Leaving Lake Riverside, Chapter 9: Mountain Haze

This is the next chapter of my book, entitled Leaving Lake Riverside. To read the previous chapter, CLICK THIS LINK. For the next chapter (when available), CLICK THIS LINK. To start at the beginning, CLICK THIS LINK. Thanks for reading!

Mountain Haze

Another of Harry Paul’s rules regarded the use of the word, “smog.” This was back in the day of leaded gasoline, when the only emissions device known to California drivers was the PCV valve. The city of Riverside lay 48 miles to the northwest, as the smog cloud drifts, and occasionally the wind currents were just right enough to blow its heavy banks of brown crud in our general direction.

But Beaumont & Associates had advertised Lake Riverside Estates as possessing mountain air that was clear and salubrious. So if smog drifted our way, we were to refer to it as “mountain haze.” And if anyone was to point out the smog, we were to correct that dolt by saying, “That’s not smog, it’s mountain haze!”

Perhaps the most peculiar rule was aimed at us horse handlers. We ran the riding stable, where we would abscond with the children of clients for the day. We’d ride them all over Lake Riverside Estates, much to their delight or trauma, depending upon their personal inclinations toward equines.

But if we happened to be riding near the airstrip at the time the DC-3 was taking off or landing, we were to race it down the runway, a’whoopin’ and a’hollerin’ like we were wild outlaws attempting the Great Plane Robbery. This gave the passengers a little Wild West show, and helped contribute to the Old West ambiance that Harry Paul tried to maintain. And it impressed upon the potential investor’s mind that this was good horse riding country.

Harry also gave my brother, Rowan, a little job. There was a small sailboat moored to the lakeshore. Just a dinky catboat, actually, that could barely float two lightweight people without sinking. But whenever the DC-3 was expected to bring in a load of suckers, Harry would have my brother sail the vessel around the lake. This gave passengers on the plane, surveying the scene they were about to land in, the impression that this was a good lake for boating.

In reality, it wasn’t a deep lake, and could only accommodate shallow-hulled vessels. In fact my brother had to be careful with that tiny sailboat, to avoid subaqueous sandbars. But he never complained. After all, what a dream job, to be paid to sail a boat!

As I mentioned before, I don’t remember most of the names of the salesmen, or of most of the other folks who worked at Lake Riverside Estates. But Harry Paul is a true, real name. There was also Gil and Lori. They were our neighbors in a trailer park we lived in, that I’ll tell you about shortly. Gil was a salesman, and Lori was his Japanese wife.

The Tract Manager was a nice young fellow named Byron Hallenbeck, and he was married to a pretty lady named Maggie. Unfortunately, he died from some sort of illness. But this was fortunate for his brother, Bob Hallenbeck. Bob took over his job as Tract Manager, and also married his widow.

Some of the employees were Cahuilla Indians, from the nearby reservation. One was a friend of my sister, River. His name was Jim Throne. Jim was a good guy, but rowdy and temperamental. He had a reputation for getting into fights, and I was always warned to steer clear of him, and to never cross him. Jim worked in maintenance, or groundskeeping, or something like that.

It took a lot of hardworking souls to keep Lake Riverside Estates humming and buzzing, and Beaumont & Associates paid their employees above the going wage rate. However, everyone knew their jobs were temporary. It was only a matter of time before they’d run out of lots to sell, or the law would swoop in and arrest the sales staff. So it was accepted that one day in the not-too-distant future, pink slips would be handed out to everyone, and we’d be leaving Lake Riverside.

That’s why my mother and stepfather bought a trailer. The euphemism is “mobile home” but hell, we were trailer trash. They didn’t want to commit to buying a house because they knew we’d be moving soon, after their jobs at Lake Riverside evaporated.

Even Tom Marcial was noncommittal. He bought a self-contained travel trailer, which he parked near the riding stable. It was a tiny tin can, with a microscopic bathroom. We used to quip that Tom could shit, shower, and shave, all at the same time.


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