When the evening was farther advanced, and the air was vibrant with the voices of the wireless, Lew and Charley took turns reading the news, while the ranger’s expression of amazement and admiration grew deeper and deeper, and his liking and respect for his young subordinate increased rapidly. Finally the ranger was given his first lesson in radio-telegraphy. While Lew was writing down for him the wireless alphabet, Charley was showing him how to make the letters on the spark-gap. Before they turned in for the night, the ranger had learned to distinguish the difference between the sound of a dot and of a dash as the signals buzzed in the receiver.
On the Trail of the Timber Thieves
Very early the next morning the ranger was afoot. Before ever the faintest streaks of light penetrated the thicket, he had started the coffee to boiling on the little stove, and breakfast was almost ready before he wakened his young comrades.
“Why didn’t you call us sooner?” asked Charley indignantly, as he leaped out of his blanket. “It’s our place to do the work here, not yours.”
The ranger smiled. “It would have been cruel to waken you earlier. It’s easy to see that you aren’t accustomed to such stiff work as your hike here yesterday must have been. You slept like logs.”
“We intend to do our full share of the work,” said Charley.
“I’m sure of it,” replied the ranger. “If I had thought you were trying to shirk, I’d have had you out of bed long ago.”
Many a time afterward Charley thought of that statement and pondered over it. He was learning a good deal about life these days.
Grateful indeed was the warm coffee, for the April morn was chill. Quickly the food was eaten, and the ranger prepared to depart.
“I don’t want to burden you with rules,” he said in parting. “Your business is to protect the forest. Every day you will meet some new situation. You must do your best to protect the harmless creatures of the forest, as well as the timber. That means you may have to deal with gunners who are violating the law. Such men, with firearms in their hands, are dangerous. You may come across timber thieves. Get acquainted with your territory so that you can tell whether a felled tree is on state land or on private property. Your maps show you where the lines run, and you will find the trees along these lines blazed. If you find lumbering operations going on within the state forest, do your best to stop the cutting and report the matter at once. You may find traps set out of season. And it is practically certain you will have to deal with fires and perhaps the men who start them. Being a fire patrol involves a whole lot more than merely walking about through the woods. I can’t give you rules that will cover all the situations you will find yourself in. Common sense is the best rule. The chief has given you a very important post here. It’s an unusual responsibility for one so young. But we both expect you to make good. I’ll be disappointed if you don’t. You know if you fail, I’ll have to take part of the blame.” He shook hands with both boys and was gone.