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Down And Out In West Texas – The Terror Of Sierra Blanca Checkpoint

Fiona Apple After Hash Bust

It’s hard to know how close a friend Brian Keith Jones was to Nelly last week.  Or if he was a friend at all.  What it is possible to glean from reports however, is that he’s a damn good friend now.  And that he knows how to party.  After Nelly’s tour bus was boarded at Sierra Blanca, Jones took responsibility for ten pounds of weed, a handgun, and a little over a half ounce of horse that was broken up into easily distributable (and indictable) packets.  Nelly was detained, questioned, and subsequently released while Jones was booked on a likely harrowing list of charges.

Welcome to Sierra Blanca, Texas.  Population: Your ass.

Nelly’s new friend isn’t the only one.  Over the past couple of years, the Sierra Blanca Checkpoint has played the role of scourge to fun-appreciating musicians and friends who have made the mistake of skirting the borderlands in tour buses.

There’s no positive end to this article.  No pronouncements of injustice or authority to decry.  This is the story of a perfect conflagration of assholes, gathered together in the pungent, gaping asshole of These United States of America.

And that’s no hype, though the title has taken on a more figurative tone in the past decade.  But there was a time when the term was literal.  Booked under the watchful eyes of George W. Bush’s gubernatorial administration, from 1992 to 2001, Sierra Blanca played host to the nation’s largest sludge pond.  The sewage dump at Sierra Blanca imported steaming, rancid excrement from New York City by train, and enough animal manure to fill the Astrodome to the top with shit every three years (equal to one third of the Houston Astros’ yield over the same period).  When the children of Sierra Blanca started turning up with warts on their skin and blisters in their mouths, the public outrage could no longer be muffled by thickening clouds of methane, and the facility was mothballed, the town’s economy decimated.

Now the town is renowned for but one thing: The repeated busting of musicians on charges of drug possession.

If you are travelling East, getting busted in Sierra Blanca is likely the product of letting your guard down after achieving safe passage through the living precursor to Bartertown that is El Paso, Texas.  It is an understandable lapse in judgment, as passage through El Paso is a simple-yet-mindbending odyssey in and of itself.   But do not mark the achievement with a celebratory spliff, because the checkpoint is soon to follow.

Ask Fiona Apple, who was famously busted in Sierra Blanca just this past month while in possession of a small amount of hash and a disturbingly ugly shirt.  Apple’s run-in with Shittown’s finest resulted in a bizarre stage rant, in which she alluded to some type of impropriety on the behalf of the officers on duty that night, and claimed that she had all of their names as well as some type of figurative lock box in which the secrets of the evening’s proceeding’s were held, in the event that somebody cared enough to ask.

Incidentally, either nobody has, or Apple is full of shit.

Snoop Dogg

Or ask Snoop Lion, busted in Sierra Blanca back in January of this year when he was but a Dogg, found to be in possession of 14 grams of what I assume was some pretty decent weed.  Snoop, as he often will, told anyone who would listen that he had a prescription for the pot from California, but in Texas, there is only the Law of Texas.  Snoop was arrested for possession and subsequently released.

Then there was Willie.  Aw, Jesus, guys, Willie fucking Nelson?  Can’t give an old guy a break?

Willie Nelson

Nope.  America’s most reknowned and least repentant pothead was busted at Sierra Blanca back in 2010, to the surprise of absolutely nobody.  At the time, the Sheriff boasted that if Nelson were convicted and sentenced to serve time, that he would make Nelson cook and clean.  The arrest shed light on the possible abuse of search powers by the staff of the checkpoint, as its purpose is to police the trafficking of illegal aliens.  Nelson received a small fine for the conviction.

Moral of the story is as follows.  If you are traveling along the U.S.-Mexico border, you will pass checkpoints, and while the officers on duty at these checkpoints are charged primarily with hassling Mexicans, they are still cops. And cops will always find a way to search you, whether they have a legitimate reason or not.  Wait to smoke your weed until you are well out into the middle of the desert, or, if you are a person of some note, until you are out of Texas altogether.  And remember, just because you made it through El Paso doesn’t mean you’ve made it through Texas.  There’s puh-lenty more to come.

And if you are a border patrol officer, please remember that Willie Nelson is never going to go to prison for having weed in his possession.  He didn’t do time for tax evasion.  He’s not going down for a bent joint in a tour bus ashtray.  So stop it.   Let the man get on the road again.  It’s what he does.

About Josh Converse

+Josh Converse work has appeared in Crime Factory, Plots with Guns, Black Heart Magazine, Out Of the Gutter, and A Twist of Noir. He is the only person to have ever simultaneously held the WBO and WBC middleweight and welterweight titles without any witnesses. Josh can talk his way out of any situation, particularly when on the cusp of runaway success. In 2010, he was the recipient of Nick Tosches’ final apology. He lives and works and eats cereal in Chicago.

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