Early Days in the Forest Service
Volume 4

By I.V. Anderson

Perhaps the best piece of advice handed down from a father to a son was by the old Vermonter when his son left home. His one admonition was, "my son, never become beholden to anyone." That is a real sound piece of advice, no matter who you work for, whether you're in public or private employ. Sooner or later (and it happened sooner to me) a situation comes up where you are gravely in danger of becoming beholden to somebody. Sometimes it is a bit difficult to tell whether the favor that is being extended to you is genuine hospitality or a bribe.

During my first few months in the Forest Service in the fall of 1920 I had occasion to hire a saddle horse from a rancher on the Cabinet Forest. As I put my saddle on the horse the rancher inquired, "Is this for you, or is this for the Forest Service?" I said, "Well, it's a little of both, but it's a Forest Service job I'm on; what's the difference?" He replied, "If it was for your personal use, you could have that horse for a dollar a day, but for the Forest Service, it'd be two dollars. It's a durn good saddle horse." Right then I decided it'd be better to hire the horse for two dollars a day. It was optional in those days whether you furnished your own horse or hired a saddle horse. You were right at the in-between-era those days, when the Forest Service was in a transition from all horse and buckboard or saddle stock, to motorized equipment. Today Forest Service employees are often warned against accepting a meal from other participants at a meeting. It really makes it difficult to have a hard and fast and arbitrary rule because sometimes when genuine hospitality is extended to you, you can offend a mighty good cooperator and friend of the organization by refusing his hospitality.

I was still pretty young in the service when the first real opportunity to take a bribe came along. I think it was along in about 1922-23, Howard Larson, District Ranger at Plains, Montana, and I were cruising a small jag of timber for a stump farmer in the vicinity of Paradise. We had plenty of applicants for small jags of timber around 200,000 feet. It made a good size job for a farmer to make a stake of $1500 - $2000. With saw logs selling for from $8 to $12 per thousand at the river, none of them got rich at logging. AC White Lumber Co. of Laclede, Idaho, drove logs from St. Regis cut-off and Perma, Montana, all the way down to Pend Oreille Lake then across the Lake and down the Pend Oreille River to Laclede, Idaho, where the mill was located.

Seems as though something always happened when we were out on a timber job of that kind. We just got nicely started when we heard rifle fire over in the next draw to us. It was in the draw just opposite and south of Paradise, Montana, which was the division point for the Northern Pacific Railway (now Burlington Northern). I looked up from my compass and said to Howard, "Sounds like rifle fire, doesn't it? I'll bet somebody is doing a little extra season deer-hunting." "Yes, and I think I know who it is. Let's go and see if we can't get them." This we proceeded to do. We went west about 400 yards and topped out on a ridge to the east of the draw I mentioned. It didn't take us long to spot the poachers. There were two fellows down there that had just completed the kill and were dressing it out. Must have been 1 or 2 miles down to the road along the river on the south side of the river. I said to Howard, "We sure don't want to take that deer way up in the end of that gulch, let's use our head and wait till those fellows get it down to the mouth of the gulch near the road." "Good idea," Howard said. "There's some big rocks at the mouth of the gulch within 50 yards of the road, why don't you go down hide behind one of them while I keep tab on them to see they don't change their course." This he proceeded to do. I hurried down and concealed myself behind a big rock. For the next half hour I could hear those fellows coming down that draw, sometimes stopping for a smoke chatting and laughing the while. They were in a jovial mood having taken a buck approaching Boone and Crockett caliber. Now and then I could hear them grunt and cuss as they lifted that big blacktail buck over logs and windfalls. Finally they arrived. I stepped out and said, "Well, fellows, this is it, I'll take the deer from here on. This isn't deer season, is it?" They stuttered and stammered. After the first shock of surprise was over they started to become a little belligerent and wanted to know my credentials as a game warden. These I proceeded to give them. Then it began to look as though it wasn't going to make any difference. Neither Howard nor I had a gun. Although Howard always carried one it was back on Kennedy Creek. I was getting a little bit anxious as Howard hadn't showed up yet and I was wondering where the heck he was. So I started to reason with the fellows. "You've told me who you are, that you're an engineer and brakeman on #1 North Coast Limited of the NP RR, I don't see how you fellows can afford to get hung up on a thing like this. Now that you are in it the best way and most honorable way is to go plead guilty, pay your fine and have it done with."

But they weren't for that kind of solution. Finally one of them said, "You don't have to remember anything about this. How much would it be worth to you if you just forgot about it?" I said, "Well, I'm just not one who is agreeable to a deal like that." One of them spoke up, "Everybody has their price. How about 200 bucks; would that buy us out of it? That's a pretty nice buck we've got here, in fact, that's the best mule deer head I ever did get." "No deals like that. The next time you guys saw me walking down the street in Paradise, Plains or Thompson Falls you'd say, 'There goes that cheap bastard from the Forest Service that sold out for 200 bucks.' Nope, no deal." Then one of them says, "There's two of us, and one of you." Along about that time Howard stepped out of the brush saying, "No, don't you think it, there's two of us and I can handle a couple like you guys." All of a sudden I felt about 10 feet tall. The fellows quieted down right away. We then made arrangements with them to come to Plains the following Monday to appear in court and plead their case. We confiscated their rifles and deer. We could have taken them right in if we'd wanted to be ornery about it, but we knew they were just in Paradise for only a few hours, figurin' to get their deer and take their train out. Their train was due in Paradise in a couple hours. The next week they appeared in court in Plains pleaded guilty, and paid their fines. In those days it was customary to auction off the meat. They asked the local justice to put the meat up for sale right away. That was when they had another big shock. Some of the fellows around Plains didn't take to railroaders coming in and killing deer right under their noses out of season, although they might be doing the same thing themselves. They bid that venison up to $150, which made it pretty costly game law violation for these two men.

Bitterroot National Forest
from photo by Charles H. McDonald

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Last Updated: 15-Oct-2010
Forest History Society Electronic edition courtesy of the
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