Written by Peter Hecht for The Kansas City Star.
Out of work and angry after the worst years of his life, David Winkle didn’t have to look far from his property in Humboldt County to see his comeback.
Beneath old growth forests in the Mad River Valley, in a town that had witnessed the decline of the timber industry, “everyone around me was growing weed and making good money, too,” he said.
So in 2009, after the cancer death of his wife of 13 years, after his double hip-replacement surgery, after the economic downturn drove him out of the construction business, Winkle, then 53, decided to reinvent himself – as a marijuana grower and drug trafficker called “Papa Winks.”
To conceal his dealings, Winkle created Blue Lake Fishing Products, a phony company that was shipping pallets – marked as bait and tackle but packed with pot – to drug dealers in New York.
“Dave didn’t just want to grow a little weed for himself,” said Winkle’s close friend Terry Wold, 62. “He wanted to make some money on it. … He was good at it. He was a hell of a salesman.”
“I was taking on a personality,” Winkle said. “I’m walking around with $10,000 in my pocket, thinking I’m pretty, pretty important. I’m one of the guys from Humboldt now. And it is going to my head.”