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Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group
Saltwater Cowboy

Saltwater Cowboy

The Rise and Fall of a Marijuana Empire

Tim McBride with Ralph Berrier, Jr.

St. Martin's Press


In 1979, Wisconsin native Tim McBride hopped into his Mustang and headed south. He was twenty-one, and his best friend had offered him a job working as a crab fisherman in Chokoloskee Island, a town of fewer than 500 people on Florida's Gulf Coast. Easy of disposition and eager to experience life at its richest, McBride jumped in with both feet.

But this wasn't a typical fishing outfit. McBride had been unwittingly recruited into a band of smugglers--middlemen between a Colombian marijuana cartel and their distributors in Miami. His elaborate team comprised fishermen, drivers, stock houses, security--seemingly all of Chokoloskee Island was in on the operation. As McBride came to accept his new role, tons upon tons of marijuana would pass through his hands.

Then the federal government intervened in 1984, leaving the crew without a boss and most of its key players. McBride, now a veteran smuggler, was somehow spared. So when the Colombians came looking for a new middle-man, they turned to him.

McBride became the boss of an operation that was ultimately responsible for smuggling 30 million pounds of marijuana. A self-proclaimed "Saltwater Cowboy," he would evade the Coast Guard for years, facing volatile Colombian drug lords and risking betrayal by romantic partners until his luck finally ran out.

A tale of crime and excess, Saltwater Cowboy is the gripping memoir of one of the biggest pot smugglers in American history.


After a three-hour workout, I tossed a towel over my shoulder, picked up my water jug, and went for a walk to cool down.

Finding an empty bench was rare at that time of the evening, so when I saw one, I sat...

Praise for Saltwater Cowboy

“A wild and entertaining true story by one of the biggest pot haulers in American history. Speedboat chases, women, Colombian mansions--Tim McBride's tale of excess is a thrill to read.” —Bruce Porter, New York Times bestselling author of Blow

“A saga of big risk and big reward within the romanticized pirate life of marijuana smugglers along the Florida Coast... An up-and-down true story about a time and place that has inspired plenty of fiction.” —Kirkus

“Chapters alternate between McBride's rise as a smuggler and his years of jailhouse blues. In both milieus he provides vibrant sketches of characters and situations, including a business trip via private jet to the mansion of a paranoid Colombian cartel boss. The best writing depicts the funky community of his sheltered corner of the Everglades, a seeming paradise where a big family of rednecks, fishermen, and freaks put one over on the feds.” —Publishers Weekly


Reviews from Goodreads

Tim McBride with Ralph Berrier, Jr.

Tim McBride went from small-town pothead to one of the most prolific pot haulers in American history, before being sentenced to ten years in prison for presiding over a drug-smuggling empire. Today he is a site construction superintendent and is a father of two. He lives on the Gulf Coast of Florida.
Ralph Berrier, Jr. is a veteran journalist and the author of If Trouble Don't Kill Me: A Family's Story of Brotherhood, War, and Bluegrass.

Tim McBride

St. Martin's Press

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