Sep

22

 There are two ways to acquire the necessities of life:

· To produce them, or

· To plunder them

When plunder becomes a way of life for an outlaw town or group of men living together, they create for themselves a legal system that authorizes it and a moral code that glorifies it. The end result will be an escalation of theft until everyone steals each other silly. The only explanation I have for this condition in Slab City is that though stealing from each other is a silly game, it keeps the residents occupied. It's like a party university.

The heads of class look at stealing as a profession. It is a job where they devote time to refine the skill needed to maintain a constant level of success for a steady income. They normally do not spend a long time in one place, but are always scouting new locations, until landing in an outlaw town where there is a large turnover of marks.

The summa cum laude thieves and burglars are precise and logical in their actions. They have openings, middle, and end games like board contests. The winners do not hold their criminal acts in such high esteem, except they take pride in their work, and look down their noses at the amateurs who will not likely populate the town long before going to jail.

There is an evolution toward perfection of criminal activity, that requires constant attention and tinkering to stay on top of their game of robbing each other. Newly invented methods are as closely guarded as professional sports plays.

The most closely guarded news is a recently abandoned or deceased owner's homesteads that draws a land rush as soon as the owner is gone, or killed. The most popular things to look there are money jars, guns, drugs, and jewelry. I don't know anyone who has a bank account, or safety deposit box other than the inside of their walls or a hollowed out book, because banks require an ID which are sparse here. It costs nothing to open a jar and bury your stash, the common practice, which I follow. Whenever someone expires unexpectedly, his trailer insides are shredded looking for treasures in the walls, or beneath them.

Advance news is everything, or creating it.

One tricky thief who forever covets his neighbors' belongings uses a peculiar strategy to drive them out, or kill them, and then help himself to their camps, as follows.

The most common rattlesnake in these parts is the Coontail, distinguished by its alternating black-and-white tail bands just above the rattles. This is a flip-flop species of the also common Red Racer with alternating black-and-white head bands that eat rattlers.

One snake handler gifted a neighbor into his stone hut a snake with black-and-white bands, with no rattles. He proclaimed it was a Red Racer that would eat any Coontail Western Diamondback Rattlesnakes within a 50-foot radius, much as one puts a cat in a mouse house. The grifter carefully eyed the expensive battery bank inside the hut as he did so, and went on his merry way with the heartfelt thanks of his neighbor.

Each day, the target saw the snake daily in his hut, stepping around and over it. Each day, the handler reappeared, and seemed surprised to see him still standing there. Finally, the mark grew suspicious and called me over for an identification.

Here are five lessons the Slab City thief can teach you to check your loses:

· Fearless – A criminal will go to great lengths to achieve his goal, even handling venomous snakes.
· Discreet - A thief stays mute about his schemes and acquisitions, and I never would have found out about the Coontail thief had not a victim told me.
· Details – The smallest detail is of the greatest importance to a thief; in this case, he covered his tracks by broadcasting it was a harmless Red Racer that he had let go.
· Patience – Grand larceny can take a month in the planning. The thief knew his neighbor would accept the Trojan, and the end result would be declared an accident.
· Always try again – The thief kept returning to see if his mark had been driven off, or bitten.

The tail end of this story is brief. I went to the stone hut and found the snake coiled under a stuffed chair. It was trying to buzz shaking a noiseless black-white banded tail. The Coontail thief had removed the rattles, so the snake couldn't announce its identity!

I was laughing so hard that I could hardly keep my hands still on the broomstick to gently lift the accomplice and carry it out to a wash.


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