Heroin Aviation

If you’re a smuggler with an airplane, and you want to move heroin from Mexico to Chicago or New York, you need to refuel somewhere along the way. A dark cornfield in northeastern Oklahoma might be just the place for clandestine refueling, if you plan ahead.

Sheriff Weaver and Sid were alarmed when kids in Mayes County started turning up with heroin instead of pot. Sid and Pete had a pretty good idea of what was going on. Sid was a pilot, and Pete Weaver was omniscient in Mayes County.

“We relied on informants to tell us where they were at, or we would fly. You’d see a corn field or a wheat field where they had obviously cut an airstrip.” The smugglers were flying twin-engine planes, generally Beechcraft. “They had to have a landing spot ’cause that’s when their fuel would run out. They would make arrangements for somebody to meet them.”

Sid was hanging out at the sheriff’s office when one of the deputies called Pete on the radio. “We’re sittin’ there pickin’ our nose and whittlin’ when this deputy calls in,” says Sid.  The deputy was at the small airport outside Pryor, the small town that’s the county seat for Mayes County.

The deputy said, “Uh, a couple o’ hippy-lookin’ kids just put 250 gallons of aviation fuel into barrels in the back of this van. Is there any law against that?”

Pete looked at Sid, and Sid said, “Not a thing in the world.”

Pete asked the deputy if the van had placards for flammable cargo. The deputy said no. “Does it have any kind of fire extinguishers in it?”

“I didn’t see nothin, Sheriff.”

“You stop ‘em.”

Along with the fuel, the hippies had two hand pumps and hoses.

Sid says, “So he brings these two kids into the sheriff’s office, and they’re tremblin’ in their boots. Of course, we didn’t have a thing in the world on them. You know, they were just innocent drivers of a van. And when you walk into the sheriff’s office, there in front of you is the dispatcher, i.e. booking agent. So Pete just went like this, and the kids walked up there, and he says, ‘Empty your pockets.’ And of course, in their pockets was a diagram of the landing field.” On the same piece of paper were instructions to cut the wires on their brake lights so they wouldn’t be seen.

Pretty soon, a lawyer showed up. “Boy, I mean the Mafia worked quick. By the time we got one of ‘em in the office to try to visit with him, there was a lawyer walking in the front door, says, ‘I’m here representing a couple of my clients that you’re holding without charges, and I demand you release them immediately.’ We said, ‘Well, we’re not holding them. They’re right here. We’re just visitin’ with ‘em.’”

Pete and Sid didn’t catch the smugglers, who presumably found another airstrip and a stealthier pit crew.

Speaking of himself in third person, Sid says, “Of course, the reason this was uppermost in Sid’s mind, and had been for a couple o’ years, was that anytime you would capture something like that — confiscate it — it became sheriff’s property. Sid would have a twin-engine Beech in his collection.”

I asked if he had a twin-engine pilot, since he wasn’t qualified to fly twins himself. “I’d be one pretty quick. Oh, damn!”

Fishing for Drugs

When Sid was a district attorney, he had a police radio in his pickup truck. He would often talk on it with Sheriff Pete Weaver, his friend and crime-fighting companion.

“And of course, that was the occupation for every farmer. You’re out there ridin’ a combine or a tractor, and you had earphones on and you were listening to the scanner, police scanner. You knew when ambulances went out, and you knew what people Sid was talkin’ about.”

One Friday at the office, Pete told Sid he had a tip about a drug delivery. “We knew who was making it and who they were making it to, and it was going to be at the dam. I said, ‘Well, dammit, we don’t know when it’s gonna happen, and it’s gonna destroy our weekends.’”

Pete said, “That’s alright. My weekend is taken up. Whaddo you plan to do?”

“Well, I was gonna take Carol and the kids to the cabin this weekend.”

“Go ahead,” said Pete. “You go on to the cabin, and you can contact me and ask me about what’s goin’ on over at the dam.”

When I was a kid, I loved going to our cabin, which was at a place called Cedar Crest.  We would row our little boat, or walk down to the Swimming Hole, or just hang around the cabin playing board games and stuff. I had no idea what else was going on while we were there.

During this trip, unbeknownst to me, Dad was occasionally going out to his truck to talk to Pete, who had deputies staking out the dam.

“I’d say, ‘D.A. 1 to Mayes County 1.’ And he’d say, ‘Yeah, Sid.’ And I’d say, ‘Any activity down there, fishin’ at the dam?’ He said, ‘Not a sign. We haven’t gotten a bite.’”

It doesn’t seem especially stealthy, but they kept it up all weekend.

“Not bitin’ yet?”


“Whaddya think?”

“I think we oughtta leave the bait out there just a little longer and see what happens.”

Naturally, a lot of people overheard this on their scanners. To all appearances, the D.A. and the sheriff were spending a great deal of time fishing and talking about it on the radio.

I asked if they caught the drug runners. He said, “They had excellent communications, too.”

On another occasion, drug dealers made sure to let law enforcement know how good their communications were.

“One time, we had a raid to go on, and we had highway patrol and deputies and all kinds, and we all met a mile or so away… We parked the cars and went on the raid, and there wadn’ a damn thing. Nothing. I mean, it was clean as a whistle.”

When Sid and the cops got back to their cars, the state trooper yelled, “Somebody’s been under my hood!” His hood was open, and his windows were open a little bit. Of course, everyone was worried that there might be a bomb in the car. It turned out there was no bomb — the drug dealers just wanted to let the cops know they had been there.

“Oh, they were ornery,” says Sid.

You can smoke it, but don’t eat it.

I was three years old when my father was elected district attorney. Some of my earliest memories are of courthouses and law enforcement officers. One of the adults I remember fondly from back then is Pete Weaver, who was the sheriff of Mayes County at that time.

Sheriff Weaver was a smart and streetwise man who had served in Burma during World War II. From what I can gather, he knew pretty much everything there was to know about Mayes County and its rural underworld.

Pete and Sid were inseparable. While other men might go bowling or fishing, Pete and Sid’s favorite pastime was chasing drug dealers and pot farmers.

When I was about five, we had a big cannabis plant in our house for a while.  It was evidence for a trial, and of course it would die if they put it in the evidence locker, so somebody had to take care of it.  I didn’t understand what it was, but I knew my parents thought the plant was funny, because for some reason people weren’t supposed to have this kind of plant.

On one occasion, Pete got a tip that somebody was growing pot in the woods, where it wasn’t visible from the air.

“We had snitches who would go out and check. And sure enough, in a week or two, the people that had it had cut the marijuana and kinda bundled it and put it up to dry and were gonna come back and get it. So then we staked out that treed area and caught the guys that were doin’ it, and then of course we had to have a photo op. And we brought all this in and piled it up… And so, boy, we made the front page.

“And so we sent it off to the Crime Bureau [the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation, or OSBI], and the Crime Bureau came back and said, ‘That’s not marijuana.’ We said, ‘It looks like marijuana, it has all the leaves like marijuana — we know what marijuana looks like.’”

In fact, the would-be pot farmers had inadvertently grown hemlock, the stuff that Socrates drank. Smoking hemlock isn’t especially harmful, unless you’re a grower with disappointed customers. But if you eat it — in brownies, for example — it will kill you.

For the growers who got caught, it was lucky they were botanically challenged. It turned out they hadn’t committed the crime they thought they had committed.

On the other hand, Pete and Sid were afraid some hemlock might have hit the street. Embarrassed, they had to go back to the newspaper and explain that they didn’t really have a big pot bust after all, and that people shouldn’t eat what they smoke.

Milking the Brahma Mama

In 1974, Sid got elected as the district attorney for three counties in northeastern Oklahoma. He defeated the previous D.A., Bob Vinzant, in a close race.

Soon after the election, there was a rodeo in Rogers County, the county where Bob Vinzant lived. Somebody had the idea to invite Sid and his staff to participate in one of the less prestigious events in the rodeo, the wild cow milking contest.

As Sid tells it, “They would bring these humpback… what do you call the cows that are so mean? Brahma. They would bring in brahma cows, ’cause they had to have cows to produce those calves. So they had these brahma mamas, who were meaner than shit. They weighed a thousand pounds. And so they would have a brahma milking contest. And they’d bring one o’ those brahma ladies out with a rope around its neck, and then hand you a paper cup, and it was up to you to figure out… with two of you, one holdin’ the rope and one underneath. And they had a clock goin’ — how long it’d take for ya to get a little milk outta this damn brahma cow.”

I asked if they cared how much milk you got. “Oh, any amount would do. God, if you had any, you were the winner.”

The organizers invited Sid because, as he puts it, they didn’t give a shit about him. “So they came in, and really, you could just see the guilt in their eyes, and they said, ‘We want to invite you — and we’re so excited that you’ve been elected district attorney. We haven’t had a chance to meet you yet.’ So they explained the contest in detail, you know, to the city boy. And I said, ‘Oh, we’d be pleased to.’”

Rather than milking the cow himself, Sid delegated the task to two members of his new staff.  Apparently, the organizers didn’t realize how much rodeo expertise was in the district attorney’s office.

The district investigator, J.B. Hamby, was an imposing man who had a reputation at the rodeo. Supposedly, he had stopped riding bulls because he broke them, literally. He was a former deputy sheriff who would later become the police chief in the town of Catoosa. He died in a gunfight in Catoosa, and he is fondly remembered to this day.

When Hamby faced the brahma mama, he was with a coworker who had lower standards of virtue. I’m not sure what his job was or what his name was, but Sid calls him Nipshit.

“If there was an illegal way to do it, he’d rather do it that way. He wanted to know if I’d like to have a fish fry for the offices. I said, ‘That would be nice.’ He said, ‘Well, I’ll furnish the fish if you wanna grill ‘em.’ And by God, he came up with all these beautiful fish. Somebody later told me that the way he fished — you know the crank in an old telephone? Well, that’s a generator. He would go out in a wooden boat — fiberglass or wood — and he’d put the two wires in there and then crank like hell, and stunned fish would come floatin’ up. You pick the good ones, leave the rest, and they’ll shake it off and go back to swimmin’ again.”

Nipshit, a graduate of Oklahoma State University, also had rodeo experience. He was a former president of the Junior Rodeo Association. According to Sid, Nipshit was also a great-nephew of the famous humorist Will Rogers, who was himself a son of the county’s namesake.

When Investigator Hamby and Nipshit went out with their paper cup, they knew what they were doing. “The two of them went out, and the crowd all cheered, and I mean, in a matter of seconds, they had milk in the cup. And they won this great big trophy.”

From then on, if you walked into the Rogers County courthouse and went to the district attorney’s office, the first thing you’d see was the brahma-mama-milking trophy.

As it turned out, Nipshit’s milking technique was just as shady as his fishing. “Years later, I learned that Nipshit had a mouthful of milk. And while he was under there, he spit the milk into the cup.”