Hoxter's girlfriend was a stunner, and the happy couple was soon in Vancouver unloading 400 pounds of pot, which is how Hoxter met a friend of a friend nicknamed Art Nouveau, who became his partner in crime for the next 25 years. Thanks to his connections in Vancouver, a group of hippies who were the biggest pot dealers in British Columbia, Hoxter was never short of work when it came to smuggling weed. He spent most of the 1970s living off the grid at the Family's commune in Montana, raising chickens and pigs and running pot across the border, 1,000 pounds at a time. Every month, a truck would come from Southern California, full of marijuana from Mexico. Hoxter had a collection of U.S. Forest Service topographical maps and knew all the unused service roads that led to the Canadian border.

"On the maps, the roads ended at the border, but you knew they didn't really end but went straight into Canada," he explains. "All you had to do was choose one that would dump you out close to a paved road because once you were on the pavement, you could be anybody, even if you did have Montana plates, which was okay." While driving through people's farms on the way to the main road, Hoxter says, nobody seemed to mind as long as he remembered to shut their gates so their cows wouldn't wander off. Often, Hoxter would drive close enough to a farmhouse to actually see a farmer and his wife sitting at their dinner table, making eye contact with him in that subtle country manner. Not once did he forget to close a gate, nor did he ever cross paths with the Canadian border patrol.

A growing stack of bills from each successful sojourn, stashed in a hole in the ground under one of the houses, funded the Family's hardscrabble existence. If someone needed money to travel somewhere or buy groceries or supplies, Hoxter, who was known among members of the commune as "Controller," would simply disburse the cash on a case-by-case basis, using larger amounts to finance ever-larger marijuana shipments that were always being orchestrated either via the Brotherhood or directly from Mexico. The biggest Mexican load Hoxter ever handled was a seaborne haul, 3 tons of a 5-ton deal, put together with his friends in the Brotherhood, who provided a yacht to transport the weed from Mexico. But the pot almost never reached its destination because the yacht broke down.

Hoxter, a.k.a. “Controller,” now retired, in Long Beach
Eleonor Segura
Hoxter, a.k.a. “Controller,” now retired, in Long Beach

"The price for losing that load was our lives," Hoxter recalls, his voice suddenly catching in his throat. "The Mexicans would have killed us if we lost it." In fact, one of the crew members did lose his life, but that was before the boat broke its driveline. "One of the San Diego kids fell overboard on the trip north," Hoxter says. "I don't know how it happened. You're out there in the deep blue; it was nighttime. The captain said, 'We're not turning around. Sorry, but your friend is gone.'"

Hoxter had no choice but to fly back north, inform his friend's parents their son had died in a sailing accident, and then raise $33,000 to buy the spare parts for the boat, which sat useless in a Pacific Ocean port. Finally, he had to convince his girlfriend to let him strap her down with the cash, which he carefully wrapped around her torso after instructing her to look everyone in the eye and, when necessary, to flirt. Then he purchased airline tickets to fly her and her husband—yes, his girlfriend had a husband; this was the early 1970s after all—down to Mexico. The couple posed as newlyweds on honeymoon. Once they arrived in Mexico City, Hoxter's contacts delivered the money to the port where the boat was waiting. After the cash arrived, the parts were purchased, and the load miraculously arrived a few weeks later at an isolated beach on the U.S. Marine Corps base in Camp Pendleton. The spot was accessible by a dirt road and guarded only by a chain-link gate secured with a padlock. Hoxter and his cohorts used inflatable, motorized rafts to run the bundles of marijuana off the yacht and onto the beach; the haul filled up two Winnebago motor homes that Hoxter purchased, cash down, just to transport the goods.

Because the trip had taken a few months longer than projected, Hoxter ended up owing the Brotherhood some money, and to pay them off, he had no choice but to make a 1,000-pound run to Canada. Usually, that was no problem. However, now it was the dead of winter, and 14 feet of snow blanketed the border between Montana and Canada. The Forest Service had also blown up some of the decrepit bridges Hoxter had been using to run drugs and had even constructed giant earthen berms along the roads to prevent all but the foolhardiest four-wheel-drivers from attempting passage. Hoxter's solution, hitching trailers loaded with pot to a pair of snowmobiles, seemed to work until halfway up the mountain, when one of them busted a fan belt from the strain of carrying the heavy load.

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