Bend, Oregon in 1941 had a hotel that was “the” hotel of choice when staying in town. The Ochoco Inn was (at least in my imagination) a two-story wooden affair that looked like every nice hotel in every western movie ever filmed. Rooms were upstairs, and the bar and restaurant were on the main floor. Think “Destry Rides Again,” without Marlene Dietrich. Bend was and is a western high desert town. Hunting was a popular pastime and it was nothing unusual to have men coming and going through the hotel with their hunting rifles tucked under their arm or carried over their shoulder.
It was the fall of 1941 and it was deer season. Harold and Norville had taken the boys, Harold’s son Mike and Norville’s nephew, Jack, deer hunting. They’d been out hunting for a couple of days and were dog tired. All the men wanted was a bath, a steak, and a beer. All the boys wanted was a steak and a beer.
They carried their rifles in their arms as they walked through the hotel. Jack had a 30.06 that he’d borrowed from Norville, an old hex barrel that belonged to Great Grandpa Gray. Mike had a 270. The boys were proud to carry these man-sized weapons, even though they were heavy on a ten year old.
Jack and Mike made it to the top of the stairs. The men had disappeared into their room. “Oh, man, I forgot to clear my rifle” said Mike, as they walked down the hallway to their room. He unconsciously pointed the gun toward the floor and pulled the trigger.
BOOM! That rifle went off and shot a round through the floor in the direction of the lobby below. Jack and Mike ran to their room, threw the rifles under the bed, hid in the closet, and tried not to breathe. Heavy footsteps ran up and down the hallway and people were shouting “is everyone OK? Is anyone hurt?”
There came a knock on the door, and then another. “Should we answer it?” whispered Jack? “Not on your life!” hissed Mike. “We can’t stay in here all night” said Jack.
What seemed like a long time later there came a knock on the door and Norville’s voice “You boys in there? You OK? “ The boys came out of the closet and opened the door to the hallway. Norville stood there and asked “Are you guys OK? Did you hear that gunshot?”
“We heard it but we were scared so we came in here and just hid, we thought it was a gunfight or something and we don’t know anything more about it at all no not a thing not a thing at all.” The boys looked at the floor and Jack started to blush.
Norville squinted at them. “You didn’t have anything to do with it…. did you?”
Editors note: Dad told me that at that point in the story “we couldn’t lie worth a damn.”
Norville crossed his arms and didn’t say anything. Harold came and stood behind Norville and waited to hear what the boys had to say. Jack told what had happened, with exclamations from Mike at appropriate moments. when they got to the part where they’d hidden in the closet Norville and Harold started laughing. Norville had a dry laugh that was a body shaking silent wheeze. Harold started laughing so hard he snorted. The boys giggled once they felt sure they weren’t in any trouble.
Norville and Harold never did tell anybody at the hotel and if anyone was suspicious they didn’t let on about it. They moved the hotel rug over the hole in the floor, which was just outside the boys’ room. The ruckus died down in the hotel pretty quickly once people were sure that no one had been hurt or killed.
Things were sure different back then.