweidel states, “a few people got rich, and nobody got hurt [during their marijuana smuggling]. As far as we were concerned, we broke a law that was already broken.”
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Si Dunn is an Austin novelist, screenwriter, and book reviewer.
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