Synopses & Reviews
Don Henry Ford, Jr. is a Texas cowboy, rancher and farmer. In the late 1970s, he was foreman of his father’s ranch and farm in West Texas along the Pecos River. The ranch was going broke. The bankers were knocking at the door. Don went to his Mexican hands, the same guys who were the connection for his own marijuana--smoking inclinations, and they directed him to their contacts on the other side of the Rio Grande. Soon, he was scoring some easy money and he was hooked. For the next seven years, he made his living as an outlaw, smuggling marijuana across the U.S./Mexico border in the Big Bend region. Millions of dollars passed through his hands. He did business with many of the big-name narcotraficantes of the era like Pablo Acosta and Amado Carrillo Fuentes. After being arrested and sent to prison, he escaped and lived for a year in rural northern Mexico, raising a bumper crop of marijuana and hiding out from the federales. Contrabando is a confession, but it’s also an homage to the Mexican paisanos and, indeed, to other outlaws north of the border who became Don Ford’s friends and protectors during his seven years as a smuggler.
Charles Bowden (author of Down by the River, Simon and Schuster, 2003) has written a remarkable introduction to Contrabando, giving an historical perspective to the never-ending “war on drugs” waged by the U.S. government.
In December 1986, the feds caught Don Henry Ford a second time. He was sentenced to 15 years in a maximum security federal penitentiary. He now lives in Seguin, Texas, farming and raising race horses.
"Don Henry is a warrior; and he's the real deal. He's a wonderful writer; and he carries some secrets in his back pocket some people wish he wouldn't bring out. Bring it, Mr. Ford." —Luis Alberto Urrea
"Don Ford snaps out, 'I thought [the drug smuggling] was a way to break the chains. I didn't want to shoot or kill anyone or have a violent overthrow of the government. I just wanted to steal a little wealth.' " —Charles Bowden
"[Ford] sees that continuing war as a farce, a squandering of tax dollars and human lives. That, Ford says, is why hes speaking out about his experiences…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 1984the opening shot in the war on drugsbut before that act was implemented." —Austin-American Statesman
"The really remarkable thing about Ford and his book isnt so much the experiences hes had…but rather the humanity and philosophical distance he maintains while having them. His sympathy for the plight of the working poor and disenfranchised, regardless of class, color, or country; his distaste for the indifference of the rich and the laws that favor them; his ability to step back and view the larger universe of the war on drugs, and his role in it, through the lens of a class-conscious, homegrown philosophy: They all mark him as a decent man." —The Austin Chronicle
"Don Henry Ford, author of Contrabando: Confessions of a Drug-Smuggling Texas Cowboy, said Mexico's drug economy has multiplied since the 1980s, when he smuggled marijuana. 'The money is just too big now,' he said." —Dallas Morning News
"Ford persevered for a number of reasons. 'I knew most of the people involved would not like what I had to say. The thought occurred that I might endanger myself and others. But I knew all of us had been damaged from our involvement in this business and that others are now in similar situations and must know the reality of this business,' he wrote. Ford thinks his story is worth telling in light of the ever-increasing war on drugs." —The Monitor
"Don Henry Ford, Jr. shows us first-hand what it was like smuggling dope across the Rio Grande. Lucky he's not dead. Reading this book will make you so high, you'll need a stepladder to scratch your ass." —Kinky Friedman
"Macho adventures aside, Ford also describes a life of double-crosses and dead friends, of battered whores and dirty cops, of ruined marriages and lost kids…He writes with remorse, loss and sadness…Contrabando is the real thing, a drug book by a smuggler who lived to tell the tale." —San Antonio Express-News
"Ford, 48, retraces his life as a marijuana smuggler in the Big Bend region in Contrabando: Confessions of a Drug-Smuggling Texas Cowboy. Ford describes Contrabando as a story about victims and survivors in the multibillion-dollar illicit drug trade, a story about ordinary people along the border who often get squeezed into smuggling or dealing drugs in poor towns like Balmorhea, Texas." —El Paso Times
"Contrabando is not written in the erudite prose of a commercial-media slickster who observes life from a perch. But it is a gritty work of nonfiction drawn from the gut of a cowboy who has lived his story."—Narco News
"All in all, Im glad I know his story, since if I didnt get it for Ford, from the voice on the edge, I-we- on the inside wouldnt get it all, and this story 'about a world gone mad' is one we need to know." —Outlander's Voice
Don Ford describes his seven years smuggling marijuana from Mexico across the Rio Grande.
About the Author
Don Henry Ford, Jr. grew up in West Texas on the ranches of his father and grandfather. His dream was to become a rancher and farmer, but as a young man, he became a drug smuggler and was eventually busted and sent to prison. He was incarcerated for 10 years. He now is a writer and a rancher, raising race horses in Seguin, Texas. Infamous journalist (GQ, Esquire, Harper's, etc) and non-fiction author of Down by the River: Drugs, Money, Family and Murder (Simon and Schuster); Juarez: A Laboratory of the Future (Aperture); Blues for Cannibals: Notes from the Underground (North Point Press); etc. Lives in Tucson, AZ.