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Contrabando: Confessions of a Drug-Smuggling Texas Cowboy Paperback – June 27, 2006

4.5 out of 5 stars 22 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"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 he’s 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 1984—the opening shot in the war on drugs—but before that act was implemented." —Austin-American Statesman

"The really remarkable thing about Ford and his book isn’t so much the experiences he’s 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, I’m glad I know his story, since if I didn’t get it for Ford, from the voice on the edge, I-we- on the inside wouldn’t get it all, and this story 'about a world gone mad' is one we need to know." —Outlander's Voice
--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

About the Author

p>Don Henry Ford, Jr., served five years in a maximum security federal penitentiary. He now lives with his wife, Leah, in Seguin, Texas, farming, raising racehorses, and writing.


Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; Reprint edition (June 27, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060883103
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060883102
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,191,386 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Molly Molloy on January 20, 2005
Format: Hardcover
In Contrabando, Don Henry Ford tells the story of his 10 years as a marijuana smuggler on the Texas-Coahuila border. He recounts a period of his life that reveals the prehistory of the border drug trade. As a freelancer, Ford brushed up against the likes of Pablo Acosta and Amado Carrillo, but in contrast to their star power, he remained in the shadows.

This book does not pussyfoot around the hard facts of the drug business and the economic ruin that forces so many into it, in both Mexico and the United States. Some will say that the things in this book can't be true, but that is because they don't go there. Some people DO go there, but Don Henry Ford is the only one to come back to write about it.

And he can really write! Like earth smells--beans frying in lard over a wood fire, coffee under crystal stars, green-sweet stickiness as he pinches seed heads on a crop, dank ruin as storms strip $600,000 of ripe cotton from its stalks, the hard rush of ozone and adrenalin as he pulls his daughters from an angry river in flood, blood-in-the-mouth fear in a dealer's motel room or a Mexican cave or a federal prison cell. And the warmth of caring for people and horses and making things grow. He's a writer who lives and breathes grit and blood and life itself.

And it's hard to argue with a witness like Don Henry Ford, a man who spent years enmeshed in the dark entrails of the business. And lived to tell the tale.
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Format: Hardcover
Contrabando is a real life account of a Texas cowboy/farmer who began smuggling to save the farm. It escalates quickly into tales of murder, danger, corruption, and hilarity. There are many characters that settle in the badlands and their stories are told without judgement or prejudice here. The book is an easy read yet precisely descriptive. The author paints beautiful pictures of the almost uninhabitable deserts and mountains of Texas and Mexico. Throughout the book are incredible tales of survival and an informal philosophical commentary which really helps one to understand the mechanics of the drug trade. This book offers a perspective seldom heard which is the true force of human nature. This natural human survival is pointedly at odds with societal and governmental policies concrning the drug trade. That conflict is addressed honestly and without moral judgement in the book.
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Format: Hardcover
I was witness to part of what Don wrote and having read Contrabandos, can testify to its accuracy. Any errors are only those of perspective, because we all see events in a slightly different light. Ms. Kirkpatrick reviews the book as fiction. I can assure you that it is not. A 'Mule' only recieves a fee for his services and is notinvolved in any other part of the business. If anything, this book lacked space to tell much more of the story as it happened.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Day before yesterday, I received a couple of copies of Contrabando, the original hard-backed version. For whatever reason, I picked up the book and began reading. It's been long enough that it was almost, (but not entirely), like reading the work of another.

I felt like I needed a marking pencil. The writing is stilted and disjointed in places. I found repititions. Inaccuracies. But the story behind the words still has value. It's a flawed depiction taken from the front lines of this so-called war on drugs which is really a war on people. A flawed version of one that has actually been there is better than a well written version of those that have not.

Stephen King compared the skills needed to write a book to a box of tools. He went on to say if a person has a good story, they can write a decent book with a minimal amount of tools

I wrote Contrabando with a hammer, a crescent wrench, a pair of vice grips and a single slot bladed screw driver. I needed more tools.

I won't try to rewrite the book. Life has moved on; I've better and more timely subjects to address.

Ray Wylie Hubbard once said, be careful about the song you write because you might still be singing it thirty years later. To this day, Ray gets requests to sing up against the wall red-neck mother, quite possibly the worst song he ever wrote.

I know how he feels.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Once I started reading, I couldn't put it down and I did not until I finished it. Knowing the background of the hard-working people he came from and growing up in that same era and areas, it was like peering in a window and watching another world that I had only heard about whispered with girlfriends. I am grateful for the glimpse from Mr. Ford, as I know how painful the retelling must be for all, and hopefully cathartic as well. I could not imagine living in that drug culture or being a part of that desperation, growing up a wide-eyed and naive small-town girl at that time. I only knew the rumors of those that did, somewhat in awe at their audacity, like local versions of a forbidden rock star in some ways. What a tough character he was and a parents nightmare! The high stress of living such a life would seem to exact a heavy toll and the authors words conveyed a dilemma of ethics in a world where little seemed to exist. Yet I found myself oddly cheering him on and wanting him to succeed and be redeemed in the end, not admiring the lifestyle but appreciating the experience without having to live it. I felt for his family and children and all they must have endured. I was sad when the book ended as I felt there should be a neat and happy ending somehow, and hope it is as best it can be. The reader is left with a sense of lessons learned and regrets to overcome from the author (maybe part two?), yet a hope for a better life for he and his family. Good luck to the author and his family and I looking forward to reading some of his other books.
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