My name is John Matthews. I owned 120 acres of Paradise Ridge and Bear Creek valley in the Whitethorn/ Shelter Cove area of Humboldt Co Ca. I grew weed on my property for my own medical purposes. I have been a consumer of marijuana since the early 1970s. I found that it helped me with my severe disability of PTSD and a thought disorder I was diagnosed with in 1975 that led to me being put into the SSI program for disabled persons who cannot qualify for regular employment. The Doctor JJ. Johnson concluded that I was unfit for regular employment and the duration was written as ‘Forever’. I was given a 215 by Doctor Hood at Redwood Rural Hospital in 1990 to legally prove that marijuana was medically necessary for my disability. I was told by Doctor Hood that it was the first 215 he had prescribed in Humboldt Co.
Over the thirteen years that me and my wife lived in Humboldt Co. on our land, we started to build a home and a family on our “Rancho”, as I called it. We lived in my old school bus with our three small children so far Jason, Jackson and Jolene. Very sadly I will say that we were pregnant seven times but we only have six children. In 1989 C.A.M.P was in full motion. Helicopters were flying over our house 40-50 ft. over head with armed officers hanging out the side every day of summer. My wife was four months pregnant with our fourth child and was terrified of the helicopters.
One summer day a C.A.M.P helicopter was flying low over our property, I started throwing rocks at them. My wife had been frantic over the men with guns flying over our three small children. She came out of our outhouse pale and staggering.
She had tears streaming down her face and she cried to me “Oh daddy we lost it, we lost our baby.” We both cried, I took my wife into our bus and I put her in our bed and covered her up while she sobbed.
Filled with rage I jumped on my motorcycle and rode up to the hilo port where C.A.M.P. Was landing there helicopters to unload the confiscated marijuana. I jumped off my bike, throwing it down, to confront the officer in charge of the operation Mike Downey. I screamed at him “ My wife just lost our child to your God damn helicopters and I consider that murder!” “Keep your mother fucking helicopters away from my house and my family or you will wish the hell you would have!” After that encounter, I was barraged with Sheriffs, BLM rangers, and Fish and Game Wardens. I was harassed until up to the day of my bust.
The morning of my bust I went into my patches to water, and was confronted with a person wearing complete camo. He did not identify himself and pulled a gun out. I took off running and about 50 yards down the trail I ran into a tree that had fallen in the past years storm. My glasses were knocked off my face. I was thrown to the ground by several officers in uniform and put in hand cuffs. While I was laying on the ground hand cuffed with my face in the dirt a young officer grabbed me by my hair and lifted my face up. He then filled my eyes and covered my face in pepper spray. When they were walking me back out we started to cross Bear Creek. I struggled loose to drop into the water in an attempt to wash my eyes out. My eyes and sinuses have been sorely affected ever since that day. The officers took me away from my home, leaving my family with no knowledge of what had happened. We didn’t have a telephone so I had to contact a friend in Eureka who had a telephone to drive to my land and get my family and tell them what happened.
They caught me with twenty plants all of which were not over a foot tall. The court later told me that the patch I was growing was not on my property but on BLM land that bordered my property and therefor was a federal offense.
On the transportation trip up to Eureka they stopped in at the con camp in Redway. Upon arriving I saw that a helicopter was landing. I asked the agent what the helicopter was there for. He said he was going to transport me to Eureka in the helicopter. I responded “No you’re fucking not, I don’t want to ride in your helicopters.” The officer replied. “You don’t have much of a choice being in chains.” I then said “I will bite you, I will bite all of you punks and you will die of blood poisoning.” I was then taken to Eureka by a van and put into processing.
One thing that stands out in my mind going into jail that day was when a very young officer who was maybe twenty one told me in a smug way “You have three strikes, you’ll never get out” I responded to that with “That’s what your mommy said.”
After I was released I went to a year’s worth of proceedings in which they were trying to determine my sentence. I was told at one point that I had one year to sell my property and move below the border of Santa Barbara for seven years of Felony probation. The final sentence that was given to me was seven years of Felony Probation, sell my property and move below the border of San Francisco.
The judge informed me at one point that BLM was interested in purchasing my property. I told the judge and the BLM Ranger that was present that I did not want the property to be in BLM hands. I told them I will donate it to Earth First or the Hells Angels, your choice. I could not find any private party to purchase my property. I ended up selling it for half the price I paid for it to an organization called Nature Conservancy. Who then immediately turned around and sold it to BLM.
I fixed up a 1954 decommissioned Chevy bread truck that was converted into an RV with an attached airstream trailer and moved my family South. I didn’t want to take my children to the streets of Los Angeles where I had spent a large part of my youth so I moved them to a town that I had lived in as a kid and teenager, a town called Ridgecrest California.
Ridgecrest was in the middle of the Mojave Desert with summers of 117deg. every day of August. I took my family back up to our old land about five times 500 miles each way to try and move as much of our stuff as possible but upon returning to my property I was devastated to find that many of my prized possessions had been stolen.
My two water tanks 1500 gal apiece, $750 apiece my 30ft radio tower $1,000, a 12ft x 12ft culvert $2,000, my cement mixer $1,000, 700ft of steel pipe $1,000 and three work trucks loaded with tools $5,000. Years later I was to find out that local people of the White thorn area were the thieves of my possessions, the local mill owners son. My bust cost me and my family our home, our happiness and my livelihood.
My bust destroyed everything I had bought and collected over the years and took away the land and house I had worked so hard to build as a legacy for my children. My land was my livelihood, my success. We were devastated and lost the love of life. My family has struggled ever since to find a place to call home. We never found another piece of land to purchase nothing could compare to Paradise Ridge Rancho.
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Image by Sharon Letts