In the news recently was a report about massive US budget cuts that will impact the Beyond the Border pact between Canada and the US. Big headaches all around and long lineups are forecast.
All this hullaballoo about getting across the border brought to mind a story of a bizarre but hilarious incident that I was involved in back in 1969 down in Eureka, Montana. If this same story were to happen today I would have been locked up for a long time.
First of all I should tell you that if you were to go back to the late 1960’s you would find that the Roosville border crossing was naught but a small building with a simple window facing west that you pulled up to as you headed north. A single inspector generally peered out at you and asked what you had been up to and usually waved you on.
So back on Easter Sunday in 1969 I and my favourite drinking companion decided to head to Eureka for a few cold ones. Why we went there was because nothing was open in Alberta or BC on a Sunday but a hotel bar in downtown Eureka sure was and it had lots of ice cold draft. We rolled into town that sunny Easter day in his 1962 MGB and had a real good time whooping it up at the local saloon. There was a young gal in the bar that took a fancy to us later on in the day and we were buying drinks all around.
So about 5:30 that afternoon we realized that the border would be closing shortly and that if we didn’t get across in time we would be stuck in Eureka until the next morning. Yup, that’s right folks, the border closed at 6pm back then. We were out of money anyways so we hopped into the old MGB to head north.
Well it seems that Eureka gal done followed us out there and promptly plopped herself down onto the trunk with her feet resting on the floor behind the seats and said: “Where we goin’ boys? The driver, now three sheets to the wind, said: “Back to Canada” and popped the clutch on that roadster which promptly sent Ms. Eureka 1969 flying off the back, landing on her rear end on the pavement.
On looking back we really should have tended to her but just at that moment a couple of the mean looking locals walked out of the bar, saw what had transpired and hollered: “Let’s get them Crazy Canucks!” So instead we took off. It wasn’t long before we noted an old pickup chasing after us at a high rate of speed as we raced for the border. The driver pushed his hot MGB for all its worth and the pickup dropped way back as we sped north with the clock ticking.
On arriving at the border we pulled up abruptly, right under the window at the customs shack. Finally a slow moving, disinterested grey haired old codger peered out at us as we sat in the topless MGB peering nervously behind us for that truckload of hopped up locals to appear. Surely we thought as he looked down at us he could see there was only the two of us in the car and nothing else evident to the eye. No booze, no packages etc.
It was then that he just wandered away from the window into his little office and left us anxiously waiting and waiting for him to give us the okay. After about ten minutes or so the driver decided what the hell, he can see we are clean and once again took off. At the time it occurred to me that this might not be such a good idea but the fermented juice had clouded our judgement substantially. I recall hearing what I thought was a very faint siren sound as we charged north but thought nothing of it.
Just about at Grasmere I spotted an RCMP cruiser coming south at a really high rate of speed and realized we were in trouble, big time. He knew what he was looking for and as he blew past us I saw over my shoulder that he was doing a hand brake high speed turn on the highway. I chose that exact moment to reach under the seat, grab that bottle of Canadian vodka, and fire it into the ditch, thinking he would not see me do this.
I then said to the driver: “We better pull over fast!” The cruiser pulled up behind us and announced over a speaker that we should get out of the car right now and put our hands on the hood and not to dare move. The officer was kind of irate and curtly told me to go sit in the back of the cruiser and told the driver to get into his car and drive back to the border. Holy Crap we were in it deep now.
It was amazing how quickly we sobered up as we returned to face the old border inspector. The MGB got a real good going over but of course there was nothing in it but us two fools. So then there was the business of the fines. Now you can imagine if this had happened today we would both still be bustin’ rocks out in the Montana foothills on a chain gang. But times were not quite so tense back then so it went as follows. I was issued a $50 fine for litterin’ cause the officer saw me throw the bottle. The driver got a $35 fine for running the border!
Problem was we had no money left so the driver asked if he could write a cheque. The old codger noted his last name and then asked if he had relatives in Cranbrook that ran a trucking company to which he replied yes. Miracle of miracles, he then said: “Well if you ain’t good for the cheque your uncle probably is”. And that was that. No impaired charges, no hand cuffs and mercifully no body cavity searches.
Author’s Note: It occurred to me that this article might appear to present me in an irresponsible light. This happened a long time ago and like most others I came very soon after that to understand just how wrong and dangerous it is to drink and drive. I also respect the important work that customs people do as the world is a vastly different place.