Aldo Leopold's first forestry letters
Conservationist Aldo Leopold (1887-1948) is perhaps best known for A Sand County Almanac, his tale of restoring a Wisconsin farm. But what was Leopold like as a younger man? His first job, after graduating forestry school in 1909, was on the Apache National Forest in Arizona. His letters to family have been preserved in the Aldo Leopold Papers at the University of Wisconsin, https://uwdc.library.wisc.edu/collections/aldoleopold/.
For an upcoming project, I've been transcribing those letters. In the interests of promoting scholarship, I'm sharing those transcriptions here. Information in the annotations is from Curt Meine's definitive biography Aldo Leopold and the USFS sourcebook "The Early Days" (https://foresthistory.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/The-Early-Days-Book1.pdf). If you have reactions or corrections, please let me know!
Camp No. 2, Milligan canyon, 9/25/09, Saturday morning
My dear Papa-
Your letter of Sept 8 is received. I have lately written additional directions about shipping the gun, but here they are in brief: Ship by Express both gun and scabbard to Springerville, marked “Hold until Return.” It will not be necessary to send shells – I have ordered them from here – but of course all contributions are gratefully received. Also, if you have extra ball shells send me a box or else inform me where I can buy them. There is no very great hurry about any of it, as the job will keep me in the mountains until November you know. Then, however, Lord help the greenheads [ducks] on Sundays.
I was a bit surprised to hear that the heat had partly knocked you out. No wonder by golly.
But the immediate application of this news is about as follows.
I am tired of seeing you slave around that damned office all the year around. My scheme of having you out here this fall apparently did not pass – at least you have said nothing about it. But now I have another scheme hatched out. Please think it over carefully, and don’t let pure cussedness chain you down too tight to that desk of yours. Remember you can do a better job with an occasional lay-off.
Now my scheme is this. This here Blue Range is full of bear, which come out of their holes and snoop about in spring. And this here Black River is full of trout – big ones – which smell good in a pan at the same season. Now next spring, along in May, take the kid [Aldo’s brother Frederic, 13 years his junior], pack up a few duds, and come on out here. Ranger Wheatl[e]y camps at Hannagan Meadow – right in the middle of the Range – to fight fires during that season, and he says he will be mighty glad to put you onto the good country. Now you and the kid come out here, get you a small dog and a couple of horses, and just snoop around here for a month. I’ll bet you can land some fine hides and some very succulent trout. It may even be possible that I will be down in these parts myself, continuing this job. At any rate, you would have a fine time, and you would come again, I’ll bet, next fall.
There is a big White Bear in here. Come on and show him how to behave. Nobody else can bother him so far it seems.
Think this over, and let me know in plenty of time to arrange for your horses. And do some riding before you come out – a man is bad off out here without the “rubber butt plate.”
There is lots of news from the Apache Reconnaissance. It now appears that the present proposed road route may be abandoned in favor of a route along the Blue River. Or else the whole business may resolve into a [thriving?] proposition. Two expert lumbermen, Adams and Moak, arrived yesterday and tomorrow I take them on a week’s trip to show them the river and road-route for comparison. We are dealing with a big question. The road up the Blue will cost 300,000 I’ll bet my hat, and to improve the river as much more. And we must decide right away, that the cruising may proceed. I have also another additional man mow – Heller – Forest Assistant – graduated this June from Harvard Forest School.
I will hardly get to write you for a week or so. These are busy times. Not much leisure for hunting. Goodnight now and love to all. As ever,
Camp No. 3, Beaver Creek, Apache Reconnaissance, 10/4/09
My dear Cicero [sister Marie]-
I came back yesterday and received your letter, also one from Mama and one from Ballard [probably Ballard Bradley, a mutual friend from the Les Cheneaux summer colony near Michigan’s Mackinac Island].
Thanks for telling me that about Betty [probably Elizabeth Clark, another Les Cheneaux friend] – I wouldn’t have heard otherwise – as I haven’t written anybody for months. That, together with some recent happenings in camp, makes me feel a bit blue. What do you think – two of the men, Lumberjacks to boot, began to grumble this morning about the “hard life”! And this glorious fall weather too! Why damn their whining souls, wait till it begins to snow. That will take some conceit out of them, or I’m a bear. It would be really laughable if it weren’t so unexpected, and liable to become serious. It looks as if it were going to take all the tact and patience I can raise to hold the party together until I finish this job.
The work, though, is going splendidly, even during my absence. You see I have been gone almost a week. [David] Adams[, Robert] Moak[, Johnny] Wheatley and I left last Sunday and spent four days making an examination of the Blue River with a view to [driving?] logs, and “looking” the timber over the headwaters – also looking a road route to put this Beaver Creek and Blue Mountain timber into Castle Creek, a branch of the Blue. The Blue is first rate for driving, and we find roughly a couple of billion feet to go out. With 15 million a year consumption down at Clifton and the copper mines, there will be something going on this forest before long, or I’m mistaken. I am lucky to be here in advance of the big works.
Saturday I came back cross country from Base Line Ranger Station [The Baseline Ranger Station, established circa 1908, was located 35 miles up the Blue River, on the southern boundary of the Blue Range Primitive Area] through the “breaks of the Blue”, said to be the roughest piece of country in Arizona. I nearly wore out a pair of boots and very nearly wore out my horse, but I made it without getting lost. When I got back to camp though, hungry and tired, by Golly the whole works were gone. Camp had moved Thursday. So I just slept out, as I often do nowadays. I am getting quite proficient at the job and in half an hour can fix me a shelter which keeps me comfortable even in the killing frosts which we now have every night. In the morning I shoot me a gray squirrel for breakfast and start out, good as new.
I trailed the party to this new camp yesterday morning and found all in fine shape, but without meat. So in the afternoon I rode out and killed a fat blacktail buck – only 4 points – but a good big one nevertheless.
Today I have been busy with maps and a whole [sack?] full of official mail. Among it is a letter from [Forest Supervisor John] Guthrie saying that I am to be Acting Supervisor during his absence in December. That of course knocks my Xmas vacation a hard lick in the head.
Thanks for telling me the date of Mary’s wedding [Marie’s friend Mary Lord had once been romantically tied to Aldo]. And thanks for the good advice as to presents. But when you catch me buying anything for Mary’s wedding, you may shoot, right then and there. No sir! I guess maybe I can raise a nice pelt or something like that. At least I will try. Goodbye now, and good luck. Love to all from Aldo.
Springerville office, Thursday Oct 7, 1909, Noon.
My dear Mama-
You will perhaps be surprised to hear that I am in here at Springerville. Yesterday a problem came up in regard to running our base line into the unsurveyed territory to the southward which made it necessary to consult the original notes, on file here at the office, of the survey on which our line is based. So I picked out the best horse in the bunch, an old sorrel named Red Buck, and rode from camp at the head of Beaver, to Springerville, 45 miles in a straight line, in 8 hours, without once hitting a lope. Somewhat of a horse, eh? Over 8½ miles an hour over mountainous country. If Red Buck weren’t about 12 years old, I’d give $100 for him spot cash PDQ. At present, though, I can’t afford any more horses. O – by the way – old Jiminy Hicks is locoed. How’s that for luck? It makes a Forest Assistant’s pocketbooks have a rather pinched appearance – in contrast to the F. A. Of course Jim may last several years even so, but a locoed horse is sometimes annoying even though amusing. And he don’t hold his fat when he gets it. When I was on that Blue River trip I rode him down to the ribs in 3 days.
On arriving here last night I found a letter from you and also one from Dad. Your letter made me smile and again it half worried me. You have an altogether wrong idea of my job out here. Why I wouldn’t trade it for anything under the sun. Please don’t think that every time I tell you of having “laid out” overnight or doing a full days work that I am to be pitied on that account. Jiminy Crickets – its part of the job – and don’t bother me nearly as much as it does you. Ten times as much roughing it would not be too big a price to pay for the privilege of wearing a flannel shirt and not being obliged fight society and all the forty ‘leven kinds of tommyrot that includes. Can’t you see that? If you can’t I’ll have to begin to write you only of beautiful sunsets and Forest Service policy, all of which you can get just as well out of Gulliver’s travels and the Saturday Evening Post. No fooling, though, you worry me. So please behave after this.
Perhaps I give you another wrong idea by that “flannel shirt” remark above. That is not the real reason why I like this job. The real reason is that it deals with big things. Millions of acres, billions of feet of timber, all vast amounts of capital – why it’s fun to twiddle them around in your fingers, especially when you consider your very modest amount of experience. And when you get a job to do, it’s yours, nobody to help, nobody to interfere, no precedents to follow. Yes – this sounds like a stump speech, but you catch the idea. QED.
Now to proceed. Thanks for the V [five?] spot. Do you mind if I use it to buy a new pipe instead. You see I have requisitioned a pen from Uncle Sam.
Also thanks for a certain cylindrical can, the same with a most melodious thud when you turn it upside down. I haven’t opened it yet, I’ll wait till I get to camp again. That will be about 3 o’clock tonight. I have just got to be on deck for directing the work tomorrow morning. Now can you please imagine that it’s fun to ride 45 miles at night over a country where a good many intelligent people would get lost by daylight? Of course it is. So please don’t be sorry for me. It’s very embarrassing.
Same as the other day going down to Blue. I lent Adams my saddle. The country was so [rough emoji] that Adams (comes from Virginia too!) could hardly stick on his horse with a saddle. I rode bareback – 30 miles – and led Adams all the way – and wasn’t sore next morning either. Now wasn’t that fun? Of course it was, especially to see Adams bumping about next day. And he been in the Service 4 years, and a crackerjack man too!
All this doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t like mighty much to drop down back to Iowa about Xmas time. I sure would. But – when I have a chance to be Acting Supervisor during December, I guess my leave can be, and will have to be, postponed a bit. Possibly I may be able to get a furlough in January, but for the present I must lie low.
By the way, its very plain that [USFS executive Theodore S.] Woolsey’s game is to put a new FA on this Forest and put me on Reconnaissance work next summer – heaven only knows where. Guthrie is sore – he doesn’t want to break in the proposed new FA. As for me – I will go, I guess, for the experience, and because I want to see some more of the southwest. But when the big works begin here on the south end, it’s me for the Apache again. I want to handle these 15 million a year sales when they come, that would be something.
No – we will be in the mountains until well along into November. I’ll thank Heaven if I can complete the job before we get snowed in. Woolsey is coming down along late in the month. When he comes I have some figures on this fool mountain road that will make him squirm.
Meanwhile – he has sent me 25# more of spruce seed to plant this fall. I shall have to turn the job over the major Chapman, as my schedule is plumb full to the end of the year.
It is a blustery half-clear fall day. I’ll bet the first mallards have arrived. When I come back here in December, I’m going after the old greenheads every Sunday. Wish I could send you a quarter of venison. We have lots of it. But it wouldn’t keep I’m afraid. Goodbye now, and love to all. Always, your Aldo
My dear Papa-
Your letter of Oct 26 is received, also the 16-g. ball. My gun is on the way from Holbrook and I shall surely test the choke barrels before using the ball shells. Thanks for reminding me.
I have already written you more or less about your proposed visit, but I want to add that the duck shooting in December will be fine, the weather variable but not bad, and yours truly exceedingly delighted.
By all means bring your old clothes, just an old suit will do, with a good heavy shirt and vest. And your choke gun if possible. Golly but I will sure be glad to see you!
I may be able to take a couple of days off my annual leave – we will live high on ducks at Lang’dobe [the bunkhouse where Aldo lived] – and take a few rides to show you a lot of the Forest. I’ll bet I can give you a good time. Stay at least a week or two – longer if you can.
Don’t worry about my “over doing” – I never felt better in my life. The Ranger meeting is over and today I start back to camp. Haller goes along so I will have to take two days for the trip.
The Ranger meeting was a whooping success. I had the satisfaction of seeing several of my own measures go through, and my opinion of the Rangers and their families too, has gone up still another notch. I’m sure you’ll like them too.
Thursday night we younger members of the force gave a grand ball. Everybody tells us it was the best dance ever held in Springerville. We all had a really good time. First time I have worn a collar since July 15.
Saturday was a Halloween Party at Beckers and yesterday (Sunday) afternoon a big crowd of us went riding. There is one really interesting girl here in town – the local ‘schoolmarm’ – I had never met her before. Her name is Kitty Rudd. [Want?] some competition between rangers Rogers and Read in the case, with myself as interested on-looker.
Goodbye now – and don’t you dare pass me by in December.
Yours as ever, Aldo.
[USFS letterhead], Thursday Nov 11 1909
My dear Carolo [brother Carl]-
Well kiddo it’s sure been the hell of a while since I’ve found time to write you. Why I’ve pretty near broken in my new pipe since I last dropped you a note. Let me tell you by the way that these pipes are first class – just the proper dope. And they are sure stout! The other fixings were all right too – and much obliged.
Well kiddo the Apache Reconnaissance is over, and yours truly is sitting down in a chair and sleeping in a bed and all the other [illegible] trimmings of life. Its right pleasant for a change, but I’m already beginning to look out of the window and think about old Jiminy Hicks – he’s fat as a pumpkin now – and wonder when I’ll have a chance to let him dance a little.
You see we are in doing up a map and reports now – a good solid month of office work. I am quite tickled though, since last night, because I’ve heard at least that I’ll not have to leave the Apache. I was scared out of my boots that I’d be sent off on some damned cordwood proposition for winter reconnaissance work. Thank the lord though I’m safe for the present. The longer I stay here the worse I hate to leave. Of course I want to get off some day to see a bit of the country. But as old Bill Mangan says, “I sure sure damn sure” would like to come back here some day.
Well kiddo what are you doing with your self? Wearing silk socks and calculating how deep the Princeton Game will put you in the hole? Thank the Lord I’m where you don’t hear of silk socks. Of course I’m in the hole – guess I always will be so long as there’s any good horses left in [Arizona] – but what’s the odds out here! Money is no good to a man anyhow, so what’s the odds!
Incidentally – between you and me – I’ve been recommended for a raise. That will help some. I’m afraid though that I don’t fully appreciate the great event.
I wish you would write me some time how things are going. If you don’t I’ll requisition all your letters from the folks and give you a good paddling next time I get you in the corral. Can’t paddle you, eh? Well – I can – just wait and see.
Can’t you fix to get out here one of these days? You could ride around and acquire the necessary preliminaries – including the rubber butt plate – and of a Sunday we could go out and get lots of fat mallards and red-heads. I’m sure looking forward to my first hunt this coming Sunday.
You’d have gotten plumb excited down there on Stray Horse where our job ended up – the whitetails were awful thick – just lots of them. We quit shooting deer months ago – venison isn’t in it when you can get a fat beef every once in a while. It was a bit hard to be in among the bear and turkey, though, and never get time to hunt any. The only hunting I’ve done this month is for Indians. We caught a bunch in poaching and did some might-maneuvers – regular Dan’l Boone style – but the SOB’s got away from us. Old Red and I chased them lickety split plumb to the Reservation line but they foxed us for fun, and got one of our horses to boot. Old Red Buck. I was going to buy him too, and sure hate to give him up.
I guess Dad has told you he’s going to stop over with me in December. Leastwise if he don’t I’m going to drop up to Holbrook and hold up the train. I believe he’ll like this country mighty well although I’m a bit afraid I can’t show him much except on a horse. He’ll have to begin by acquiring the rubber butt plate too. I guess I’ve pretty near got it by this time – rode in 55 miles bareback in two days on a finicky rough silly old mare, and am none the worse. Langwell, who came along riding my saddle on a gentle pony, is still making a rather faraway pair of legs.
What’s Ballard doing with himself? Why don’t you and he both come out here one of these days? I sure would like to see you all. Tell Ballard I’m fixing to write him as soon as I get some of my other work in running order. I’ve got an awful bunch of it.
How often do you see Henry? Give him my best too and tell him his motto is a good one. Only for me there ought to be tacked on “moral: never be in doubt.”
Say kiddo I hear old Phil Fleming has got you plumb cut out over in Briar Cliff? Don’t let him buffalo you. Take to him with your fists old man – it would be scandalous to have him beat you out. Any other news? Don’t be so damned light – let me hear from you once in a while.
I got a notice from the Iowa Club yesterday – what are you doing this year? I had a mighty fine letter from Harlan [Watgete] a few weeks ago. I sure like him a whole lot, don’t you? I think he’ll do well in the Service.
These letters of mine are to scattering to really tell you anything – I wish we could have some powwows Christmastime. But I guess not. I figure I’ll be trying to run the Apache about that time.
So long kiddo – give my very best to Gilbert and Frank – and be good to yourself. Yours as ever, Aldo.
PS I’ve an idea that last check I sent didn’t quite cover the goods. I’ll send you another directly as there are a couple of more fixings I want.
First I wish you would go to Rosenberg and order me a pair of corduroys, same measure as my last pair but 1 inch bigger waist and plain, not turned up bottoms. I want medium weight, rather light shade, and best grade of course. I want 2 watch pockets, one on each side, a 6’ back pocket right, and an ordinary pack pocket left with buttoned flap. And I want especially the pocket material to be stoutest he’d got or can get. Canvas if necessary.
Then go to Chase’s and pick out some cream-white wash-silk shirting, fairly heavy, and have them make me a dozen handkerchiefs, about 30: square. Not less than 26”. You can guess what will make a good kerchief. It must be absorbent, i.e. dull finish, and cream, not pure white.
PS One more thing. Take the attached sample of goods to Rosenberg and try and match the weight and color in some first class goods, and send me the sample. This is the uniform goods, but its cheap stuff and wears out. This sample is rather weathered and faded, but about the color I want.
Don’t let Rosie wheedle you into any stripes or patterns – only just plain goods will do. Tell him to price me a suit made to my measure of the goods you select. As to pattern – I’ll inform you later. If he needs to send away for sample tell him to step lively.
PS I furnish the buttons. Price accordingly.
PS Nov 15: Yesterday (Sunday) went out in the wee small dark cold windy hours and got me by noon a pair of mallards, a brace of snowbells, 1 greenwing, and a redhead. Pretty hard to do any business alone, no cover.
Wish you would see what you can find in meerschaum pipes, straight stem. Price me a good one of this shape, with buckskin cover and case. [drawing]
Please send me by mail 1 doz. Pkg of pipe cleaners. I’ll send you a check as soon as I get my pay. AL
[USFS letterhead] Wednesday Nov 17
My dear Mama-
Your letter, in answer to my candlelight letter from Hannagan Meadow, came this evening. It had been forwarded down to Blue and delayed down there. But I enjoyed it good as new. I do like your 10-page both-sides-of-the-paper brand, it’s almost like being at home for the ten minutes or so.
I almost feel as if I had been at home today – I have been up at [forester Homer
O.] Eatons’ overnight, and I can hardly get over how nice they are to me.
I had been digging around the office for a number of days working at my reconnaissance report, and was beginning to fell just a little too good to set at a desk any longer, when Mr. Eaton hinted that there was 30 thousand feet of timber to be marked for a new sale up at the mill, and that he was busy as a beaver and didn’t see how he could get around to it. Well – I just rose like a trout and told him I’d go, just as a sort of vacation. So yesterday I went. I got out there by noon, had dinner [illegible] at the mill, had a scrap with old man Nilson as to Service Policy, marked 15,000 feet, and got over to Greer by 4:30. In time to chop wood and carry water and be at home generally at Eatons.
Little Mary is just as cute as ever – I’ll swear I never saw a more lovable little baggage in my life. Of course Mary helps me with everything – rides my horse to the barn – helps dip the water (at least two dipperfuls) – and helps carry in the wood (at least 3 chiefs). ‘Terry wood’ as Mary says. And then I the evening I drew pictures for Mary until she went to sleep – “hoceo” and “tower” and “towers” and “duts” and “deese” and puppy-dogs and horses and trees and snowmen and whatnot. Between the pictures and my dog “Jones” Mary was very well entertained.
Mrs. Eaton was delighted to hear that Dad’s coming and immediately invited me to bring him up. I wish you could come too, sometime. You would surely be pleased with their place. The house is quite after your ideas – and mine.
This morning I returned. Be it known that in corralling the horses to grain Mr. Eaton’s and my own moment, I roped two with three shots. Eatons’ two were hard – regular dodgers on a continual tear. I’m getting quite proud of myself.
In riding back I made a kind of cross-country cut through the foothills to look over the ground in relation to a proposed sheep-driveway. None of my business directly – but I am nosing around picking things up. Well – I was also pretty open-eyed for any kind of game which might pop up. I’m going over a little saddle I look a little preliminary peep, and there, lying in the sun among the grass down by some water, about 200 yards away, was something with ears. I slid down. Coyote, deer, calf, or colt? I couldn’t tell to save me. But I saw no marks or [illegible], and the ears looked painted, as I draw bead and fired. Four legs simply turned skyward forthwith.
I hopped back on old Jim, and was just patting myself on the back for making a good shot, when I saw – standing there drinking – not thirty hands from the four-legs-in-the-air … what do you think? Two manes.
It made me feel nearer like unto 3 cents than anything I have ever experienced. But I galloped down and found… the prettiest sleekest fluffiest cleanest big coyote I ever laid eyes on. The single breath I took covered a whole minute, and felt good.
He really was a beauty, with very rich brown coloring – quite unlike the usual dirty gray. I skinned him with a good deal of satisfaction, and got back here to Springer by noon.
I am going to have him mounted with full head as a rug, and if I don’t succeed in getting anything better in the meanwhile, give him to Mary in April. Seems kind of penny-ante, a mere coyote, but still he’s extra fine, and I just can’t buy anything for Mary. It would not seem right – I’d feel like a fool.
Mr. Guthrie has gone on a ten days field trip. Meanwhile I will be busy in the office and with my maps and report. Deputy Supervisor Viles is of course in charge, but when he goes out and Mr. Guthrie is in Albuquerque why I guess I’ll be.
I have just about decided by this time about what line of work I want to get into, that is – when the chance comes my way. I want a supervisorship, and I’m “sure sure damned sure” of it. Not anywhere, but somewhere that I like as well as the Apache. Of course my future travels may cause me to change my mind, but just now I feel decidedly averse to ever holding down a desk chair in the Albuquerque office, or to chase myself around the four corners of the earth as Silvical [silvicultural] Expert or Reconnaissance man. I was made to live on and work on my own land. Whether it’s a 100 acre farm or a 1,700,000 forest doesn’t matter – it’s all the same principle, and I don’t think I’ll ever change my mind about it.
I had a fine letter from Ballard today – he’s just the same as ever, and I surely would like to see him one of these days. I’m mighty glad that Marie is going out for the Prom. And by the way, I think it’s a shame if she doesn’t get to take in Mary’s wedding too. The mere fact that they are four months apart is hard luck but not his fault. I know for a fact it will break Mary’s hear not to have Cicero there, and Mary’s wedding only comes once in the universe. I shall myself be very much disappointed if you all forget that.
I know too that Mr. Ketcham would feel it keenly if Marie didn’t drop in to visit them sometime during her stay. In fact if my vote is any account it’s a straight ticket for “go” and I’ll be disappointed if Cicero in her goodness-of-heart decides to stay at home.
Hurrah for the kid and the Bicycle – only tell him to dismount for meals if time allows. Also to [almade?] public improvements with his head as gently as possible.
In your last letter you ask me “how are my eyes”. [Aldo had suffered from eyestrain during forestry school.] I haven’t got any anymore, leastwise as far as I’ve took notice.
You had better ask “how are my gingerbread.” The last lot went to Blue and back in a pasteboard box, and ultimately around as a bunch of crumbs, rather dry. But there’s more than one way to kill a cat. I went for some raisins and brandy to make a pudding. The nearest approximation I could raise were dried raspberries and port wine. But the pudding “came off” just the same, and now awaits public execution. It looks fine. The other ingredients are a little boiled rice and a little canned cream. Guthrie suggests I complete a Forest Service Cook Book. By golly, when I’ve made egg-sauce out of the only two eggs in Springerville and set him in front of that pudding he’ll say it in earnest I believe.
Goodnight now and thanks for the fine letter. and God bless our pudding. As always, Aldo.
Nov. 26 – 09
My dear Mama-
I enclose the “error letter” – it’s just the scratch copy – don’t return.
One more thing that I think of – you have asked me several times what I want for Xmas. If you want to, you can get me two things.
No 1. My new uniform. I’ve tried twice to get a fit from the regular uniforms in Cincinnati and had to sell out at a loss both times. So I’ve sent Carolo a sample to match in decent goods of good quality, and I’m going to have my tailor Rosenberg make me the next one. It will cost about $40 I guess. You can pay me the bill for a very much appreciated Xmas present if you want to. I wouldn’t suggest it except that just this time of the year we all go bust on horse feed. Guthrie and I each have to get 3 tons of oats and 5 tons of hay. As you probably know from experience, that costs.
No. 2. A meerschaum pipe. I’ve asked Carolo to look me up one. I find that even with 2 briars one of the other is often going stale and needs a rest. If I had a meerschaum – which doesn’t go stale – for indoors, I would be fixed. It will cost about $8.
Of course this last is a luxury and not necessary, but I may need the uniform anytime – they are the officially authorized and required thing for such occasions as Ranger meetings, travel on forest, etc. Don’t let the word “uniform” alarm you – it’s just as simple olive-gray suit with plenty of large pockets.
Tell me what you think of these 2 propositions. Remember I can swing the deal if necessary.
Springerville AZ, November 26, 1909, Forest Office
My dear Mama,
I have just written my letter to the District Office announcing the discovery of my dear old 1000’ error. I don’t feel especially proud, so I’ll lay off a few minutes and write you a note.
Lots more things have happened since my fencerail gymnastics of Wednesday evening, but I’m not dead yet, by golly.
I was up yesterday bright and early. Borrowed [forester J.L.] Pritchard’s saddle, got on old Jiminy Hicks, and found that — — Bluedog within an hour, over on Becker’s Mesa as I expected. I ran him into Phelps’ Corral and caught him alright. The saddle was all there and undamaged.
I took him back and fed him and tied up his legs again and saddled him and piled on. He tried mighty hard to pitch but I succeeded in holding his head up as he couldn’t. Rode him off and on all morning, and was very much pleased with myself (and him).
About now came some more good luck in the line of a horse-trade. An old Indian and Chief and his party of Apache were camped alongside of our corral, and he came along with a beautiful little black pony and wanted to trade for Bluedog plus $5. I told him go to, but that I’d trade Jiminy Hicks even. Jiminy is all fat and sleek and looks fine. The old chief got on and rode him around a bit and then took me up. Maybe I wasn’t tricked.
I think I’ve told you that Jim is all stove up and goes out on long hikes even when he’s fat. And my new pony – I call him ‘Pache – is simply a beauty. Just 4 years old, barely broke, with a beautifully trim build, coal black, and fine short coat silky and shiny as sealskin. His mane and forelock and tail are a sight to behold – he shows the old Arab Spanish blood. He is fairly good size too, with a dandy trot and lope. He will learn to singlefoot I believe. He leads poorly and doesn’t sabe oats, but I’ll teach him both allright. Everybody who knows Jiminy Hicks admits I got the best of the deal.
Yesterday evening was a “box social” at the school house, the coming out party of our newly organized literary society. It was extremely interesting and quite a success – we cleared about $75. I had quite a bidding match with a cowpuncher named Brady for what I guessed to be Miss Kitty’s Box. It turned out to be Miss McGuiniss’ Box (our stenographer) and she is mighty nice, so I came out all right after all. Pritchard got Mrs. Tom Phelps’ box and we all ate together. Lordy but Mrs. Phelps can cook!
There was also a musical program which was quite good, and a reading by Mrs. Patterson which was nothing short of extraordinary. She is a genius, and extremely nice to boot – a rare and very much appreciated combination.
This morning I started in again on Bluedog, intending to ride him over to the office and back until he was broke. It was the old game of tying his legs to saddle. And then I piled on.
Now when he simply pulls down his head in trying to pitch, allright. I can hold him. But when he jerks his head back and snaps it down, it’s no use. That’s what he did, and once his head was down, he went to it.
Eaton was looking on. He says I shook loose on the first pitch and went off on the third. All I remember is that malpais roads are quite hard. I got a light bump on the head and a little more of a bump on the hip. Bluedog started to leave the country but we caught him in a blind street-end.
By this time quite an audience had gathered and shortly a purse was made up for the man who could ride my dear pet. A fellow named Fred Oldham finally decided to try. He knows his business. He piled on with a big blacksnake quirt, with 2 men on horseback holding Bluedog by the ears. The minute they let go he lashed the little devil such a swatch with the quirt that he never thought to pitch – just bolted and ran. Lord how he did go too! You see I am learning all the while.
Well – the whole town was out by this time – and the crowd was set on seeing some pitching horses. So messengers were sent for the two meanest horses in the neighborhood, two purses were made up, and the fun continued. One of these – a little bald-faced bay – was a sight to behold. He pitched 8 times within a 10 foot circle, 5 feet in the air, turning a complete circle in the air with each itch. How in hell any living man could stick to that horse I don’t see. But Oldham did, and to the other one too. He cleaned up about 15 dollars I guess.
As for Bluedog, I have, very much against my own inclination, decided to have him partially broke before I tackle him again. So I told Brady I’d give him a Fiver if he’d break him. You see I haven’t got time while working here in the office. He needs to be ridden down every day to take some of the ginger out of him.
While roping the bald-faced bay in Becker’s corral this morning Paul Ruth broke one pony’s leg. The fool pony ran against the rope and fell, and broke his foreleg right off. Sure lots of events in one day.
The winter winds are beginning now and Lordy how they do blow! Dust settles black and deep on everything in the house and office, and one’s eyes look like the day after a pepper fight. It’s too warm to suit me – there will come an awful blizzard before long.
Mr. Guthrie isn’t back yet, and his gingerbread still waits. I miss him very much, and get a little tired of batching when he isn’t around. I am not in very complete sympathy with either Pritchard or Viles, although we get along finely on the surface. I can’t get over the way Pritchard crawled on that Indian business, and Viles – well, there’s no use discussing this way. But it sure makes me appreciate an all-the-time man like Guthrie.
Well – goodbye now – and please don’t’ go to lecturing me on horses – because you know even less about them than I – isn’t that a fact?
Always, your Aldo
PS Had letter from Paxie yesterday. He is going home Christmas.
You asked me once about some old magazines and weeklies. By all means save them all for me, and ship in freight lots if necessary. We are awfully short on readables. I have taken to reading late nowadays even after I’ve been doing night work in the office. I’ve found that since I’ve gotten hardened up to riding and ordinary work that I can’t sleep more than 7 hours or so. So what’s the use of going to bed.
Please keep me posted on Dad’s trip – that’s what I’m looking forward to more than anything else.