When I was 26, I met Elijah*.
We’d actually known each other in high school, and we reconnected via the magical graces of the Internet. He was visiting Portland (where I lived at the time) from California, and we went out together on New Year's Eve.
The connection was hard and fast, and when he left to go back south, I was sad. He’d left me with sweet words and promises, but I’d had plenty of those in my life. Enough to know they don’t mean shit until they’re backed up with evidence of truth.
He emailed me when he was home and asked if I’d visit him. Feeling super sprung, I made some arrangements and bought a ticket. I hoped he’d kick in some dollars on the plane ticket, but in my youthful eagerness, I decided it didn’t matter either way: I wanted to see him.
A couple weeks later, I was in California, and he picked me up at the airport. It was January, and California was a cool 70 degrees and sunny. I soaked it up like the Oregon babe I was and spent much of the weekend laying in his yard. The rest of the time was spent in his bed.
As I was packing up for my return trip home, he handed me an envelope to help me pay for the plane ticket. This was a good sign. I was sick of dating dudes who didn’t pay for anything. I packed the envelope in my bag and we headed to the airport.
Once home, I opened the envelope, which felt a little thick. My ticket had been $49 each way, at just over $100 roundtrip with taxes. In the envelope was $1,000 cash. An interesting emotion flooded me. Not only was I crushing hard and coming home from a romantic weekend, I was also flush with cash.
It felt good.
Fast forward a year, and we’d been dating for long enough. It was time for me to move to California. The month before I moved, he surprised me by showing up with a lifted, window-tinted black Suburban with leather seats. This would be my new car, as I’d crashed my Volvo just weeks earlier.
He and another big dude came with huge trucks and trailers and moved all my shit down a couple days before I followed. Boom. Just like that. I was free from the horrors of moving. I stayed two extra nights at my girlfriend’s house, and then she drove with me to get me settled in my new home.
Once I was in California, I had my own house right next door to his. It was sweet. We lived next door to each other so we could be all up in each other’s business yet also not all up in each other’s business. He grew pot in the basements.
There were a lot of dudes around a lot of the time, and conversations stayed mostly around marijuana strains, prices, and disasters. Marijuana disasters range anywhere from farmer issues — bugs, mold, disease, etc. — to commerce disasters (miscommunication, loss of product, missing cash, cops).
As the pot-farmer girlfriend, I mostly looked cute, listened, and learned, and tried to see through a haze of constant spliff smoke. It was sexy for a while.
I know there are all sorts of circles within this kind of community, but this particular crew was big-hearted and generous. Sure, they sometimes were a little rough around the edges and were stoned off their asses all the time, but they were sweet. Elijah took really good care of me, and they all took really good care of each other. When he left town, I had a list of at least five solid dudes I could call if anything went wrong, and every single one of those guys would show up any time of day or night if asked.
We had to keep a lot of stuff secret from our neighbors, and we avoided landlords at all costs. My boyfriend and his crew of NorCal farm boys were incredibly handy, and most fix-it jobs were within their capacity. We never called the landlord to fix anything.
Still, the secrecy grew heavy, as secrecy always does.
Eventually we moved out to the country to grow a lot of pot and to grow it outdoors. No more basements and kilowatt-sucking lights. We found 25 acres with a gorgeous house and rented it on the spot. My stellar credit made up for my boyfriend’s lack thereof.
This was big time. Water tanks were hauled in and ground was cleared. A large dump truck delivered $4,000 worth of soil. We had two big dogs and they were in heaven. They ran the property lines and staked out their zones. I built a little veggie garden and began my life as a pot-farm wife.
At first it was sweet. I hung out in tiny short shorts and read books, cooked a lot of meals for my man, and walked around the land looking for crystals and other land treasures. He mostly stayed outside building a gigantic pot garden.
It took a lot of work and time, and when other guys came over they talked more excitedly now, about numbers and state propositions, county regulations, best deals on Smart Pots and proper nutrient formulas for soil. They still smoked plenty of spliffs. They smiled at me in my short shorts, but had little to say to me. I was a rare breed in the pot farming hills — a woman — and they didn’t really know how to act when I was around.
My own friends — my ladies — were far away now. We’d moved 45 minutes out of town, and a good chunk of that was up windy mountain roads. A visitor was not easy to come by.
On top of that, the only Internet service available in our area was satellite. I didn’t know about satellite Internet, but I soon learned that it’s something you pay a lot of fucking money for only to end up staring at your screen watching pages not-quite-load for several hours.
So friendless and Internet-less, I cooked a lot of food and read a lot of books. In the long, hazy days of farm-wifery, books were my everything. I lived many fantasies in that way.
We had a beautiful view of the sunset. That’s what I remember loving the most.
Our world became more divided. It was male vs. female, and Elijah and I had lost our middle ground. Men visited often, because they all had big pot farms somewhere nearby and they loved to drive their trucks anywhere, and often. I realized that I was surrounded by people who didn’t appreciate my intelligence or passions and with whom I couldn’t really hold an interesting conversation with if I tried.
Like wine connoisseurs, they sat around and talked about weed strains — the taste, the smell, the weight. Did it smell like gasoline? That’s what people want. That’s what sells. Water pumps water pumps trellising trellising. Storms. Caterpillars. Powdery mildew. This was the language around me. With the weed boom going on, prices were dropping daily. But still, the profit was unparalleled.
With an internal sigh of defeat, I kept my book-induced revelations to myself and virtually forgot about my creative outlets, my clothing, my photography, and my community. I got rid of all my high heels. For real. I cannot believe I did that, but I did. That’s the mind-set I was in. I was devoted to dirt life.
Through all of this, I was soothed with cash. The crops made money, and so I felt like everything was okay. It was exciting to see so much cash move around, and I wasn’t even in the thick of it. We were small time compared to some people. But still, stacks and stacks of nicely banded Benjamins are a pleasure to the senses. That’s why there are lots of songs about it.
Eventually, I burned out. It was almost overnight. I woke up one day and was over it. I missed my friends, I missed my life where I could wear high heels and laugh at outrageous girl talk. I was sick-beyond-sick of cooking meals for dirty, pot-obsessed men.
I was sick of spending wads of cash on gallons and gallons of gas just to go see some friends. I was sick of hanging out with pot farmers and rednecks and pretending that I was interested in tires or custom axel modifications or who got robbed last week.
The 25 acres that had been so large and promising before seemed restrictive and isolating. I wanted out.
So I left. He stayed. The pot farm was more seductive than me, and I understood. The farm was a cash cow, a playground for rock crawlers and quads and chainsaws, and from it, money would grow.
It was sad to leave him in some ways, and in other ways I couldn’t get out of there fast enough. I hoped that once he started cooking his own meals, he might retro-actively appreciate my services a bit more. Good riddance, slow-as-fuck Internet. Good riddance redneck neighbors with too many guns. Good riddance language of pot-farming and stoned-ass boys trying to be men. I packed my books and set out.
In retrospect, I’ve come to treasure those memories. California is in a historical moment right now with marijuana culture, and I’m happy I got to be so up close and personal in it. I’m happy I got to experience the pot-farmer culture and be spoiled rotten by a money-generous but love-handicapped farm boy. They are really kind of cute with their big hearts and big trucks and big stacks of dollars everywhere.
I had to get on with it, though — my life, I mean. I’m back in my comfort zone now with high-speed Internet and a closet full of high-heeled shoes. I laugh with girlfriends on the daily and I have diverse conversations with lots of different people. I rarely, if ever, discuss water pumps and soil disease anymore. I still have a huge pile of books, and when it’s warm out, I still wear short shorts and cook dinner.
I can still see the sunset, and it’s beautiful.
*Name has been changed