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V HEN it comes to ways and tricks, the
V V smuggler can put Bret Harte's "Heathen Chinee" decidedly in the shade. The methods and devices to which they resort in order to successfully carry on their trade are endless, and new ones are being devised and put into practice every day. Regardless of all their shortcomings, we must admire the inventive genius of the smugglers, of which the sternest necessity is the mother.
And yet, only the least successful and the poorest of their multitudinous devices are known, for the only ones that are ever revealed are those which fail. When we ponder on this and learn of the amazingly clever and original tricks of the smugglers which have proved ineffectual for their needs, we can perhaps appreciate the almost incredible ingenuity the gentry must possess in order to de
vise means to their ends which are so successful that they have never been found out.
Also we must take off our hats to the customs officers for their cleverness and almost superhuman ability to see through the smugglers' tricks and lay the rascals by the heels, though, if the truth were known, more often than not, accident rather than design exposes the frauds.
Many of the smugglers' devices are also born of accident or chance and do not originate in the fertile brains of the contrabandistas. Some incident, some occurence will be noticed by a smuggler who, realizing the opportunities presented, will at once make use of it to meet his own requirements. As an illustration, let me mention a somewhat humorous occurence that came under my own observation. A friend, arriving in New York after a long residence in the tropics, had brought with him two small boa-constrictors which he intended to present to the Bronx Zoological Park. Also, he had among his posessions several hundred fine cigars which, being a loyal citizen, he most regretfully entered on his declaration as dutiable.
It was a cold raw day when the ship at last reached port, and, to safeguard his reptilean pets and prevent them from feeling any ill effects from the transition from a tropical to a northern climate, my friend tied the snakes in a pillow-case and
placed them snugly among his soiled linen and some old clothes in an Indian basket.
The customs officer detailed to examine the baggage ran his eyes down the declaration slip, noted the duly entered cigars and glanced at the various pieces of luggage. Perhaps the Indian basket looked suspicious, perchance it happened to be nearest or seemed the easiest to open and examine. At any rate, the officer bent over, lifted the cover and casually ran an enquiring hand among the contents. There was a sharp audible hiss, the garments heaved and moved, and with a startled exclamation the official hastily withdrew his hand, leaped back and staring open-mouthed at the inanimate contents of the basket which heaved and undulated as though suddenly endowed with life and about to rise up in some terrifying or supernatural form.
"Wha- what the blazes you got in there?" he blurted out, when he could find his voice.
"Oh, just a couple of ten-foot boas,” replied the owner of the snakes casually. . "Boas!” ejaculated the officer. “Say, for the love of Mike shut the blamed thing up!"
Laughingly my friend closed and secured the basket, and turning to a trunk, started to raise the lid.
"Hey, don't do that!” cried the other hastily,
and backing off a step. “Nothing doing with any more of your stuff. No live snakes for me."
As, having duly affixed the little customs pasters to the various pieces of unopened luggage, the examiner rather hastily walked away, a strange expression of mingled amusement, regret and digust was on my friend's face.
"Don't that beat all?” he exclaimed. "Paid twenty-five dollars duty on those cigars and I might have brought in a trunkfull by just putting a snake or two on top of them.” - Nowadays, when nearly all species of animals and birds brought into the States are subject to quarantine, pets do not afford such opportunities to the smugglers as formerly. Many a diamond and other precious stone has been smuggled in, secure from discovery in the craw of a parrot, macaw, or other feathered passenger. Others have slipped by the most eagle-eyed officials in the bottoms of the innocent appearing earthen-ware seed and water crocks of canary bird cages, or hidden in the bases of the cages themselves, and one drug smuggler succeeded in doing a lucrative business for a long time by means of prize dogs. His method was very simple. He would enter his dogs in some Canadian bench-show, ship his canine pets over the border in strongly built crates or kennels, and after the close of the show have them reshipped to the United States. Only by merest accident, was