writer steve christy


Rudy Vallee and the Rats

The easiest and most accessible route for an ascent of Mt. Hood is from a ski lodge on the south slope, at about 5,600 feet.

Timberline Lodge is a 1930s Works Progress Administration example of workmanship and well thought out design. At the same time that the lodge was built, a skiers' warming hut was constructed at exactly one mile up the mountain from the lodge.

The little wooden and rock structure was named Silcox Hut and, unlike the grand lodge below it the hut was not maintained, fell into disrepair and was roughly boarded up.

My climbing pal, Ancil, and I swayed a little from our climbing route and nosed around the old hut. We found some loose boards, debated a little and decided to worm our way through a notch. We blinked in pitch blackness, standing on a concrete slab. Rustling our climbing packs for flashlights we heard another rustling at the edges of the hut, along the baseboards.

Our flashlight beams jumped around the hut, and came to rest on the centerpiece: a Victrola phonograph in mint condition. Ancil and I looked at one another and asked, "I wonder if it still works?" Then we spied a half dozen phonograph records; thick, black and scratched. "You don't suppose..." I picked up a record from the 1930s, the crooner named Rudy Vallee. Setting the record on the turntable, Ancil gave it a few wind-up cranks.

At 1 a.m. on a freezing early June night on the south slope of Mt. Hood, Rudy Vallee crooned in perfect timing to rats, scurrying wide-eyed around their home in Silcox Hut.

Ancil and I squirmed back outside, found our ice axes, crampons and rope, and continued our climb, summiting Mt. Hood for the second time.

mt hood

Time passed, Ancil went through a couple of careers, I went to Alaska, then Alabama, and we met up again, 50 years down the line. Ancil had run the Yangtze River and had been ignored. I wrote five hundred short stories, and lost them all. Saw Ancil one more time. He gave me a ride.

Steve Christy, writer

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