Although the Saltwater cowboys’ series might have apparently ended with the Super Bowl Sunday smuggling attempt at the mouth of the Marco River, there is at least one more story that must be told.
During the 1980s, Frank, Jimmy and Pete were not the only ones smuggling bales of marijuana on shrimp boats like the Sheriff. There were many others that also favored the less patrolled and unpopulated Ten Thousand Islands. Besides the Saltwater Cowboys from Marco, Goodland, and the Isles of Capri, which were on the receiving end of the delivery system, there were also two high school athletes and local football stars that, by accident, stumbled into the world of international smuggling. This is their story.
Stevie and Cuervo were just out of high school and ready for a fun summer of boating and fishing. They were teammates on a local high school football team and they both excelled at sports. Despite Cuervo’s nickname, they did not drink, smoke cigarettes and they especially wanted nothing to do with any kind of drugs. They were the personification of good healthy American boys and wanted nothing more than to excel at sports, continue with higher education, and to succeed in life as model citizens.
This was, of course, until one perfect Marco day when the boys decided to take Stevie’s parents boat out much farther than normal because the water was so clear and calm.
They fished a couple of wrecks they knew were good for snapper, and after catching their limit toward the end of the day, they started the engine, hauled up the anchor and began cruising back toward Marco and the davit-style boatlift that was waiting behind Stevie’s parents’ house.
On the way back home, the sun was low in the sky when the boys saw something in the water. At first, they believed it was a large sea turtle, but as they as drew closer to investigate, they realized what they came upon about ten miles from Marco Beach was a large and very hefty bale of floating marijuana.
The hay-size bale was neutrally buoyant and resting on the water very much like a sleeping sea turtle. When the boys came alongside, they immediately understood what they had found; and for them this was not something to be hauled aboard, dried out and smoked, but something to be taken back home, hidden, and sold.
The boys had never smoked marijuana, but like everyone in high school in the 1980s, they knew who smoked weed, who didn’t, and most importantly for this scenario, they knew who sold pot on Marco.
After hauling the bale aboard and making sure nothing was showing above the gunnel, the boys cruised carefully and uneventfully back into the maze of the Marco canals and immediately hooked up the davit lift system behind Stevie’s house.
Of course, both boys on the way back through the idle speed zones were freaking out. They had just crossed the line into something illegal. They never wanted anything to do with smuggling, but now it was too late, and somehow the excitement and thrill of adventure held them together.
When the davits had lifted the boat out of the water—with the contraband bale—still out of sight and below the gunnels, Stevie and Cuervo went inside the house and waited for nightfall.
Stevie’s parents just happened to be out of town for the week, so after their neighbors were asleep, the boys hauled out the soggy bale of pot, dragged it into the garage, and with closed doors, began to break it apart and dry it out with handheld hair dryers.
The process took many hours, and a couple of days with fans on the garage floor, but when they were finally finished, the boys filled several hefty trash bags with the now marketable marijuana.
After a few inquiries to their fellow high school students, they found the guy in school that everyone knew sold pot and had him on the phone to vaguely explain the situation. No one said anything that could be incriminating over the phone, but a meeting was set up, a sample was brought for testing, and after only one day of waiting, on the night before Stevie’s parents were due back home, the money for weed exchange was finished.
Under the cover of darkness, Stevie and Cuervo traded their dried-out bale of marijuana that was stuffed into trash bags for a small brown paper bag full of cash.
When they arrived back at Stevie’s house the boys counted out $10,000 in $20 bills and when the count was complete, they threw the money up into the air and laughing, rolled around on the floor as the bills fell back down.
The boys told this story many years later when they were no longer boys, but at the time of their limited smuggling operation, they must indeed be truly qualified as Saltwater Cowboys.
Please be on the lookout next week for another tale from Marco’s not-so-distant past with the new series: “Chronicles of the Marco Beach Boys.”