Cliff took out his trimming scissors and chopped several green buds off the stem of the marijuana plant. After he did this he looked across the room, as nine of his other comrades of cannabis did the same. One bud at a time they tossed the nuggets into a plastic bin at the center of the table, three bins in all, each centrally located around the table. They were the representation of creative, young, dirtbag Americans, each determined to get ahead financially, in order to support their ambitions, which mostly consisted of funding outdoor adventures.
This piece is an excerpt from “Trim Season and The Mushroom Wall” by Cliff Cash. It is taken from Cash’s first e-book, “Buildering The Mormon Temple” which was released today on Kindle. It is a collection of four fiction stories.
Somehow, this year, at the harvest in Northern California it was all dudes, and an almost equal representation between kayakers and climbers. Cliff was happy that there were some kayakers, not because he himself was a boater, but because the conversation wouldn’t all be about climbing. Cliff hadn’t climbed in almost five months, and he could only handle so much talk about climbing. It was the main thing missing in his life while he was working on the farm.
Along with the owners of the operation, Joe and Lloyd, a gay couple that moved up to Northern California from San Francisco to become part of the marijuana game, Cliff was one of the three long term employees at the farm. Joe typically took the masculine role of duties at the farm, while Lloyd was more of a homemaker, cooking meals for everyone and taking care of the house, as well as the four dogs he’d rescued from the area.
The new arrivals, brought in for the harvest, were welcome additions. They had a sense of humor, could tell stories and were overall in good spirits, and why wouldn’t they be. They were making twenty bucks an hour, cash, got fed well, and delivered cold beer whenever it ran out. Living the dream as some call it. Cliff almost expressed his sentimentality to the group, but didn’t, he often would think of something to say at the trim table, and then just wouldn’t say it; he didn’t want to talk too much, and plus the group was waiting for a second installment of a Black Canyon climbing story he and Thurgood were telling the previous day.
“Hey Jim, you should tell us about that close call you had over in Oakland,” one of the trimmers chimed in.
Jim went on to tell his story, about a small pot growing operation he was working with. A friend had some indoor plants that needed to be watched while he flew back home for a funeral. It was two in the morning, and Jim was out on a porch, smoking a bowl, three stories up in an apartment complex. He heard a bang on the door, and then a louder thump; three thugs were breaking into the house. Jim immediately went into survival mode; climbing up a fire escape ladder onto his neighbor’s porch. Problem was he didn’t know that neighbor. As he sat lying on that porch he listened to the house get trashed below. The thugs had little idea what they were doing, and didn’t get away with much: a couple hundred dollars, and an eighth of weed. Then the neighbor woke up to all the noise, only to go out on the porch and find Jim lying down. The neighbor screamed in fright to find a dreadlocked man face down praying to his God for survival; luckily he was cool and Jim quickly explained what was going on. By then the robbers had just left, and Jim went back to assess the damage.
“Scariest night of my life,” Jim added.
By the time Jim had told his story, the trim session had come to a close; Cliff’s climbing story would have to wait, but then again there was plenty of time. Another eleven hour day completed, dinner was served, and after eating Cliff quickly exited the house to his tent, the same one he’d been living out of for months on the property.
Cliff was quick to fall asleep, a good sleeper, he woke up in the morning as he always did, before everyone else. As he unzipped his tent he took note of the twenty remaining marijuana plants. Ten feet tall, some were, and each plant would amount to six pounds or so; amounting to around twelve thousand dollars after all was said and done. When Cliff first got in the weed game the plants would amaze him; he’d smell them and stare in wonder at all the cannabis in front of his eyes. Now it was just work, how much work it amounted to, and when he could finally leave this haunted farm of a forbidden plant, a place that was making him increasingly paranoid.
“Well we got around twenty left,” Cliff said, answering Thurgood’s question. “So probably a week, maybe a bit less, then we should hit the road to climb.”
“I’m down with that,” Thurgood replied, and then sneezed. He was realizing that he had an allergic reaction to the large quantities of herb.
“Take some of that allergy medicine bro, it works for most people,” Cliff advised.
Cliff and Thurgood sat and talked business, as they sipped their coffee. Soon enough the other trimmers rolled into the house, one by one, rubbing their eyes as they stumbled toward the coffee. Most had been up late playing music and drinking, and they were hungover. The dogs ran around the house with the crew, and along with Joe and Lloyd, it was a crowded space. Some folks had a piece of toast or a bagel with their coffee, and then it was quickly time to go back out to the greenhouse to begin the day of work.
Cliff walked out to one of the plants, a strain called Trainwreck, and chopped off several branches, putting them into a laundry basket. He then brought them in and gave each of the trimmers an even share to work with. And it began all over again, the snipping and trimming of the herb, tossing the nuggets into the big bin, getting everything prepared for the final steps, the machine, and then lastly, the drying racks.
“Cliff you gonna tell us the rest of your story from the Black Canyon?” asked one of the trimmers.
“Yeah for sure, let me wake up some more and I will,” he replied, adding, “Thurgood was there too.”
“You tell stories better than I do, though,” Thurgood noted.
Cliff thought back to the Black Canyon, and his last big climbing experience before he surrendered the last five months of his life to marijuana and money. It was an awesome memory, and a constant reminder that right after this harvest he was getting back to the climbing life. Then he thought of the six and a half months previous to the Black Canyon adventure, not a single day of work, save for selling a pound or two of weed. He’d been to Indian Creek, Utah, Yosemite, California, and spent three months in Thailand. These thoughts made him realize it might be worth it to suffer for so much freedom. Freedom isn’t free.
That was the topic of conversation amongst the trimmers as they waited for Cliff’s story, freedom. Some of the younger trimmers, excited to be working in the marijuana industry, were drunk on freedom. The trimming days didn’t even really seem like work to them. They could smoke as much pot as they wanted, drink as much as they wanted, and each day would amount to two hundred plus dollars. There was now a whole generation of these kids out there since the economy tanked, and marijuana became more legal. The problem was that it was always just sort of legal, there was some legality, and then there was an area of grey, like when the pot was sold. The bottom line was that most of the weed, harvested from the ninety nine plants, was going to be transported to where marijuana was illegal.
“I don’t know why everyone doesn’t do this,” said Ken, one of the younger trimmers. “I’m taking every dime I make from this to fund my next kayaking adventure to Costa Rica. Won’t work for three months, and this shit is so easy.”
Cliff thought about remarking on Ken’s comment, but didn’t. This was Ken’s first season trimming, and they still had several days ahead of them. Cliff thought about the risk. They weren’t guaranteed to get paid. If they got busted they might never see the cash for the work, and if they did it would be at least a year before Joe and Lloyd got their money right, if they weren’t serving an extensive jail sentence. He also thought about how psyched he was his first trim season, long before the toil of boredom and risk that came along with a long term commitment into the weed game.
While the younger trimmers spoke of freedom, of travel, and the benefits that the trim season would bring them, Cliff stepped outside of the greenhouse to get another batch of marijuana. He grabbed his clippers and finished off one of the remaining plants. “Nineteen to go,” his mind taunted him. Why would my mind think of such a terrible thought, he wondered? In addition to the exercise he missed from climbing, it was the mental clarity. On the farm the only thing that soothed his mind was alcohol. Marijuana would sometimes do the trick, but many times it made him paranoid. The end of all of this was the brightest spot in his mind, and he guessed that was why, unconsciously, he had those obsessive thoughts that he did not necessarily control.
As he was thinking this, a plane flew overhead. He knew exactly who it was, The Feds. The whole weed game had really blown up in 2009 after the Obama Administration told the FBI to start respecting state laws for marijuana, but now as the industry got bigger and bigger, The Feds were getting involved to stunt the growth and make some arrests. So, it was The Feds flying above, counting the plants to see if they were above the legal limit. They weren’t, but Cliff was still paranoid, worried. “This is my job?” he thought to himself. “How many other people have federal agents fly over their worksite, even before lunch? Damn.”
As he entered back into the greenhouse, he distributed the herb amongst the crew, and they did what they’ve been doing for days, trimmed it down to the buds. The crew thanked him, polite as they were, and then one of the younger kayakers requested that he tell the story of The Mushroom Wall, in the Black Canyon, “Ya’ll are burly,” Sean said in his southern way of talking, “We just kayaked down the Black on our way down here. Ol’ boy here got poison ivy when we were portaging, under the North Chasm Wall.”
“Yeah you gotta watch out for the ivy, that’s for sure,” Cliff responded, as he went into the story. “Well I wanted one big adventure before starting on the farm here this past May, and there is no better place to have a multiday big wall adventure than the Black Canyon.”
“What about Yosemite?” one of the climbers asked.
“Yosemite is for pussies,” Thurgood joked.
“No, Yosemite is a great place for adventures too,” Cliff chimed in. “But this adventure was about history, repeating history in a fashion true to the sex, drugs and rock climbing that was the seventies.”
“Sex?” Thurgood interrupted.
“Well, drugs and rock climbing anyways,” Cliff said smiling, as he delved into the story…..
Check out “Buildering the Mormon Temple” on Kindle to read the rest the full story, including the tale of climbing the Mushroom Wall.
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