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February 2014

Don Ford Former Drug Smuggling Cowboy

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Don Ford Confessions and Contrabando By Patrick Beach

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hese days there’s a barbecue joint near the intersection of two rural roads between Seguin and Gonzales where, the story goes, highwaymen used to lie in wait for travelers to rob. “Now,” Don Henry Ford Jr., says with a dusty chuckle, “it’s the highway patrol.” With all due respect to Texas’ law enforcement community, Ford sees the roles of cops and robbers as much more nuanced than white hats and black hats. Moral absolutes are at times hard to come by in the real, complicated world. Temptation is a chronic tap on the shoulder, good guys can get compromised and outlaws have at least the potential for noble and generous acts. Whether it’s yesterday’s highwaymen or today’s speed-trap highway patrol, somebody’s taking tolls. Ford is 48 years old. With his hat and Wranglers and sun-cured neck, he looks like a cowboy, which he is. He does not look like a former dope smuggler who says he did business with Amado Carrillo Fuentes -the biggest drug lord in the world until his death on a plastic-surgery table in Mexico in 1997 -- and tells tales of trading shots with notorious narcotrafficker Pablo Acosta’s men. Tens of millions of dollars and tons of marijuana passed through Ford’s hands. He says he extravagantly entertained prostitutes, once gave a pretty girl $3,000 in cash for looking at him in just the right way, broke out of prison, lived underground in Mexico, grew his own dope crop and very nearly got away with it. The sometimes-bronc rider grew up mostly in West Texas and spent much of the ‘80s riding an even wilder and more deadly beast, a worldwide drug economy estimated these days at close to half a trillion dollars every year. “This business kills just about everybody

in it,” he says, sitting in his family’s 600-acre spread near Belmont and that infamous highway intersection, where he runs cattle and raises hay. “But it doesn’t kill the business.” And that, Ford says, is the bitter and unlearned lesson in the two-decade war on drugs. He sees that continuing war as a farce, a squandering of tax dollars and human lives. That, Ford says, is why he’s speaking out about his experiences. That, Ford says, is why he wrote “Contrabando: Confessions of a Drug-Smuggling Texas Cowboy,” published by El Paso’s Cinco Puntos Press. The book is an unflinching document of high times and high terror in the dope trade, of getting caught just after Congress passed the Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984 -- the opening shot in the war on drugs -- but before that act was implemented. State laws followed. The cumulative effect was “three strikes and you’re out,” a sharp curtailing of judges’ discretion -some of it since restored -- and mandatory federal sentencing minimums. The result: The United States now has not only the largest prison population in the world but the largest per-capita prison population. At any given time, more than half of that population is in for drug offenses. Ford is 48 years old. With his hat and Wranglers and sun-cured neck, he looks like a cowboy, which he is. He does not look like a former dope smuggler who says he did business with Amado Carrillo Fuentes -- the biggest drug lord in the world until his death on a plastic-surgery table in Mexico in 1997 -- and tells tales of trading shots with notorious narcotrafficker Pablo Acosta’s men. The sometimes-bronc rider grew up mostly in West Texas and spent much of the ‘80s riding an even wilder and more deadly beast,

“This business kills just

about everybody in it”

February 2014

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highway intersection, where he runs cattle and raises hay. “But it doesn’t kill the business.” nd that, Ford says, is the bitter and unlearned lesson in the two-decade war on drugs. He sees that continuing war as a farce, a squandering of tax dollars and human lives. That, Ford says, is why he’s speaking out about his experiences. That, Ford says, is why he wrote “Contrabando: Confessions of a Drug-Smuggling Texas Cowboy,” published by El Paso’s Cinco Puntos Press. The book is an unflinching document of high times and high terror in the dope trade, of getting caught just after Congress passed the Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984 -- the opening shot in the war on drugs -- but before that act was implemented. State laws followed. The cumulative effect was “three strikes and you’re out,” a sharp curtailing of judges’ discretion -some of it since restored -- and mandatory federal sentencing minimums.The result: The United States now has not only the largest prison population in the world but the largest per-capita prison population. At any given time, more than half of that population is in for drug offenses. Ford is 48 years old. ith his hat and Wranglers and sun-cured neck, he looks like a cowboy, which he is. He does not look like a former dope smuggler

A Contrabando

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hese days there’s a barbecue joint near the intersection of two rural roads between Seguin and Gonzales where, the story goes, highwaymen used to lie in wait for travelers to rob. “Now,” Don Henry Ford Jr., says with a dusty chuckle, “it’s the highway patrol.” With all due respect to Texas’ law enforcement community, Ford sees the roles of cops and robbers as much more nuanced than white hats and black hats. Moral absolutes are at times hard to come by in the real, complicated world. Temptation is a chronic tap on the shoulder, good guys can get compromised and outlaws have at least the potential for noble and generous acts. Whether it’s yesterday’s highwaymen or today’s speed-trap highway patrol, somebody’s taking tolls. Ford is 48 years old. With his hat and Wranglers and sun-cured neck, he looks like a cowboy, which he is. He does not look like

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February 2014

a former dope smuggler who says he did business with Amado Carrillo Fuentes -the biggest drug lord in the world until his death on a plastic-surgery table in Mexico in 1997 -- and tells tales of trading shots with notorious narcotrafficker Pablo Acosta’s men. Tens of millions of dollars and tons of marijuana passed through Ford’s hands. He says he extravagantly entertained prostitutes, once gave a pretty girl $3,000 in cash for looking at him in just the right way, broke out of prison, lived underground in Mexico, grew his own dope crop and very nearly got away with it. The sometimes-bronc rider grew up mostly in West Texas and spent much of the ‘80s riding an even wilder and more deadly beast, a worldwide drug economy estimated these days at close to half a trillion dollars every year. “This business kills just about everybody in it,” he says, sitting in his family’s 600-acre spread near Belmont and that infamous

Blue Collar

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who says he did business with Amado Carrillo Fuentes -- the biggest drug lord in the world until his death on a plastic-surgery table in Mexico in 1997 -- and tells tales of trading shots with notorious narcotrafficker Pablo Acosta’s men. The sometimes-bronc rider grew up mostly in West Texas and spent much of the ‘80s riding an even wilder and more deadly beast, the biggest drug lord in the world until his death on a plastic-surgery table in Mexico in 1997 -- and tells tales of trading shots with notorious narcotrafficker Pablo Acosta’s men.


Chloe Harlig     Cover  Rationale:     Based  on  the  picture  package,  I  decided  to  create  a  Western  theme  for  my  magazine.   I  used  the  font  “Saddlebag”  for  my  logo  because  the  design  of  the  characters  goes   with  the  Western  vibe  of  my  magazine.  For  the  headlines  of  my  cover  copy,  I  used   the  font  “Mesquite”  also  because  of  the  embellished  design  of  the  letters.  I  wanted  to   use  an  easy-­‐to-­‐read  font  for  my  copy  so  I  went  with  a  serif  font,  “Rockwell.”  I   decided  that  if  this  magazine  were  to  be  published  monthly,  I  would  change  the   color  of  the  logo  based  on  the  main  visual  image.  I  liked  the  contrast  between  the   subject’s  denim  vest  and  the  deep  red  color  and  it  also  adds  to  the  Western/”all-­‐ American”  theme  of  the  magazine.  I  wanted  to  make  sure  that  each  corner  of  the   cover  is  visually  balanced  and  appealing  so  I  placed  the  logo  in  the  upper-­‐left   because  it  should  be  the  most  dominating  element  of  the  cover  aside  from  the  photo.   I  placed  both  my  cover  copy  items  on  the  right  side  to  create  a  consistent  look  and  to   keep  the  cover  organized  and  clutter-­‐free.  The  placement  of  the  bar  code  in  the   lower-­‐left  corner  makes  it  subtler  and  even  though  it  is  necessary,  it  is  not  too   overwhelming.  Also,  the  issue  date  in  the  upper-­‐right  corner  balances  out  the  other   elements  and  is  small  enough  where  it  is  not  the  main  focus  of  attention.  The  copy  I   used  on  the  cover  seems  appealing  to  the  audience  and  has  an  element  of  intrigue.  I   think  that  my  font  choices  help  to  reveal  the  types  of  articles  a  reader  can  expect  in   my  magazine  without  having  to  open  it  up.       Layout  Rationale:     I  decided  to  use  the  font  “Rockwell”  for  the  headlines  of  my  layout  in  various   weights  and  styles.  For  the  main  headline,  I  pulled  the  color  out  of  the  horse  statue   to  create  a  cohesive  look  and  it  compliments  the  color  of  his  denim  shirt  nicely.  I  put   the  pull  quote  in  the  middle  of  the  columns  because  it  grabs  the  attention  of  the   reader  but  still  makes  it  able  for  them  to  smoothly  read  the  story.  The  placement  of   the  folio  in  the  lower  corner  of  the  pages  includes  the  page  number  and  volume.  I   like  the  dramatic  look  of  making  the  first  letter  of  each  paragraph  large  and  colored   to  emphasis  the  start  of  a  new  section.  The  placement  of  the  captions  in  the  corner   of  the  pictures  allows  the  reader  to  notice  the  captions  but  not  take  away  from  the   effect  of  the  photo.  Also,  I  decided  to  make  the  up-­‐close  photo  of  him  bleed  to  create   a  polished  look.  I  chose  to  place  the  photo  of  Don  Ford  with  his  horse  on  the  top  left   part  of  my  second  page  spread  because  it  creates  a  leading  lines  effect,  which  draws   the  viewer  to  the  next  page,  which  is  a  new  paragraph.  Also,  I  chose  to  use  the   photos  of  Ford  on  the  right  page  looking  to  the  left  because  it  gives  the  page  a  sense   of  closure  and  makes  the  reader’s  eyes  stay  towards  the  left  and  center  of  the  page   (where  the  story  is)  which  is  the  most  important.  

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