Over the course of about four years, Gifford Pinchot received approximately 225 responses to his request for narratives. Among these responses were several dozen we might think of as "widows and orphans" in which the writer sent either a single page or sometimes just a paragraph saying that he or she was deeply grateful to hear from the Old Chief and pleased at the opportunity to share their stories. Naturally, Pinchot wanted more than just a single paragraph.
One such response came from the Director of the Texas Forest Service, E.O Siecke, who started out with the Forest Service in 1904 and wrote Old Chief Pinchot on Texas State letterhead on October 7, 1940. Like many, Siecke, said he was too busy to reply immediately but would get back to Pinchot as soon as he could. Whether he did is unknown.
Siecke's letter gives us two points of entry into our search for the information Pinchot might have appreciated: the Texas Forest Service and the Sand Hills of Nebraska. Many early rangers began their career training with the U.S. Forest Service in Halsey where the first government nursery was being constructed in 1902, thanks to President Theodore Roosevelt's establishment of the Niobrara Forest Reserve. In advance of that proclamation, several young forest assistants were enlisted and sent out to survey and investigate conditions on the ground. Their narratives sent to Pinchot provide a detailed description of who, what, where, when and how this "groundbreaking" work was accomplished. We can also determine who might have crossed paths with E.O. Siecke through the one-of-a-kind narrative of Charles Anderson Scott, who started work with the Forest Service in Washington, D.C. in 1902 and was sent to the Halsey nursery site shortly thereafter. Scott's narrative, sent to Pinchot in September of 1940, is filled with colorful detail, anecdotes, and an accompanying "Epic of Camp Chaug, in the Land of Ak-Sar-Ben," a classically-inspired tale of heroic re-vegetation efforts starring himself and fellow foresters L.C. Miller, Wallace T. Hutchinson, "Billy" Mast, Jacob Blummer, "Bobby" Reynolds, and others. Along with poetry and musical scores, Scott sent Pinchot a day-to-day description of their work which included surveying the boundaries of the Dismal River in 1902.
Texas Forest Service
E.O. Siecke, Director
Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas
College Station, Texas
October 7, 1940
Hon. Gifford Pinchot
In formulating this letter I started to make an apology for my inexcusable neglect in delaying reply to your letter of June 14. However, I have no alibi except that I laid your letter to one side to permit me to analyze the situation and to determine if I had anything of material interest to contribute. In the press of quite a number of unforeseen responsibilities during the summer months, I proceeded to forget about your letter, and it did not come to my attention until yesterday. Needless to say I feel greatly embarrassed.
If the opportunity still remains there are a number of incidents in my experience that might be of interest. I started out as a laborer on the Dismal River Forestry Preserve in the sand hills of Nebraska in 1904. Perhaps some of my experience there and also in connection with early assignments in the Western States may be appropriate.
Very sincerely yours,