Harper & Brothers, NY 1910
Zane Grey wrote the Ken Ward Books for Boys as adventure stories for a younger audience. In each of them Kenneth Ward sets off into the unknown and through him Zane Grey gets to present both places and issues that were important to him in a manner that appealed to a younger audience.
In The Young Forester Zane Grey discusses what it meant to be a U.S. Forest Service Ranger through his character Ken Ward. Ward has a dream and that dream is to become a Forest Ranger. He just needs to convince his father to let him go to Arizona so he can check the ranger life out in the company of his friend, Dick Leslie. Dick Leslie has already proven himself as a Forest Service Ranger by having the necessary qualities and having passed the required test.
Ken’s father feels Ken has romanticized the life of a ranger too much, but after Ken has taken him through his own woods he realizes that his son has studied the subject and tried to prepare for what lies ahead. So Ken gets his go ahead on the condition that Ken comes back and continues his studies in the autumn.
On his way West, Ken meets a man called Bluell who lives in Holston (Ken’s embarkation station). Ken manages to settle for the night in a hotel and right away sees that people are a lot tougher than he is. Someone as fresh from the East as Ken is in for a lot of trickery but not all are out to get him.
His very first advice is to keep his mouth shut about going into the Ranger business. Secondly, he shouldn’t talk so much about being from the East. And finally he gets advice on how to handle his riding and pack horse. In all these things Bluell seems to steer him true.
Certain things come to light that Ken finds odd. Coming across the trail that he had lost the day before Ken sees the same Mexican man who had been following him around the evening before. Then Ken arrives at a mining operation in the hills that is run by Bluell. This operation is cutting an awful lot of trees and Ken wonders at how legal this operation is. Dick Leslie seems to have changed quite a bit. All of these things together and Ken is getting a bit worried.
According to one old (real life) ranger:
The only serious opposition I recall was from contractors undertaking to supply timber needed by the larger mining companies for fuel and mine timbers. They had been accustomed to cut large quantities where they pleased, without payment. When the forest reserves were created, the contractors didn’t even attempt to get permits or purchase the timber from the Government, but would help themselves. That kept my father and the rest of us busy. (Richard H. Hanna)
It just so happens that Bluell represents one such contractor and that they aren’t all that concerned about permits or payments. Illegal logging isn’t something people only did back in the old days when they supposedly did not know better. We are really good at it today as well.
Ward overhears Bluell revealing his thoughts about Ken. It isn’t pretty.
“His name’s Ward. Tall, well-set lad. I put Greaser after him the other night, hopin’ to scare him back East. But nix!”
“Well, he’s here now—to study forestry! Ha! ha!” said the other.
“You’re sure the boy you mean is the one I mean?”
“Greaser told me so. And this boy is Leslie’s friend.”
“That’s the worst of it,” replied Buell, impatiently. “I’ve got Leslie fixed as far as this lumber deal is concerned, but he won’t stand for any more. He was harder to fix than the other rangers, an’ I’m afraid of him.” he’s grouchy now.
“You shouldn’t have let the boy get here.”
“Stockton, I tried to prevent it. I put Greaser with Bud an’ Bill on his trail. They didn’t find him, an’ now here he turns up.”
“Maybe he can be fixed.”
“Not if I know my business, he can’t; take that from me. This kid is straight. He’ll queer my deal in a minute if he gets wise. Mind you, I’m gettin’ leary of Washington. We’ve seen about the last of these lumber deals. If I can pull this one off I’ll quit; all I want is a little more time. Then I’ll fire the slash, an’ that’ll cover tracks.”
“Buell, I wouldn’t want to be near Penetier when you light that fire. This forest will burn like tinder.”
“It’s a whole lot I care then. Let her burn. Let the Government put out the fire. Now, what’s to be done about this boy?”
Understandably, Ken worries where this is going to end. And so he should.