Once a Mining Camp
By Dana Lohrey
Dana, it’s Ivan Ruark. I’m wondering if you’ll be able to come play piano for us again in Dixie this New Year’s.”
“Sure, I’d love to,” I said.
“Great. I’ll meet you at the ranger station with my snow cat.”
This invitation in 1975 was nothing new. For many years, I’d been a ragtime, honky tonk-style piano player who often performed at events in the former Lodgepole Pine Inn at Dixie, an unincorporated community about thirty miles southwest of Elk City, deep in the Nez Perce National Forest. Because the road from the Red River Ranger Station heading west into Dixie was not kept open at the time during the winter, Ivan came out to the ranger station with his snow cat and trailer to take me into town. His wife Mildred was the cook in the inn’s restaurant and served excellent meals.
When we arrived, people were there from Elk City, Golden, Grangeville, and other communities as far sixty miles away who had come to eat and enjoy the beauty of the community. Holidays, such as the Fourth of July, Labor Day, and New Year’s were always busy. The Ruarks also owned the motel and several guest cabins, and folks who had cabins in the area spent holidays there as well. Hunting season was a particularly active time, which was catered to by the local hunting lodge.