A Startling Discovery
Charley was glad enough that the man was not Collins. Had he been Collins, Charley would have had another matter to worry about. He was carrying such a load of responsibility these days that he sometimes felt that he couldn’t stand another thing; and in moments of depression he thought he could not continue to carry the load he already had.
For Charley was learning the lesson that every man in authority learns: when the forester laid out a piece of work for him, the forester expected him to get it done. No matter what the difficulties were, Charley had to find a way to surmount them. Many and many a day he would gladly have exchanged places with the humblest laborers in his crew.
All that was required of them was merely to do what they were told to do, hour after hour or day after day. There was no need for them to lie awake wrestling with problems that seemed impossible of solution, as Charley had more than once lain awake.
For it had not all been smooth sailing for Charley, any more than it is for any man in authority. After his first set-to with the surly laborer, he had not had any open trouble with his men. But more than one of his crew did not always do an honest day’s work, and any failure on the men’s part put Charley behind with the amount of work he was expected to get done. This difficulty Charley had finally remedied by asking for Mr. Morton’s help. The latter had sent for several of the laborers and had shown them that in hindering Charley they were hurting the Forest Service and thus, in the long run, harming themselves.
Furthermore, as the days passed, and Charley showed that he knew his job, that he was just to everybody, that he had control of his temper, that he expected a fair day’s work every day, while he himself accomplished more actual work each day than any man in his gang, the attitude of the men under him changed. Before the summer ended, Charley had as loyal a crew as any man could ask for. And to their loyalty they began to add ambition. For Charley was able gradually to instil into them the spirit which made them want to do as much as any other crew and a little bit more.
So his road making came on apace. Rapidly the rude highway advanced through the forest. Every day after his crew had gone home, Charley went over the area to be made the succeeding day, examining carefully every inch of the ground and determining how he would meet each little problem that would come up. Thus prepared, he speedily acquired a reputation for unusual ability. The result was that his men, when stopped by some obstacle, at once came to him for assistance, though at first they would have scorned to ask a “high school boy” for enlightenment about any task in the forest.
The road under construction was being pushed straight through the heart of the big timber. It was to lead directly to the foot of the mountain on the top of which Charley and Lew had had their secret watch tree. Materials for a real fire-tower, a sixty-foot structure of steel, had been purchased, and as soon as the road was completed, this material was to be trucked to the foot of the mountain, and the tower itself erected on the summit, close to the very tree that Charley and Lew had climbed so often.