Friday, January 22, 2010

Search for Secrets of A Sunken Cannon - 14

It's amazing to what lengths marijuana growers will go to hide their pot growing gardens. In Kinston, NC an undercover drug sting led detectives to a pot garden. They knew it must be nearby. Finding it was about to yield several pounds of pot. What they didn't know is where the druggies were getting it so several officers for the Lenoir County Sheriff officers brought in a pot sniffing dog that led them to a rural residence. The search dog sniffed all over until it disappeared when it fell down the camouflaged trap door dropping it into a full-length school bus that was buried 8 feet deep under a backyard tool shed. Now wouldn't you think someone would spot the disturbed earth excavated for the hole. Better yet, how could the druggies keep it so secret. What an underground operation?

Marijuana has been the scurge of America for hundreds of years. To keep this drug secret takes growers lots of man hours, too, and lots of law enforcement officer hours to find them, but this little story above rekindles an old memory of my own from forty years ago shortly after I graduated from high school. One of the best deer hunting areas of my college years is today where Thousand Oaks Country Club is in Eastern Plainfield Township near the east end of Five Mile Road. To the south the large expanse of woods ended at Braman's apple orchard and the Four Mile Road landfill. To the west was Dutleman Lake and the East Beltline landfill. Plenty of two track roads led out towards Grand River Drive a mile away. Braman's had the best apples in the area. When hunting and thirsty we'd pluck them off the trees and put quarters on one tree with tape where we removed apples. Mr. Braman commented fall that he had a "money tree" near the woods and picked his change before the snow flew. His tree sparkled in sunlight. He wished he had more money trees.

One day me and a friend were coming up this two track road where several dead end spur roads connected where hunters could park their cars. When we went hunting in the morning, the slots were empty, but now two cars were parked back in the brush. "Ood." It's as if someone was trying to conceal them with broken tree branches. We continued past the roads and suddenly five men in camouflage and two with DEA burst out of the bushes and asked us if we'd been tending the pot garden. I confessed we weren't, but one officer said, "Then what's this?" The jagged leaf was caught on the bow string where it connects to the bow. He identified the plant. "Honest, sirs, we don't know anything about pot plants being growin' in these woods and these aren't our cars. They marched us up to our vehicles, read us our rights and asked if they could use the dogs to sniff our vehicles." The dogs found nothing of interest, but they continued to interrogate us and figured out we were innocent and were about to release us when several officers watching the road saw someone duck back into the brush.

The officer asked, "Since you know this country is there any where the owners of these cars could go where we could miss them." One officer pointed at the green pot on our bow and asked "Do you know where you got this?" We do, but honest officer we didn't know of the pot growing operation, but we did see some unusually high plants last week in a peat bog down this trail, bear right, bear left, go up and over the flat hill and when it dips there's a bog off to the right. "It's about forty by 90 feet long and the deer love it because they've been bedding down or someone has in the middle. We hunt along the ridge along the backside." We saw slashings this morning, but we bypassed it this morning. Too easy to spook the deer. Nothing but slashings. Before the officers got to the swale they heard a truck or something rumbling further down the trail, but they never saw anyone until they returned and the two extra vehicles had left. Nobody saw the druggies leave the area, but the cops had the license numbers and VIN numbers and important data on the cars. The next morning we learned that Sheriff and DEA personnel had found and confiscated all the pot plants and several senior high school football students were arrested for growing and harvesting the marijuana. Strange how the school bus marijaua sting could rekindle such a fond memory of my early bow hunting days.

Strange as it may seem six months after Bob Alcumbrack's first big dig failed a security guard in Disney World caught me on camera wading in the landscape gardens looking at cannon's. "Uh, hmm! What you doing in those plants?" I replied, "Well I'm not squashing flowers, but I'm interested in the cannons." He knew who I was the minute I raised my head because he recognized me from a CNN documentary, the same documentary that was pitting the Cannonsburg cannon hunters against the Twin Sister Texas group. We were the two groups of elite cannon hunters in the United States in 1986. He thought he knew my mug shot from the closed circuit TV surveillance cameras. Disney was excited about the prospects of having two different cannon hunters inspecting their cannons, since the previous week one member of the Texas group had done what I was doing inspecting cannons. It had been many years since anyone had been interested in trying to find lost cannons on America soil.

Discovery of the Twin Sisters would correspond to their latest achievement "The Legend of Davey Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier" starring Fess Parker as "Crockett" and Buddy Ebsen as "Georgie Russell. Ebsen starred as tramp in an Andy Griffith show and Jed Clampett of the Beverly Hillbillies. The security guard shook my hand so hard I thought he was going to tear it off. Since I hadn't trodden a single bloom he let me inspect any cannons wherever I found them. I was asked by tourists if I was the gardener for Disney World. I was one of the few historian's in Cannonsburg who wasn't camera shy like Bob. As this cannon story progresses you'll get sneak peaks into my memoirs as to who I am - not quite an angel since my halo continues to flicker, but as time passes you'll get a sharper picture of the Tompsett tragedy. This entire story takes on the characteristics of that movie called "Groundhogs Day," starring Bill Murray. Each time the story line repeats itself it gets better and the true age of the cannon will expose itself. All I ask is that you have an open mind. This story is about people, the history of our lives and secrets hidden for 125 years of so. Each of us have different talents and expertise, but blend the two together and you get team players dedicated to secrecy, too.

Bad treasure hunters give us all black eyes, but good treasure hunters happen so infrequently. Bad treasure hunters prey upon private property owners and strip them of archaeological treasures rather than preserving local history. Not all professional archaeologists are pure preservationists. Some fall from grace when they feel they aren't amply rewarded, that's monetarily speaking, and succumb to piracy themselves and pilfer from storage facilities. Items are given to museums for protection, to be shared with the public, but many end up stolen from within and sold to the highest bidder.

This wasn't what Bob had in mind when he launched his expeditionary mission to recover the lost Cannonsburg cannon. He was doing it out of community pride and spirit. We rallied around his efforts to find the cannon and rallied to make Bob's dream reality. Finding that cannon was a wild dream, the wildest dream of his life.

It was Maggie McCarthy's who desired for me to help Bob realize his dream, but she wasn't sure Bob knew what cannon he was supposed to find buried deep in Luther Augustine's mosquito infested woods. She thought I had I could find the right sized cannon before Bob spent too many brain cells, time and money looking for his lost ghost cannon of imaginary size. After watching Bob's facial expressions for two days I sensed his positive attitude and saw the size of his energy field as he walked the planks carefully atop the coffer box. Bob was tense on several occasions and it rattled his psyche when Luther Augustine began putting the liability seed in his mind when so many spectators were crawling all over his property to get a closer look at the operation. Bob's voice trembled and the tension between Bob and Luther was being strained.

All my life I've been an observer, the people watcher. Study, listen and talk little. I'm a loner, but God gave man two eyes, two ears, two nostrils and one mouth. HE didn't mean for us to talk more than we see or hear. People talk incessantly on cell phones. They base what they know on phone conversations and faulty web info, but don't check the hard copy (books and newspaper) for documentation. Drivel entertainment is why America's school children do so poorly in school. The average student is online an average of six hours each day.

Did Bob find the Cannonsburg cannon... uh, read on! I'm smilin', but the halo flickers, too. What Bob shunned were investors and sponsors with capital. He didn't need the aggravation nor stress to produce it fast. Most treasure hunters are described as being flambouyant and entreprenurial by nature, but that wasn't Bob. He was humble and shy.

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