Thanks to Charles

Thanks to Charles

by James Bridges


I met Charles in a weird spot. We were both 19-years- old and both completely out of our element. I had just made a move away from Oklahoma into a world of unknown possibilities and he was the same. It just so happened that his family was from a different state.

The thing that stuck out most to me about Charles was his extreme kindness to people that seemed as if they were involved with a “counterculture” of sorts. The pointy tip on the top of that thing that stuck out was his distaste for anything or anyone that seemed to come from money.

He was only 19 but he seemed to have the soul of a wise old man. More interesting was his ability to show once in a while that he was, in-fact, still only 19.

We started jogging together in the mornings. I had never really been into fitness or working out. How- ever, during that period of my life I found running to be a very satisfying task. I loved the fact that I could force my body and mind into a zone of complete synchronicity. It didn’t last long. But while it lasted it was very therapeutic.

It was strange jogging together at first. It seemed to be one of those, “where do I put my hands” moments. However, once we both accepted the fact that we were not there to entertain one another it was quite blissful.

I noticed one day that he would start falling behind while we jogged. Quietly he would slow down and look at the sky. I could tell he was looking at the horizon. We both had similar thoughts when it came to imagination. 

Strangely, and to my surprise, I discovered that he came from a long line of “growers.”

At that time in my life I had only been close to my personal supplier of the underappreciated medicine from Mother Earth. I had only heard of such things as “growers” from movies or ~zines that I watched or admired. I wondered what it must be like inside an actual family that participated in the realm of devil’s grass.

One year he asked if I wanted to travel up the coast with him to take a load of “goods” from his parents farm to some other unknown destination. I knew at that point not to ask too many questions. I just went along for the ride.

The day started like normal. A quick energy shot. Thanks to the overworked brains of truck drivers, back then over the counter gas station speed did the trick. Little did we know or give two shits of the damage we were exposing to our organs.

It was around 10:00 that morning and we were well on our way for the 8 hour journey. There was a lot of desert to cover. So, we decided to pass the time with some good tunes, better weed, and every once in a while a nod of agreement that we were both, in fact, in the right place at the right time.

We showed up earlier than expected. I looked at the time and it was around 3:00 in the afternoon. Perfect timing for a “day changing” high that lasted just long enough to grab a sandwich that was waiting when we walked inside.

There was a pleasant ambience in the room as everyone seemed to gather and hug as if it had been a decade. When all eight of them hugged me one-by-one I gave no hesitation to give in return. I felt welcome and at home even though I had never once met any of them. Well, except of course Charles.

Charles stood in the distance a bit as each was greeting me. I noticed that he was observing the family closely. I wondered what he was up to in his mind. It was almost like watching a child go into a room full of people that he had just met. Looking deeper I noticed a concerned glance to his left.

A very large man entered the room. He wasn’t sim- ply large in stature. He commanded the room. His voice was one of a king in his very own castle. He laughed and acted as if he had no idea what was happening. His eyes met with mine and he grinned. He asked my name and I told him. Not once did he ask about Charles. Peculiar…

He invited me inside and wanted to know if I had any family in the area. I told him I was from about five states away and that he could probably bury me in the backyard and no one would ever even know. I quickly regretted saying that out loud as I remembered what we were there for.

His eyebrow raised.

I looked over at Charles as he covered his eyes and shook his head. I felt as if I were in some sort of horrible drug gang film and I was the idiot about to get jacked. I wanted to explain myself. I desperately needed for this giant king of a man to know that I am totally down with whatever legal or illegal they have going on out here in the middle of nowhere.

I believe it’s called sweating bullets.

For a while it was a bit hoaky. Suddenly, they all started laughing and smiling. The giant king stood up again and walked over to my bubble. He forced my hug as he pulled me tight. He looked and let me know that this isn’t what I think it is.

I wondered what that meant.

They started to walk into another area of the house. We were all standing inside of an area that had roughly 30 cannabis plants. They started lighting and passing. That’s when the real Charles came out.

I was able to see who he was and where he came from. He came from a long line of “growers” alright. The closest of his family members, even his great grandmother, all lived within 20 feet of one another. They all grew on the same farm. They were some of the most authentic, dirty, real, salt-of-the earth type of people that I have ever spent an afternoon with. We spent the rest of the afternoon grilling outside. We amused ourselves by playing a ton of guitar. We sang songs with no clue of the correct lyrics.

As we sang we started loading the truck that Charles and I drove. I had almost forgotten that we were actually there for a reason. We needed to pick up the “goods” and take them to their “unknown” and final destination.

Bag after bag, we handed off each package as if we were in a bucket brigade. It was communal and we all pitched in. They let me know that was how they enjoyed looking at most of everything they did to survive. “It’s a community.” They wanted me to know that for certain.

I started thinking about the “goods” and where they may be going. I knew I shouldn’t, but my curiosity hardly ever loses a battle. Oddly, I could smell citrus as the bags passed under my nose. As I grew more curious, I attempted to peek inside by slightly unwrapping a couple of bags as they passed down the line. My thumbs were not quick enough.

I noticed another raised eyebrow from the king.

He asked why I was so curious, as if he could read my mind. I tried to ignore it with a grin. He gave none in return. I felt I overstepped and so I backed off of the thought completely. I continued to load as they passed.

The king smiled again. He told me to give it a look. I gave no argument.

As I looked inside I realized it was food. Produce to be exact. I was completely confused. I wondered how in the world they could get weed inside of this packaging and cover it up with produce. Then I recalled a few movies from the past. I nodded to myself and carried on.

The king laughed. He told Charles to fill me in as he shook his head.

Charles let me know that his family was a family of “growers”. He was giggling a bit as he explained. His family worked in groves. The lemons, oranges, tomatoes, and other produce that I was smelling are some that they help grow throughout the year for a very wealthy farm owner. Every year for thanksgiving they all get together at the farm. They all smoke weed and catch up as they always had for years. After catching up, it was tradition to take that leftover produce to a shelter where people could enjoy the fresh harvests.

I was completely embarrassed about the assumptions that I had made about that day trip up until that very moment. I had no idea what the effect of everything and everyone around me was. The stigma kept telling me that I was going to go into a dangerous situation. Most likely guns would be involved. I expected the stoner guy that could barely function to be sitting in the corner watching cartoons. I figured while I was there I would hear a police helicopter or 3 overhead. I was completely ready to ward off all of the salivating, muscle with a brain pit bulls from sniffing my crotch or possibly taking a little more off than I wanted. I thought I would need to be straight as an arrow so that I didn’t get busted or thrown in prison. I was ready though dammit… But also very embarrassed.

Charles laughed and let me know it was fine. He told me that he actually expected my reaction. He just didn’t want to tell the whole truth because it was funny as hell. He asked me what I thought. I told him that I actually feel like I learned something.

That Thanksgiving I learned a very valuable lesson. I learned that weed and weed life was not what everyone said it was.

I am so thankful that I get to write about it.

Cannabis has saved the lives of so many that surround us here at Herbage Magazine. I have been fortunate enough to pass along stories that have touched many people in a positive way.

The stories that we pass along are yours. With much gratitude we offer this publication for free to our audience. We thank each and every one of you for what you do to better this place we call home.

Happy Thanksgiving!