Miss Universe 

The Observer has been watching with some interest the goings-on in Colorado since they legalized marijuana for recreational usage. We're not planning on packing up the VW bus and heading out there any time soon, but we're keeping an eye on it, just because we know it could potentially be a similar boon someday to this state we love. There's a lot of black dirt in East Arkansas, and a lot of sunshine.

While The Observer isn't personally a fan of marijuana — we never liked that cloudy, woozy, staring-through-a-hole-in-the-back-of-your-own-head feeling — we are all about some logic. And it has never quite seemed logical to us that while a plant that could grow in any roadside ditch is banned for fear it might harm the populace, anybody with 20 bucks and a valid I.D. can head to the corner liquor store and buy enough cheap, perfectly legal goof juice to float a sizeable toy battleship. We happen to know quite a few potheads, even long-term potheads, and though marijuana has clearly led to the senseless destruction of many a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos, we don't know of a single life ol' Mary Jane, in and of herself, has destroyed to the point of being unlivable. Meanwhile, the amount of blood and tears we've personally seen spilled by and over people under the influence of corn likker could fill a hell of a lot of empty whiskey bottles.

The Observer's experience with pot isn't deep, but it is 40 years broad now. Back in high school, living way out in the sticks of Saline County, we had a friend whose father was rumored to be the Marijuana King of the little patch of dirt we all called home. Word was he was a dangerous man. Word was he had big fields of the stuff. Word was he had cops on the payroll — cops who'd drive right up the house in their uniforms and squad cars to pick up their envelopes. It was Saline County in the 1980s. What do you expect?

Given that Prince Pot was a pal, the stuff was plentiful in that neck of the woods, not great but decent, and much easier to get in dry Saline County than a bottle of green label Evan Williams. The Observer was never much of a fan, for the reasons outlined above, but our best friends were, and we had to take the occasional toke to keep from feeling like a narc.

The Observer remembers one whole winter, maybe 1990, when we got on a kick where every Saturday night was spent with those friends — one now a truck driver, the other drowned and in his grave — tromping Pa's mown and frosty field with a single-barrel shotgun and two shells, following a flashlight beam as it sought out the gleaming eyes of a rabbit or deer. Don't bother coming to collect The Observer for spotlighting at this late date, Mr. Game Warden, as we confess that we never seemed to kill anything, probably because our thoroughly-stoned friends tromped around like hippopotami, stage-whispering through their titters.

There was a magic to those nights, even without the recreational pharmaceuticals: the curl of frozen breath and smoke in the flashlight beam; the wheel of diamond chips overhead; the way The Observer's friend, having inherited his father's nervousness around Johnny Law, would switch off the light and squat with the shotgun across his knees whenever the rare truck would rumble by on the distant road; the feeling of being young and warm in a heavy coat on a dark, cold night in the wintertime. In that field one night, The Observer looked up and told those two country boys who rarely left the county that outer space went on forever and ever — that it was all as limitless as the sight of God, no "Posted: No Trespassing" sign stapled to a tomato stake out there somewhere at the end of it, just more and more nothing. After a minute of incredulous argument, the thought blew their addled minds so thoroughly that they had to take a few minutes of silence to consider — a lovely silence, full of the infinite, there in the dark.

Afterward, all our eyes red as the pit of hell, we tromped back to the white house on the hill, were Ma and Pa were in the living room before the blazing fireplace, watching, for some reason, the Miss Universe pageant on TV. The three of us sat on the couch like See No, Hear No and Speak No, and giggled at the contestants' funny names. Meanwhile Pa, who had been everywhere and seen everything, cut his eyes at The Three Stooges. And to think that we honestly believed we had him fooled.

Speaking of Marijuana

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