Punching the Clock: Pulling weed

So as I sat groggy-eyed at 6 a.m. pondering over what would be appropriate drug-bust attire, I knew that by the end of the day, if nothing else, it was sure to be interesting.

The Chenango County Sheriff’s Office granted me permission to shadow lead detective Sgt. Richard Cobb Tuesday as he and two other officers, Detective John Fern and Detective Gerald E. Parry, investigated a report involving a marijuana growing operation in the remote forests of McDonough.

There were a number of early signs that had raised my excitement as I prepared for the occasion. The first was Cobb telling that fluid scheduling made the date difficult to plan ahead. All I really knew was that it would be sometime this week, probably.

I asked the second of three questions, “OK, Rich. What should I wear?”

“Something you don’t mind getting covered in mud,” he replied.

“And what are we going to be doing exactly?”

“I’m not sure if I can really tell you a lot of details, but we’ll be basically looking for marijuana activity.”

“OK, Rich, see you tomorrow,” and I hung up the phone.

Like I said, very good Punching the Clock omens. I had no idea that exactly 24 hours later, I’d be making my way through thick brush, pushing aside dozens of six- to eight-foot tall marijuana plants.

The day began with the three detectives toiling over county tax maps, aerial photography and topographical layout.

“We just got a tip this morning of some possible activity here and here,” Cobb explained to me, his finger on an aerial photograph pointing to tiny bright green dots among the larger and paler shades of pine, maple and grass.

Cobb said they’d been tipped off to the operation by a pilot, who had prior law enforcement experience and training in spotting illegal plants from the air.

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