Grandpappy Skunk Seeds are now available at Santa Cruz Naturals, in Aptos @ 9077 Soquel Dr., and in Pajaro @ 19 San Juan Rd.
Skunk City… the legend of the lost skunk
By Richard Stockton – (first published in Cannabis Chronicle Magazine December, 2021.)
A woman walks towards me on Seabright Avenue in Santa Cruz. She is fastidiously buttoned up and well heeled, she carries a tiny dog, clearly from out of town. She stops me, “Do you live here?”
I say, “Yes I do ma’am, how may I help you?”
“Well, I love Santa Cruz. But I do not understand why everywhere I go in this town I smell skunks. I do not see them, but I smell skunks everywhere here.”
I nod, “They’re shy. They like to stay in the backyard.”
The pungent Skunk strain of cannabis is the legendary genetic building block of thousands of strains produced today. What most folks – even locals – don’t know is that Skunk cannabis was first developed and grown in Santa Cruz County 50 years ago.
I tend to miss the most obvious connections. In the late 70s, long before I heard of Santa Cruz being epicenter of the Skunk cannabis growing world, I briefly served as a singer and guitar player for a country rock band called The Skunk Band. We opened for Larry Hosford.
When I asked the Skunk Band’s leader where they got the band name he handed me a joint. I still didn’t get it. I was all in on being a hippie but was stupidly naïve. While I was too innocent and dense to appreciate the name of the band I did appreciate how I played my guitar on their pungent weed – it gave me an uncanny ability to focus on detail. I could look at the fret board of my guitar and see all the notes like they were laid out on the keyboard of a piano. Transposing a complex guitar part to a different key was effortless. Man did their weed smell. My stint with The Skunk Band faded from memory and I forgot about them and their weed for forty years. Then I met Wayne.
In 2018 I moved to the south Santa Cruz county town of Watsonville when I found a farm out in the vineyards that let me set my Airstream trailer up for a Santa Cruz county crash pad. I became friends with Wayne. Wayne would not stop rattling on about his frozen weed seeds. At first it all sounded like stoner-babble but little by little his ramblings about his seeds and some character he called Sam The Skunkman began to form a larger tale. I started researching the story of the legendary Sam The Skunkman. Wayne’s story turned out to be true.
It went like this: In 1978 Wayne bought 100 seeds of Flying Skunk from Sacred Seeds. He paid $1 a seed from a guy named David Watson who developed the cannabis seed strain in Watsonville and later started calling himself Sam The Skunkman.
But life happened and Wayne could not grow out the seeds. He read on the back of the seed package that they would keep much longer if they were frozen and that’s what Wayne did, he froze all one hundred seeds. Like Bilbo Baggins’ obsession with The Ring, Wayne never could stop talking about his frozen seeds.
My All-Encompassing Disclaimer
In researching this story of the first Skunk strain and Sacred Seeds, I spoke with three Santa Cruz seed producers from the seventies about Skunk – and I got three different stories. All I know for certain is that these guys can smoke me under the table.
I have no idea if the controversial Sam The Skunkman is a genetics genius, a marketing genius, a benevolent scientist or a fast talking opportunist. Maybe he is all of those. His story has become legend and while we may each believe different portions of it, I take the legend itself as a tale of folklore for our times. Whether you accept Sam The Skunkman’s story as Johnny Appleweed or not, he did create the first cannabis seed company in the country, called Sacred Seeds. The seeds he sold in 1978 were called Flying Skunk, a strain that became the building block for thousands of strains we grow today. He did escape the clutches of the law and steal back his seeds. And we know that the first strain of Skunk was lost.
Roots of Skunk
The legend goes that before he took his seeds to Amsterdam in 1982 and became Sam the Skunkman, our hero called himself David Watson. (Hmm… a pot head dodging the law to grow a plant that is a felony moves to Watsonville and calls himself Watson. Sure, why not?) His former associate Phil Noland tells me Watson used a tiny greenhouse 10 feet by 20 feet in the 70s to combine Columbian seeds (sativa) with Afghani, Pakistani and Indian seeds to bring down the enormous height of his pure sativa plant and mitigate the odor to make it more grower friendly. He also wanted to reduce the long maturation period of the pure Colombian strain. Look at the front of the Flying Skunk seed package from 1978 and notice the thin blue font that says, “Extra Early.”
After a police stakeout and bust of his Watsonville seed operation in 1982 Watson sneaked back onto the crime scene and stole back his seeds from the cops, making off with 250,000 seeds that ultimately changed cannabis history. He took his seeds to Amsterdam to share with Nevil Schoenmakers of The Seed Bank of Holland, which started the development of Skunk based sativa brands that proliferate worldwide today. At that point David Watson became known as Sam The Skunkman.
The Lost Strain
Wayne knows a lot about his seeds, “The intense odor of this first strain led many to call it Roadkill Skunk. During his breeding program at The Amsterdam Seed Bank, Nevil lost the Skunk male. They had to replace that male with a male from another strain.”
That is one part of the story that is universally agreed upon – while developing and crossbreeding many different strains, Nevil Schoenmakers somehow lost the original Skunk male flower. He had to replace that male with male flowers from a different strain. The first pure Skunk is lost. Gone. Extinct. Unless some crazy hippie had a stroke of cryogenic genius, the first Skunk is no more. That amazing weed I smoked with The Skunk Band forty-three years ago is gone like smoke in the wind, and it would be preposterous to think that some nutso stoner froze the original Skunk seeds. But Santa Cruz is where preposterous happens. Wayne is our nutso.
Why Skunk Matters
What is this strain called Skunk? It is very high in Sativa, which makes you creative, focused, inspired and happy. Skunk is not like the heavy Indica-based dispensary herb that is so popular with young folks. A twenty-something turned me on to cannabis that looked like brown glass, a dab of concentrate. We used a blowtorch to smoke it out of a quartz bowl and I renamed it Flat On My Back On The Floor Weed. I laid on the floor and listened to ocean waves, and we were in Sacramento.
Sativa will not make you pass out on the floor. Sativa may make you dance on the floor. It may make you paint the floor. It may make you think you are the floor, but it will not knock you out. I’ve got absolutely nothing against the idea of passing out and if you want to do that, delve deep into Indica. It’ll make your body feel good. But if you are trying to brainstorm what you could say to your wife about last weekend, Skunk is your junk.
Time Capsule Seed
In February of 2020 Wayne gives me forty of his seeds. We don’t know if they will sprout. I felt like Frodo putting on The Ring for the first time as I lay the seeds between damp paper towels on a plate. Are these seeds too old to germinate? I found myself looking at them throughout the day, keeping the towels damp. On the third day one cracked open and a tiny white sprout appeared. Over the next two weeks thirty-eight of the forty seeds sprouted at an incredible germination rate. I put the sprouts in potting soil and in May I re-planted them into a hoop house. They grew so tall I had to cut their tops off four times.
The leaves were narrow and dark green, but the thing was the smell. My Airstream is one hundred feet from the hoop house and inside my trailer it smelled like I live with a skunk. If anyone in the neighborhood wondered if I grow pot, they know now.
We’re going for seed production so Wayne shakes the male flowers all over the female flowers. (And this at the height of the #metoo movement!) I kept trimming the tops. In mid-November we hung the plants upside down in a shed. And finally, it was time.
A Long, Slow Toke
My first inhale did not do all that much. I inhaled again. I felt pleasant enough but I wondered if this weed works. Was the legend of the first Skunk strain bullshit? I hit it a third time, deep. Then I looked at my guitar fret board and could see all the notes like I was looking at a piano keyboard. I thought of the Jimi Hendrix Chord (E7 #9) and a way to play it above the 12th fret appeared in relief on the fret board. In euphoria I played with intense focus. Would Aldous Huxley say that I had opened the “doors of perception?”
Wayne loves his seeds so much he has a vision for them, “I found something heritage that people love. So how do I share it?” Wayne’s vision is that everyone who wants to feel great could start by germinating twelve seeds, discard the males and grow their six plants that the state of California allows. Nice vision. He thinks of himself as a holy man. He is a holy man; he has a colostomy bag piped into his gut.
Wayne and I sit on his porch smoking the flowers grown from his time capsule Skunk seeds and I ask him how it makes him feel. “It’s the most creative weed I’ve ever used. You start laughing, talking, it puts you in a good mood. It’s more fun, it’s happy weed. In high doses it gets psychedelic.”
Wayne’s Mission is to figure out how to legally distribute these seeds to anyone who wants to grow sativa cannabis. He says, “It’s the kind of weed you can smoke in the daytime.”
The way I encountered this psychoactive strain again and again makes me think that there is something beyond coincidence here. In the end, the story of the Skunk strain is a circle that coheres – a circle of legend, genetics, of a place that believes in it’s own magic and of our desire to open Huxley’s “doors of perception.”