“I got busted at the border for smuggling grass.”

It’s never good when your partner comes home, and his first words are “I got busted.” Especially when you’re flat on your back with the flu and your partner has just returned from Tijuana, Mexico, which involved 1) a visit to our dentist; 2) copious quantities of shrimp; and; 3) shopping.

And that’s all I’m sayin’ ‘bout that.

Tequila for what ails ya

We live in a small California town in horse country about 10 miles inland from San Diego and 20 miles from Mexico. We have five six cats (IT WAS AN ACCIDENT!) and a horse.

This year, San Diego County and I had the flu for Christmas and New Years. Rony is immune to illness, so he played nurse-maid. Rony is my partner and almost-husband. I’m actually still married to James, my semi-ex-husband, who lives in Iowa and is my best friend and who is also friends with Rony and ….

Never mind; I’ll explain later.

Anyway, as if having the flu wasn’t enough, I had run out of … tequila. I had run out of tequila, which is definitely not indicated for the treatment of hypertension, and insofar as it’s legal to import—and write about—two bottles of tequila (not indicated for the treatment of hypertension), Rony (who is an amazing nurse, by the way) volunteered to make a run down to Tijuana to get some. I should note that this ’tequila’ is prescribed by our primary care physician, who is a Mexican doctor practicing in TJ and whom we love and adore because a) she speaks in complete sentences; b) she has never once conducted an exam with a laptop stuffed under her nose; and c) (and most importantly) she lets us speak in complete sentences.



Everyone with a US-based physician who does the same, raise your hand!

Yeah. I didn’t think so.

The culprit

With only one horse (we used to have two), we had run out of hay, but not alfalfa, and it didn’t make much sense to have our hay guys at Carter’s Hay and Grain bring over just a few bales of hay until we were ready for a full delivery. (It probably helps to have horses for that to make much sense, so you’ll just have to go along with me here.)

So Rony—an ever-practical Israeli who drives a large American car with a VERY large trunk—decided that he would buy one bale at a time and haul it home in his trunk until we needed a full delivery.

Rony’s a life-long city boy and a devoted western movie fan, so the first time he came back with the hay, he was as excited as a little kid: “Man, my trunk smells like a Montana ranch!”

Well, not exactly, but it did smell strongly of sweet hay, of course, and Rony, feeling suitably countrified, wore his cowboy boots on his next few runs to Carter’s.

He’s really cute that way.Cowboy boots in a log cabin

So now Rony has a genu-ine pick-up truck, of sorts, complete with the fresh smell of clean hay, and the detritus of same.

Country cred, man. Country cred.

Goin’ to Mexico

On the day in question, off he went to Mexico to see our dentist, pick up my non-hypertension-treating tequila, and eat shrimp cocktail.

This is easy, as we have a SENTRI Pass that acts as a “Get Out of Mexico Fast” card. We get to use the much shorter SENTRI lanes at the border crossing, without (in principle) the hassle that the poor muddled masses usually face from our ever-genial and polite United States Border Patrol agents.

Coming back from Tijuana that day, Rony used the SENTRI Lanes.

And that’s where the trouble started.

Officer Obie

Let me ask a rhetorical question at this point, posed originally, I believe, by Burt Reynolds to the tune of a couple of banjos: what do you do with an under-educated macho-assed redneck kumquat with small… fingers?

Why, you make him an agent of the United States Border Patrol, of course, where he can freely wave his tiny appendage around like Donald Trump’s nuclear button!

Smokey and the Bandit-Jackie Gleason

Smokey and the Bandit, Part 3; Jackie Gleason, 1983, (c) Universal

“Would you mind opening your trunk for me, please, sir?”

We travel to Mexico like some people run down to Walmart, but this was the first time anyone had asked to inspect the car. But hey [see what I did there? Heh.], we’re law-abiding citizens. For the most part. Hell, I’m an officer of the court!

This guy—we’ll call him Officer Obie—was one of those fake-polite kumquats we all know and love. You know the one: lots of “pleases” and “sirs” and “thank you, I WILL give you another” kumquat types.

Would you mind? Why yes, sir, Officer Obie, sir, I would mind, since you’ve asked.

But this was Rony, a former officer in the IDF, all-around cool cucumber, and fairly straight arrow. (Well, except for the whole tequila-running thing.) So, of course, without giving it a thought, Rony popped the boot and watched Officer Obie in the rear-view mirrors as he cautiously approached the trunk, peeked in, and recoiled in horror.

Seriously, this was a hands-waving, Henny Penny, HOLY FUCK THE SKY IS FALLING leap backward.

”WHAT is this, sir?!” he yelped. “WHAT IS THIS?! Are you trafficking grass across the border?”

Trafficking? Grass?!

“Um, no sir, I am not trafficking in anything. I just went to Tijuana to see my dentist and have some shrimp.”

“There is grass in this trunk! Why are you bringing grass into the United States from Mexico?!”

“I’m not bringing grass in from Mexico, sir. There may be a few pieces of leftover hay that I bought in California to feed our horse, but that’s about it.”

“Are you arguing with me, kid?”

“No sir, Officer Obie, sir, I am not arguing with you; I am just trying to explain…”

“Are you bringing dirt across the border, too?”

Well, hell, I don’t know; wanna check my shoes, jackass?

“What were you doing on a farm in Mexico? Kid, do you have any idea what kind of diseases you could bring into the United States from a Mexican farm??!”

“But,” tried Rony, “I wasn’t on a farm in Mexico. I was at my dentist! And I’m not bringing anything back from Mexico.”

Well, not grass OR hay, and certainly not any tequila that is definitely not indicated for the treatment of hypertension.

Officer Obie kept asking Rony why he was arguing with him, and Rony kept responding that he wasn’t arguing, in what I can hear clearly in my head as his “Now, let’s allllll be reasonable and put our weapons down reeeeal slow-like” voice.

“Seriously, I just buy the hay my wife tells me to buy, and I bring it home. I buy the hay in the United States, and I deliver it straight to our horse, who also lives in the United States. I make no deviations from this itinerary, so I’m fairly confident in telling you that this hay is as red-blooded American as you are ever going to find. Sir.”

The scene of the crime

Officer Obie by now had worked up a head of steam and decided that the best way to deal with this belligerent Hay Smuggler was to hit him where it hurts.

“Sir, you are violating the terms of your SENTRI agreement by importing hay into the United States from Mexico. I can take your SENTRI privileges away from you, you know. Just. Like. That!”

Small appendage + uniform + badge. Need I say more?

Officer Obie headed back over to his booth, then, to write up his report about the Scene of the Crime, which I’m pretty sure was complete with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back….

When he came out, he wrapped the Scene of the Crime Report around the SENTRI card and stuck it under a windscreen wiper.

“You see that inspector standing across the way blinking his flashlight at us?”

You mean the one who looks like Don Adams?Don Adams-Get Smart

“I want you to drive on over there to him, and I’ll meet you there.

NOW, kid!

“There” was the ”Yer In TRUHHHHBBLE” building across the way, the one with the three armed and ready United States Border agents and two hay-sniffing United States Border dogs all waiting for Rony the Hay Smuggler to come over and explain his bad-ass self.

“Good evening, officers,” said our intrepid hero wryly. “What seems to be the problem?”

“Well, sir, we understand that you are importing unauthorized agricultural products into the United States.”

Without another word, Rony invited them back to the Scene of the Crime, where he opened the trunk for their perusal.

Peering in, one of the Border Patrol Inspectors seemed confused.

“What exactly is it that you’re importing, sir?”

“Well,“ said Rony, “it is possible that I am transporting a few strands of hay from a bale that I bought in the United States and transported to a horse who also lives in the United States, all while managing not to cross any borders. Until now, but as you can see….”

By this time, Officer Obie had made his way over to the Scene of the Crime and cleared things right up for everyone:

“This man is trafficking grass into the United States!”

I’m not sure that word means what you think it does, Officer Obie.

At which point, one of the inspectors reached into the trunk and pulled out a piece of paper.

“This looks like a receipt,” she said. “Why, it is a receipt. For hay. Hay purchased in Lakeside, California. See?”



Rony had determined that his best course of action now was simply silence and knowing nods.

Kowtowing might have been too obvious, of course, but a well-timed “Yas’m” can do wonders in situations like these.

Grass smuggling-the evidence

I have high hopes that this whole episode wasn’t dragged past ridiculousness because of the squiggly writing on this shopping bag, which, to a redneck kumquat could look like Terrorist writing!

You can get anything you want

It was all pretty much a done deal after that. They made Rony pop the bonnet to make sure he wasn’t smuggling cows in the engine compartment, and they verbally reprimanded him for not vacuuming his car more often.

“You know, sir, we can’t be too careful with Mexican hay. That country is full of rapists and mutant farmers and all kinds of mean, nasty ugly things…. And dirt. They have some pretty bad dirt down there! We just can’t be too careful. And that’s all we’re being, is careful-like. Now, I want you to run on home, hear? I could take away your SENTRI Pass, you know, but I’m not going to do that. Today.

“And clean your car. If you’re going to go back and forth to Mexico, be sure you’re not bringing back any plant-like stuff. Or dirt. NO MEXICAN DIRT!!!”