Women and Their Work

Forestry for Women

EDITH G. BAYNE January 1 1920
Women and Their Work

Forestry for Women

EDITH G. BAYNE January 1 1920

Forestry for Women

EDITH G. BAYNE

COMING upon a lady auctioneer recently as she plied her trade in a Saskatchewan town one thought that the absolute limit had been achieved. But not so. British Columbia has a woman bush-ranger, a lithe-limbed, alert young woman, hardly more than a girl, who shoes her own horse, pitches her own tent and paddles her own canoe, literally, down turbulent mountain streams, or portages it through dense forest. She is Miss Marianne Keene, step-daughter of a well-known fire ranger of the West, and she knows her country like a book. The Indians are her friends. Every settler from the boundary line to the Athabasca knows her or has heard of her and the latch-string of every cabin, shack or ranch-hopse is always out for the dauntless girl who keeps the great forests free of fire. Miss Keene has studied forestry, tree-grafting and nursery work in an American College and is in fact a kind of tree surgeon, leaning preponderantly to the practical side of her work, and not much given to technical terms or long dissertations gleaned from books.

“One would seriously suggest that amongst our post-war plans the study and culture of trees be given a prominent place,” said Miss Keene when asked to pronounce an opinion on the possibilities of this line of work for Canadians generally. “Why should it not prove an attractive calling for women? Of course some might not possess the vigor and hardihood necessary for fire ranging, but nursery work is pleasant and very profitable too.”

She introduced us to an American woman, a college friend and an arboreal expert also, who though married and having a family had done a good deal of ranging and patrol work with her husband in the American Rockies. Nor was she the sort of person whose Home Sweet Home sampler has been replaced in theory (if not in fact) by one reading: “If you want to know who’s boss round here, start something!” She was

a dainty little creature, essentially feminine and riding her mount as though born to the saddle.

Miss Keene’s equipment i s composed o f a waterproof s u i t—jacket and breeches —heavy laced boots, a reversible cap, a shotgun, and the usual duffel-bag containing among other things a

small axe. The canoe and the horse alternate on trips. She admits that she likes the water ranging best," however. Often whole days pass when she doesn’t see a human face or hear a human voice. The great silences have a charm for her that she wouldn’t exchange for the noise and rush of cities, she declared, though she loves Vancouver and Seattle in the winter season, and usually spends January in California.

“Some day,” she told us, “I’m going back to the little village in Ontario where I was born. On the outskirts of that village lies what remains of the family homestead—a farm that at one time was the finest in the district. It belongs to others now but I’m saving up my money to buy it back. To me its deterioration has always been tragic. Yet there are many, many others in the same gone-to-seed condition! Canadians are peculiar in some respects. They imagine that a country’s prosperity is symbolized and reflected in tall office-buildings, in city sub-divisions, in business blocks, new theatres, golf clubs, public works of all kinds. It isn’t. At least those things don’t come first. The true estimate is in the state of the farms.”

I think that I shall never see jj

A poem lovely as a tree. jj

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest 1 Against the world's sweet flowing g breast. g

A tree that looks at God all day g And lifts lier leafy arms to pray; jg A tree that may in summer wear g A nest of robins in her hair, Upon whose bosom snow has lain; g Who intimately lives with rain. gj Poems are made by fools like me, jg But only God can make a tree. jj

THERE’S a down-at-heels farm in the St. Lawrence Valley that was once the pride of the countryside. Its original owner was a U. E. Loyalist, a frugal, industrious, God-fearing man of old Holland stock to whom intensive farming was second nature. To him a tree was a living thing. He understood and loved it. His land abounded in trees and his fruit orchard was worth coming miles to see. The only unproductive strip in all his two hundred acres was where the Grand Trunk Railway cut through them halfway between the river and the second concession. Apple, plum, cherry, pear, hickory, locust, elm, chestnut, cedar, spruce, cottonwood, oak, pine and maple—they were all there and in spring with the perfumed

blossoms drifting down, that fruit orchard on the old river bank must have been a dream of beauty and a delight to the senses of sight and

But what is that farm like ; t o-d a y? The ¡ fences are straggling and broken, the long lane, once sc neat, with a leafy arch above, and tree-bordered its whole length, is entirely bare, the trees dead, weeds over-running the gravel, deep ruts to be encountered here and there and the gate at the end hanging by one hinge. In the one-time orchard three or four halfhearted apple trees put up a pitiful pretence at bearing in the summer and in winter huddle together in a shuddering group with their dead branches rattling in the wind like old bones on a gibbet. The hickory trees have ceased to bear. With appalling frequency during the past ten or fifteen years the cherry, plum, pear and crabapple trees sickened and died and were not replaced. Where is the great and lovely Brockville Beauty tree that cast such pleasing shade over the well near the kitchen door? Alas, gone too! Nothing but a' jagged stump remains and on a warm summer day the old tin dipper is hot to the lips. Grandma used to roll out her delicious doughnuts on that backverandah, or do her churning of a morning or hang out her snowy dishtowels on the line under the branches. But now the outlook is bleak, the early sun drives in, there is neither shade nor shelter and a tangle of weeds and dead vines and underbrush clutters up the “dooryard,” running down even to the rusty barbed-wire fence that borders the old orchard, now an impenetrable jungle of fallen branches, burdocks and rotting tree-trunks. The giant elms are all dead or dying. River captains have used those monarchs as landmarks in days gone by. They will have to steer by faith and not by sight now.

To grow another Brockville Beauty to shade that old well would take—-how long? To reproduce that old lane, leading down from the main road, in all its ancient glory would require fifty years —almost a human lifetime! But of course there’s no money in trees and in our grossly material age who can be expected to back a losing proposition !

When after Verdun the Hun wreaked his vengeance on the trees of France “the sight of all those hacked and torn and blasted monarchs was as sad a one as a battlefield of dead heroes;-” to quote one despatch. Rounding a bend in the road one young poilu suddenly beheld the melancholy spectacle and “such a sharp cry of agony was drawn from his lips his comrades thought he had been hit by a fragment of shell.” When a French boy eats an apple he saves the seeds and going to one side of the road he digs in the earth with his bare brown toes, plants the seeds, covers them up and pats the ground firm again and then rejoins his comrades. This isn’t mere blind optimism, nor a pose nor a fad. It is habit. His father and his grandfather did it before him. His children will do it after him. It is an inherent trait of the most economical race on earth and the small boy exercises it with peach and plum stones, grape seeds or whatever else bears the slightest chance of reproduction. An old Frenchman once became highly indignant at sight of a carved peachstone on an American’s watch-chain. He flung up his hands in a shrug of despair and scorn.

“Now at last I know how it came about that you people are called the most extravagant in the world!” he cried. “Next you will be wearing watermelonseed necklaces!”

A wealthy Westerner said recently :

“I’m glad I wasn’t bom on the prairie—that I had my first ten years of life in the good old East. People envy me because I’m rich, but to me my real wealth is in the heritage of pleasant memories my childhood gave me— trees and brooks and May-flower picnics, fishings and hill-climbings and sugaring-off parties, beech-nutting expeditions, swimming escapades and lakeboat excursions. These I can treasure to old age. People who have missed a childhood, a normal childhood like that, have lost something necessary to the soul. And some day—ah ! some day!—I’m going back!”

But if he goes, what will he find? And the question too, arises: If a

Frenchman or a Belgian had owned that old St. Lawrence Valley farm would it be as it is to-day? The solution of the rehabilitation problem would appear to rest on the knees of the gods—or the

Government!—ufiless woman takes another step forward in the march of progress and qualifies for the degree of Tree Doctor.