Drugs, Guns, and the CHP Trooper

chp in rearview mirror

We were teenagers – so of course, we were going to botch this up. Illegal gun – stowed. Illegal drugs – stowed. We were both scared to death. Randy still wasn’t going to look back. Then it happened….

When I was a teenager (in the seventies) I lived at Lake Tahoe and had started to have some really great adventures. I was fortunate that my parents trusted me more than most and so I got away with a lot. This particular adventure started at Dart Discount Liquors (now called Dart Beverage) at the bottom of Kingsbury Grade on the Nevada side of Tahoe. I’d been working at Dart since I was fifteen, which probably led to quite a bit of my corruption as a kid.

My best friend Randy also worked at Dart. When he first got the job I was kind of mad about it – because I was a novelty at the time. A teenage kid, barely driving, working at a liquor store was a pretty cool deal. After a short time I got over it and I really started to appreciate having my best friend as a co-worker.

Well, as the story goes, Randy and I were working on the late shift at Dart this one night and he wanted to go out rattlesnake hunting in the California desert below Topaz Lake the next day. He had heard that the place was thick with snakes and thought we could have some fun.

I told Randy that if I was driving – he had to bring his .22 pistol for me to use. I loved this gun. It was a semi-auto luger style handgun. The gun had a funny history. Originally it had come into Randy’s possession by way of his step dad. Randy’s step dad was a retired sheriff’s deputy and he got the gun after it had been used in a crime. The serial number had been filed off and in most places that would be grounds for it to be destroyed. But hey, this is Nevada. We were told that as long as we had the notarized letter from the Sheriff with the gun and kept it in Nevada – everything would be fine.

We were teenagers – so of course, we were going to botch this up.

Anyway, we started to make plans for our outing and our shift at Darts was going to end in a couple hours. One of our standard details was to sweep the parking lot every night. It’s a small parking lot, maybe 12 cars, but it took over an hour to do. I loved to sweep because it got me outside and I really liked putting the effort in to make the storefront look good. So I swept. After finishing, I always went back around with a dustpan on a pole and a small broom – so that I could get any last garbage that some asshole would have dropped, or the obligatory cigarette butt. As I’m doing my rounds, I passed between two cars and saw a plastic bag on the ground. I scooped it up and kept moving as usual, cussing the bastard that dropped it as I went.

When I got to the trashcan to empty out my pan of butts, I got a closer look at the bag and realized it was a very full bag of pot! Yahoo, free weed! I stuffed it in my pocket and went back inside.

The next morning Randy shows up at my house promptly and we jumped into my little Subaru to go snake hunting and shooting. The weather was perfect and we had a great time blowing off tons of ammo. Never did see a snake. But from where we were shooting, we could see the California Highway below us and we could see a CHP driving back and forth as though he was looking for something. Randy came up with the thought that he could be trying to pin down where the gunshot sounds were coming from and that meant he was looking for us. It had been a full day anyway – so we decided to bug out.

As we pulled off the dirt road and back onto the highway the highway patrol came zooming right up behind me.

“Crap Randy, what should I do?”

“Just act as though you don’t know he’s back there” said Randy. He didn’t even look back. About that time it hit him. “Holy shit. I’m not supposed to have the .22 in California. If he pulls us over – we’re screwed.”

I thought for a minute. The rest of our guns on the back seat were all legal. We just needed to ditch the .22. “Put it under the carpet under the seat. If we get pulled over he’s not going to look there” I said.

Randy moved smoothly to not look like he was doing anything in the front seat. He lifted the carpet and placed the gun under. As he did, he spotted the bag of pot. “Oh shit, what are we going to do with that?” he asked.

In the middle console of my Subaru was a set of air conditioning vents with very wide slats. I saw it and immediately told Randy to shove the bag down the vent. I figured I could dismantle it later to retrieve the dope.

Now we’re driving back toward Nevada with this CHP on our tail. Illegal gun – stowed. Illegal drugs – stowed. We were both scared to death. Randy still wasn’t going to look back. Then it happened. The highway patrol just pulled over. As I looked back in my rearview – I could see him doing a u-turn and heading back south.

YES! Out of trouble again. But Randy didn’t know because he still wasn’t about to look behind us. Time to have some fun… I grabbed the gearshift, punched down the clutch and dropped from fifth to third gear. I then punched the accelerator and released the clutch. “F##k it! I’m making a run for it” I yelled.

Twenty-five years later, I can still picture the look of horror on Randy’s face as he screamed in terror and tried to peal my foot off the gas pedal. The poor kid had thought I had lost my mind. I laughed so hard at him that I had tears streaming down my face.

The next morning I woke up late as usual. Now that I have a teenage son, I understand how it must have tortured my dad that I could sleep in until after noon on Sundays. I headed into the house (I was living in a studio built in the garage) and I plopped down at the kitchen table to grab a bowl of cereal. On the table I saw a note from my dad. It was brief, “ Took your car to Reno to go shopping with Mom. Too hot to go without air conditioning.”

What happened next – I can only surmise from the evidence that I saw later because my parents never talked about the details of that day. I’m pretty sure they made it to somewhere around Carson City before Dad flipped on the air conditioning. The ‘shit’ hit the fan. They turned around and came straight home. The shopping trip was called off.

It was about the time that I finished my bowl of cereal that my parents walked back in the door. My dad said one thing, “Go vacuum out your car.”

I grabbed the vacuum and headed out into the driveway. I still had not caught on to why I was being told to do this. Then I opened the door. Completely covering the interior of the car except for where my parents sat in the front seat was a thin layer of pot. You could see their outlines on the seat. It was pretty damn funny – except that I thought I was going to be killed next.

I lost the car for a month but the incident was never brought up again by anyone except Randy and me. Not having the car didn’t slow me down much. Sometime I’ll tell you about the five naked girls and the deck post climb. It wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t lost the car for that month.