We learn from the Old Timers' narratives that there were many ways in which young men and women joined the U.S. Forest Service. Some met a ranger in the woods, others read an article in a newspaper or magazine, while others learned about "this new thing called forestry" from an aunt, sister, grandmother or grandfather. Some had an abiding interest in nature, like Earle H. Frothingham, who wrote Gifford Pinchot in the summer of 1940 from Biltmore Forest near Asheville, North Carolina. Like so many of the early foresters Frothingham was humble, perhaps to a surprising extent. He wrote: “I am mortified at the scantiness of what I can offer.”
Earle H. Frothingham's narrative offers a psychological insight into what inspires us to serve and protect nature. His narrative helps us to understand ourselves, our relationship to the natural world, and what moves us from thought to action. In Frothingham's day, jobs were scarce. Young men and women could choose between factory work or professions that required significant training, education, and resources. Some Old Timers reported that their health prevented factory work. Others wrote that they could not afford a college education. On the other hand, work in the woods was something any young man of able mind and body could undertake. Education and training was provided on-the-job. Housing and food were included. The skills developed lasted a lifetime. Naturally, a young man or woman developed a profound sense of stability and gratitude, not just to Gifford Pinchot but to the Government for an opportunity to improve their lives.
Frothingham reflected on his relationship with nature long before the age of what has been called "nature deficit disorder." Many of the Old Timers, no doubt, recognized the connection between man and nature. Wolves, whales, and wildlife are not separate from us, they are intimately connected.
In each moment, we have an opportunity to look up and look outside at the wonder that is nature. In his mild-mannered Clark Kent-style letter, Frothingham reminds us that one species can be an inspiration that takes us from inspiration to action, and to a sense of purpose that may last a lifetime.