Lakeland Realtor Trent Saunders has written a series of comic books titled "Cocaine Cowboys." The books are based on stories that ranchers from central Florida told him about cocaine smuggling back in the 1980s. The drug smugglers used grass airstrips on ranches to fly in the drugs.
- Lakeland Realtor writes 'Cocaine Cowboys' comics
- Comics based on 1980s drug smuggling on Polk ranches
- Drug runners used ranchers property to smuggle cocaine
“They’ve got absolutely crazy stories and it might not have been them. It might have been the previous owner or two owners before that. But every property has a story," he said.
Saunders' specialty as a Realtor is selling ranches. He says part of the folklore is that some ranchers looked the other way when the drug runners were using their property.
“People were flying in cocaine and dropping it on the property and rather than confronting them they were just, 'okay just leave something sitting there for me and you guys can take it and leave. Just don’t mess with my cattle. Don’t cut my fences.'”
Polk County sheriff Grady Judd was a deputy back then. He was involved in many drug busts involving the "Cocaine Cowboys."
“We would lay out on grass strips with semi-automatic and fully automatic--at the time--firearms to catch the plane and catch the dope. Sometimes we got the plane and the dope," he said. "Sometimes the plane only circled and kicked the dope onto the strip.”
Judd has a folder of pictures and newspaper headlines of the drug busts in Polk County. Some of the busts involved more than a hundred million dollars worth of cocaine. Judd confirmed the idea that some ranchers were involved. "Well, because we arrested some of them," he said.
The "Cocaine Cowboys" comics is not meant to glamorize the drug running. “The cocaine cowboys story ends in death and chaos and I chose to write it that way because the real life story ended and everyone is either dead or in jail," said Saunders.