I had the smuggler's blues that day, I guess.  We'd already driven thousands of miles with thousands more in front of us.  We'd hit the northern US border coming out of Canada, and thanks to mad cow disease, my wife very nearly got me in hot water.

She's a school teacher now, but thanks to the mad cow scare of 2004 my wife had me riding dirty and preparing for a run-in with a border agent.  If this was the Mexico/US border I might have had guns pulled on me.  This, however, was coming into the US from Canada.  Apparently, the only thing to be concerned about at the northern border is meat & Cubans.  Cigars, that is.

It started after losing a radio gig in the last frontier.  Anchorage, Alaska, as it turns out, is a little over 4,500 miles from Central Texas.  After securing a job back in Temple, it was a race to make it to Texas before the end of July.  If I started on July 31st, I'd get medical insurance for my young family a full 30 days sooner than if I started August 1st.

As we set out from Anchorage, we had a map, Yahoo! Maps directions and everything we could fit into a Dodge Durango & Ford Focus.  Everything else was sold at ridiculously low  "Oh God we've lost our jobs and have thousands of miles to drive to my next job" garage sale prices.

Getting into Canada was no problem at all.  I guess nobody really wants to go to Canada bad enough to do more than just ask a few questions.  After a few days in the Great White North (it was July) we'd made our way to the border entering Montana.

Of course, during our time in Canada we'd had a beautiful drive, beautiful weather, lots of wildlife, a busted eardrum (me) and a stop at a grocery store that included the purchase of the questionable meat.  I don't eat bologna.  It's Tennessee Flat-Steak and I just won't do it.  I used to love pulling that ring off the edge of the "meat" and using the string as a bit of meat floss in my teeth.

No more.  Once you learn what's in bologna, if you still eat it, you're insane.  No, I went with ham.  Not much better, I know.  A pig is a filthy animal, according to Samuel L. Jackson in Pulp Fiction.  Still, it's better than bologna mystery meat.  Other than being disgusted, I thought nothing further of it.  Until we got to the border.

I'd bought a Cuban cigar at a cigar shop close to the border and toked on that the whole way to the border.  Once there, we hit the duty-free shop for some Crown Royal and other goodies before hopping in line to cross into the greatest bastion of freedom in the known universe.  Give us your tired, your poor, your hungry... just make sure the hungry people aren't bringing in beef.

I had the (unknown) illegal stash in the ice chest sitting in the front seat of my Ford Focus, and I was the first in line.  I was the Bandit to my wife's Snowman.  After a few questions as to the "why" I was in Canada, I was asked if I had anything to declare.  I said, "Yes.  I love you".

Kidding.  I did tell the border agent I was carrying everything I owned on God's green earth, and it was going to be a long day if they wanted to search my car.  Asked about any food, fruits or veggies I had, I mentioned the lunch meat.  That's when the mood of the border crossing turned sour.

I thought I was gonna have to floor it and hope my Ford Focus was faster than the border agents' vehicles.  Luckily, it didn't go that far.  When he found out I had bologna (my wife's bologna, might I once again add), he informed me of the ban on beef from Canada because of the (then) recent Mad Cow scare.

I handed over the contraband and took the punishment I had coming to me for my crime of attempted smuggling:  A furrowed-brow on a border agent.  It still gives me chills just to think about.  It wasn't a Hollywood-style shootout or car chase, for which I'm thankful.  I'm also thankful my wife's lunch meat choice didn't get me put in Gitmo.  This WAS 2004, after all.  People were being flown to Cuba in the dead of the night and never heard from again.