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Sunday, December 11, 2016

"Lawyers, Guns and Money"


No lure is more powerful than running water to a desert dweller, and Sycamore Canyon in the Pajarita Wilderness, snugged up against the Arizona-Mexico border, is one among a handful of perennial streams in Southern Arizona. Located in the Atascosa Mountains, a range wild enough to make the short list as a Mexican gray wolf reintroduction site, the Pajarita Wilderness, although small, is a magical place.  Here is just one view of this amazing area:

Our friends, Dick and Gaila, who were staying at a special boondocking site near Patagonia, Arizona, told us about the hike to Sycamore Canyon and invited us to join them. We offered to drive, and so we picked them up at their campsite and continued south on AZ 82 to Nogales, where we were supposed to turn north on I-19. Somehow, we got turned around and headed south and unwittingly crossed the border. We started getting suspicious when the highway signs said “15” instead of “19,” but we never realized that we had crossed the border into Mexico.

We found what looked like our trailhead, piled out, put on our packs, and headed out into the desert. We had a wonderful hike. Here's a photo of Kathy and Gaila at the trailhead:

We hiked through beautiful, ever-changing scenery.  This is a photo of Dick, Kathy and Gaila on the trail:

Our total hike was about 5 miles, and, as we returned to the truck, we were all agreed that we needed to find a good place for some cold beers and good food.

Just as we started to pull out of the trailhead parking, five Mexican soldiers in a green army truck flagged us down and signaled us to stop, which we did. They came over to the truck, carrying weapons, and told us that our truck was suspicious and matched the description of a truck that had been used recently to transport marijuana across the border into the U.S. They had been given the description of the truck from U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and it matched ours perfectly.

They ordered us out of the truck and took us over to sit near their truck while they inspected Great White. Soon, two of them returned to us carrying three packages. Each was about 5 inches high and 20 inches wide. They said the packets of drugs were attached to the seat bottoms with metal hooks. They showed us photos they said they had just taken of the underside of the truck seat with the packets attached.

We told them this couldn't be possible, explaining what we had been doing so far today, but they didn't believe us. We told them we wanted a lawyer, and they said that could be arranged. About an hour later, a lawyer drove up, met with us, heard the story, looked at the soldiers' photos, and took us aside to give us some advice. He said that if we wanted to be released today, we had to plead guilty. We protested that we were innocent and would not plead guilty. He told us that if we didn't want to go to jail, one alternative was to bribe the judge. We looked at each other in disbelief. We asked him how much and he said, $1,000.

Neither Dick and Gaila nor we had any money like that handy. We tried to think who we knew that might have access to a bank and might be within a day or two driving distance from us. The only people we could think of were George and Nan, friends of all of us. Gaila tried to call Nan and Kathy tried to call George, but there was no answer. Gaila and Kathy tried to send texts, but we got some sort of message saying that the network wouldn't let us send international texts.

By this time, we were really getting desperate. We had just about given up on any idea how to avoid jail, and the soldiers were getting pretty insistent that it was time to go with them, when a man drove by in a BMW, saw us and our truck and the soldiers. He stopped, backed up, rolled down his window, and asked if there was a problem. He looked vaguely familiar to Dick and Gaila, but we were completely distracted by our problem and none of us had time to think about who this Good Samaritan was. We told him our story and asked if there was any way he might be able to help us get to a U.S. bank to withdraw $1,000.

To our astonishment, he pulled out his wallet, turned to the lawyer, and handed the lawyer 1,000 U.S. Dollars! We couldn't believe our eyes. He said to the lawyer, “Well, if this is what needs to be done, please go do it.”

Our lawyer politely excused himself, hopped in his car, and headed down the dusty road, disappearing around the curve. Only then did we start talking with our kind gentlemen enough to realize that it was actually Adam Sandler – the movie star! He said that he has a home in the Tucson foothills and had been out for a drive this afternoon and happened to see us. We thanked him profusely and swore to him that, as soon as the soldiers let us, we would drive straight back to Tucson, where our RV is camped, and withdraw enough money to repay him. He said that would be quite fine.

About an hour after leaving, the lawyer returned with an official looking paper that he handed to one of the soldiers. After the soldier read it, he waved the lawyer off, the soldiers climbed back into their truck, and they drove off. Our lawyer came over to us and informed us that we were free to go, but that we should not stay in Mexico any longer than absolutely necessary. We told him he didn't have to tell us twice. We climbed into the truck.

We suggested Adam follow us in his car, which he agreed to do. It didn't take us long to find a Bank of America, where Dave ran in and withdrew the money to repay Adam Sandler. Dick and Dave made arrangements for Dick to reimburse David half of the “bail” money when we get to Quartzsite in January.

We were saying our goodbyes to Adam when he suddenly said, “You know, I was planning to head over and have dinner at the Silver Saddle. Why don't you join me? We can have a beer and a couple of laughs over this. My treat!”

David was a bit reluctant, but Gaila insisted, “Come on, you guys! A chance to hang out and share a beer with Adam Sandler. This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance!” Kathy and Dick agreed, so David relented. We let Adam lead the way back up Highway 83 into Tucson and over the Benson Highway to the Silver Saddle Steakhouse. We each had a huge steak meal and must have spent several hours learning all about Adam's latest film projects.  We even got a photo of Adam and the Silver Saddle waitress!

As we walked out of the restaurant after dinner, Adam suddenly laughed, and said, “You know, this reminds me of the lyrics to “Lawyers, Guns and Money.” He suddenly broke out in song:

I'm the innocent bystander
Somehow I got stuck
Between the rock and the hard place
And I'm down on my luck
And I'm down on my luck
And I'm down on my luck

Now I'm hiding in Nogales
I'm a desperate man
Send lawyers, guns and money
The shit has hit the fan

We finally waved goodbye and drove our separate ways around 10pm, sure that no one would believe this wild yarn of our outing with Dick and Gaila.

We never did find out why George and Nan didn't pick up their phones.

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