October Rains

When I hear the October rains thrumming on the roof, I think about Girdwood, the little ski resort town where I lived many years ago.

The October rains would bloat the creek that came down from the glacier at the top of the mountain. It would then jump its banks, wash away its bridge, and cause untold mischief as it ran wild through the resort and into the subdivision full of weekend ski cabins. It always happened at night when it was too dark to see the extent of the problem, and we never had adequate rain gear in those days, so we’d add cold and wet to our worry.

I lived there at a time in my life when I thought it utterly cool to have no telephone, no radio or television, no running water, no plumbing, and a little Quaker pot-burner oil stove for heat. Once the mercury in the thermometer went way south of zero degrees, that Quaker had a hard time keeping the temperature in the cabin from heading there also. On those nights, I bundled up in my warmest clothes, put the old wooden straight back chair right up next to the Quaker, cranked the fuel flow as high as it would go, and darned near hugged that stove trying to stay warm.

This was the oldest inhabited cabin in the valley, at the time. No insulation, just thick boards with shingles on the outside and beaver board panels on the inside. It was the roof that created the link to the October rains, though. The first time I climbed into the attic to see what was up there, I didn’t need a flashlight. The corrugated tin roof looked like a colander, points of light shining in from all directions, like spotlights gone berserk. No wonder it leaked. No wonder it took my entire meager supply of cooking utensils to catch the worst of the drips, plus any pails and buckets I could round up.

Old Billy, the Sourdough who’d lived in the cabin forever, didn’t like the squirrels in the attic. He’d plink away at them with a little pistol whenever he heard them up there, hence the perforated tin roof. It could have been worse. Because Old Billy was shooting from the inside out, the metal roofing was puckered outwards, so much of the water running down the roof washed around the bullet holes, rather than into them.

Between that and his lousy aim whenever he spit his tobacco juice, there was a lot of work to make the cabin inhabitable after Old Billy died and my future landlord bought it.

Nonetheless, after I’d lived there a couple years, I came home one night, turned on the light, and caught a glimpse of movement heading my way at the same time I felt something brush my hair. When I started breathing again and went to see what my Siberian husky had trapped in the corner, I saw it was a little bat. I wonder if that’s what Old Billy had been shooting at up there in the attic.

Eventually all the bullet holes were covered with tar and that stopped the leaks. I never went back into the attic, though. I could hear those little bats up there at times, squeaking and rustling around. And that was okay with me, as long as they stayed in the attic, ate their fair share of mosquitoes, and stayed out of my hair.

Tonight the time is long after midnight and here I sit, remembering and telling stories. If I go downstairs to bed, I won’t be able to hear the rain, and there is something about the October rains, something that compels me to listen.