Leaving Lake Riverside, Chapter 8: Snowsnakes

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!


Mr. Beaumont (I never learned his first name), headed Beaumont & Associates, which managed Lake Riverside Estates. But he was a busy man. He only came around on rare visits. He was likely the one who drove the very expensive-looking automobile, that showed up once in awhile. I can’t remember if it was a Rolls, or a Bentley, or a fancy Mercedes. But it left everyone oohing and aahing.

He put a man named Harry Paul in charge of the sales force and day-to-day operations. Now, I don’t remember the names of most of the salesmen, but how could I forget a first-and-last as funny as “Harry Paul”? Of course, my 11-year-old, puerile sense of humor, twisted it into sobriquets like, “Harry Pole,” “Harry Dick,” and “Harry Ass.” But my favorite misuse of his name was “Harry Balls.”

I never bought any land from him, so I suppose it was unfair to call him such an insulting epithet. But at least I had enough manners to never call him Harry Balls to his face. Not that he would have gotten real mad or anything. Hell, Harry was like the rest of the salesmen. He was easy-going, with a sense of humor, and in possession of a magnetic charm common to the ilk that exploits the confidence of his fellow man.

But as the sales manager he also had to be a little firm and stern. He gave everyone a few simple rules to follow, including children like me who were helping out with the scam. These rules may seem odd, but Harry had well-thought-out reasons for them.

The biggest rule was that there was to be no talk of rattlesnakes. The investors who came out to Lake Riverside Estates were city slickers, and Harry worried they’d be scared off if they knew these venomous serpents were slithering all over the place.

We were instructed that if any visitor ever asked, we were to deny the very existence of rattlesnakes in this area. Even though we knew the hills were crawling with them. And if anyone ever spotted a rattlesnake, we were to call it a “snowsnake.” I don’t know who originally came up with the term “snowsnake.” Maybe it was Harry Paul, himself. But whoever did must have had a punny sense of humor, because it occurs to me that it goes well with asserting, “There’s no snakes here.”

A Western Diamondback rattlesnake. This was the most common “snowsnake” we encountered at Lake Riverside Estates. Photo by Clinton and Charles Robertson. CCBY2-0.

So if a visitor had the misfortune of spotting a snake, and exclaimed something like, “Egad! Is that a rattlesnake?!” We were to answer, “No ma’am, that there’s a snowsnake.” Then we were to escort her away while signaling for someone else to dispatch the offending critter with a shovel, hoe, or .45 slug.

If we spotted such a creature ourselves, “snowsnake” was the code word. Such as the day someone spotted a buzzworm right smack dab beneath the very grand staircase that supported the weight of the investors climbing to the sales pavilion prison.

A messenger quickly scurried up the steps and whispered “snowsnake” in Harry Paul’s ear. The middle-aged, gray-haired salesman nodded soberly, then quietly excused himself from his client, while surreptitiously sneaking his revolver from out of a desk drawer.

I was helping keep guard on the serpent while trying to appear as casual as possible. Harry also maintained a casual and cool composure, trudging nonchalantly down the metal steps. But snakes are excellent footstep detectors and as Harry drew close, the buzzworm began sounding the alarm. Of course the metal above it only helped to amplify the angry “bzzzzzzzzzzz” rattle.

Harry showed no fear. He drew his revolver out of his pocket, took close aim, and with one emphatic bang, silenced the snowsnake. And then, as if nothing had happened, he casually pocketed the firearm and ascended the stairs again, to continue his sales presentation with his client.


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