We learn from the foresters letters to Gifford Pinchot that there were many ways in which young men and women joined the U.S. Forest Service in the years 1905-1909. Some bumped into a ranger in the woods, others read an article in one of various newspapers and journals, while others learned about "this new thing called forestry" from an aunt, grandmother or grandfather. Others had an abiding interest in nature, like Earle K. Frothingham, who wrote Gifford Pinchot from Biltmore Forest in Asheville, North Carolina in the summer of 1940. Like so many of the Foresters letters, his was humble, perhaps to a surprising extent. He wrote: “I am mortified,” wrote Frothingham, “at the scantiness of what I can offer.”
What Frothingham's letter to Pinchot offers us today is a psychological insight that helps us to understand ourselves, our relationship to the world around us, and what inspires us to protect that which we deem precious in the natural world. In Frothingham's day, jobs were scarce and opportunities practically non-existent for a young man or woman outside factory work and professions that required significant resources to pursue. Work in the woods was something any young man of able mind and body could undertake. Education was provided on-the-job. Housing and food were included. The training and skills received lasted a lifetime, leading a young man or woman to a sense of stability and gratitude to not just Pinchot but the U.S. Government for the opportunity.
Frothingham, for one, was inspired to reflect on his experiences before the age of what has been called "nature deficit disorder," in which birds, wolves, whales, and wildlife are separate from us, not intimately connected, much less protected, from the assaults of unregulated development and resource extraction.
In each moment, we have an opportunity to look up and look outside at the wonder of nature herself. Frothingham, in his mild-mannered Clark Kent letter, reminds us that one species can be an inspiration that takes us from inspiration to action, and to gainful employment that lasts a lifetime.