07/10/2000 at 01:00 AM EDT
Fletcher and Parker Wold weren't anticipating anything more exciting June 20 than seeing a video at a neighbor's house in rural McMinnville, Ore. But as Fletcher, 7, sat watching with his 5-year-old brother, a faint voice crackled from the $80 walkie-talkie the boys had received for Christmas. "All I heard was something about Mount Hood," Fletcher recalls. "They didn't sound scared, they just wanted to get out of there." He quickly radioed his father, Mike, 53, a furniture store owner who was working in his home office nearby. Explains Parker: "It sounded like somebody was in trouble."
After listening to the boys, Wold went outside and with his own walkie-talkie contacted the climbers, 81 miles away on Mount Hood. He then called the county sheriff's office; a rescue helicopter was dispatched, and two hours later the pair of injured climbers—Iain Morris, a 23-year-old Portland Web designer, and Jim Frankenfield, a 39-year-old climbing guide who lives in Salt Lake City—were being whisked to Portland's Legacy Emanuel Hospital. A freak rock slide had banged up Morris's left hand and badly crushed his friend's left hip. "It wasn't a life-or-death situation," says Frankenfield, "but the boys' hearing us did make a big difference."
Since the brothers' Radio Shack walkie-talkie has an advertised range of only two miles, "it's a wonder they were able to hear anything at all," laughs their proud father. (Experts say the height of Mount Hood and lack of obstructions between the climbers and the boys' position enabled the transmission to carry further than usual.) "But what's really amazing to me is that they actually managed to hear something outside of the TV."