It’s early September and I’m national park-hopping with cousin Barb and her husband Jim. We’re about to check into the historic Prospect Hotel, which is located in Prospect, Oregon, about a half-hour’s drive from Crater Lake National Park. I’m aware that a number of national park heroes and Famous Personages have stayed at this inn, and I’ve naturally assumed that various rooms at the hotel have been named in their honor. I’m dying to find out which room I’ll be staying in.
Jim is ignoring my persistent questioning. No surprise there. Jim and I like to get under each other’s skin, and Jim can see that it’s his turn. Barb is staying out of it. She knows better.
“I can’t stand it,” I tell Jim. “You’ve got to tell me what room I’ll be staying in!”
“No I don’t,” says Jim.
“OK, OK,” I say. “Let me guess. Is it the John Muir Room, the one named for the patron saint of national parks?”
“No,” says Jim, who has his poker face on.
“Then, is it the Teddy Roosevelt Room, the one named in honor of the President who was one of the best friends the national parks ever had?”
“Not exactly,” says Jim.
I can see the hint of a smile
“Is it the Harold Steel Room,” I ask, “the one named for the Father of Crater Lake, the guy who thought up the Rim Drive and the Crater Lake Lodge?”
“Nope,” says Jim, who is clearly beginning to enjoy this.
“The William Jennings Bryan Room? The Jack London Room? The Herbert Hoover Room?”
“No, no, and no,” says Jim, who is now grinning from ear to ear. “You’ll be in the Dewey Hill Room.”
“Who in the hell is Dewey Hill?” I ask
“Who was Dewey Hill,” Jim corrects. “Dewey assumed room temperature many years ago after a long and interesting life.”
“How interesting?” I ask.
“Well,” says Jim, “he was the town character, and he was what passed for the law hereabouts. They called him the ‘dollar-a-day sheriff.’ He was taciturn, and inclined to solve problems in his own direct way.
“If you asked him where he had shot that fat deer on his buck pole, he’d reply 'Under a fir tree.' If he caught some kids with a stolen outhouse, he’d just shove them inside and nail the door shut. He was not a complicated man.”
“Let me get this straight,” I say. “You’ve put me in a room named after the town character. Just why on earth did you do that?”
“Because,” says Jim, “the room named after the town idiot was already taken.”