Although the back-to-the-land movement means getting away
from people and moving in with trees and grass, many
potential nature lovers are terrorized by thoughts of the
loneliness and isolation which may be experienced. It's a
real love-hate relationship. We love nature, but we feel
secure in the crowds of the big cities.
Communes are an answer. But if members of a commune are
afraid to be alone, I feel this may break up the very
commune they want to form.
May I suggest, as one solution to facing yourself alone,
the job of forest fire lookout. True, you will be trapped
on a mountain with primitive facilities, but you will also
know that your time there is limited, and that you are in
constant radio communication with other lookouts. You will
also be living in the woods during the most pleasant part
of the year and you will make a substantial sum of money
because you can't spend any while you're there!
Here's how you make it happen: Write the U.S. Forest
Service, Washington, D.C. and request a list of all forests
which need lookouts. The west coast has the largest need
and the office for all west coast forests is in Portland,
Oregon. I don't know the exact address but a letter should
get to the proper place if you write U.S. Forest Service,
After you get your list of forests, write to each one and
request the name of each ranger station and the fire
control officer in charge.
Now, fill out the miserable Civil Service Form No. 57 which
you can get at your local post office (it's 4 pages!?) and
write a personal letter (NOT a carbon copy) to the officer
at every station that interests you.
Tell, in the letter, whether or not you have a car (it is
not essential, but helps). If you want to bring a mate, say
so (they love couples but you'll have to lightly refer to
your partner as a wife or husband even if she or he isn't).
Anything personal you can do will help. My mate and I even
telephoned a ranger. Tell them you've fought a fire
somewhere. I don't know if this is general, but they even
asked to see my man's discharge papers from the army.
Then you sit back and wait. If you do all the red tape,
you're bound to get several offers! Just don't wait until
too late in the season: The deadline for applications is
about the end of March or middle of April.
One word of warning: There are hangups. The Forest Service
is organized along para-military discipline. Probably they
are in favor of the Vietnam War. If you're into trying to
change people's heads, though, you'll have a lot of time
for rapping and persuading your fellow lookouts. And, if
your superiors are distasteful, you'll — at least — be 40
miles away from them!
There are other pluses: As lookouts, we met some mighty
nice individuals, tending a forest is an honorable job
(although some folks have ulterior motives) and living and
working in natural surroundings can bring a person's best
qualities to the surface.