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I took an awful lot of photos during my time on the St. Joe.  Most were slides, and the photos that follow were scanned recently (since I got a decent scanner)...


The story:

In '67-68, I was studying forestry at the University of Montana, and (like any good forestry student) applied to numerous National Forests for summer work.

I was accepted for a lookout position in California (Forest Service Region 5). So I sent in my 'physical' and got a letter telling me the job was withdrawn...because of my eyeballs. They said I could be a lookout just fine (with glasses) but MIGHT be sent on a fire, and no way could I work on a fire crew with my bad eyesight.

Oh, pooh. well, at that time, applicants submitted shotgun applications, and might receive multiple job offers. So all was not lost.

(Later that was changed, so that you could only submit an application to one forest, and that was it. Thankfully, there were ways around that, so a committed fire junkie could work a long season, but that's another story).

So I accepted the second offer, on the St. Joe National Forest (Region 1). I was to be a lookout at Anthony Peak outside Clarkia, Idaho. Physical sent in, no problem, all was well. Until about 2 weeks before I was to report. Turns out they did an inspection on the wooden tower, and decided they couldn't put anybody up there... it wasn't structurally sound. Fine with me! I don't like heights anyway.

We'll still put you to work, they said.... would you like to be on a fire crew?

Fine with me! I have zero fire experience, and zero Forest Service experience, and deficient eyeballs according to the California folks, but what the heck....

Turns out the 'fire crew' was the St. Joe IRFC (Inter-Regional Fire Crew). A specialized, 25-man bunch that was called on for fire anywhere in the country. Talk about luck....

Even a blind hog gets an acorn once in a while.

For my first fire, we got called out, drove to Couer d'Alene Idaho, hopped on a plane and I woke up at about 5 am looking down on the Grand Canyon. Fantastic!

On to Holbrook (if I remember right), then south towards the Mogollon Rim. We went on the line that evening, me trying to figure things out and do what I was taught. Come sometime late in the night, we were scattered out across the hillside.... and I realized there were no other headlamps to be seen.... I was totally alone in the smoldering darkness.

It was a really weird feeling, but by moseying this way and that, I eventually hooked up with the rest of the crew with nobody but me knowing.

So I finished out that year, and went back for the next ('69). I have photos from what I thought was going to be my last fire.... for some reason I thought my fire days were done.  Hah!    But these are just St. Joe photos.

Ride's over!

Riding the Bull.  Few people could stay on for more than a couple jerks on the cables.

Tent camp

Unity, OR
Just before we got run out of fire camp (see below).

Another Unity photo.

Unity after we went back, camping in the ashes.

On the line.

The crew.

Jake, Charlie, and Nixon in the tent cabin.


Got run off the mountain.
Unity, OR '69

This is the tent camp we lived in, plank floor, plywood sides, and a canvas roof.
We ate in the cookhouse (and ate well!)
The dog on the step was named "Oly" after Olympia beer.

On the bus, both years we had a rented (small) schoolbus. We had some
innovative ways to sleep in there (it was a good idea to sleep whenever you could).
We'd stretch out on the floor, under the seats, with another body straddling the aisle on top.
The bottom berth was a bit claustrophobic, and took some contortions to get into,
but it beat trying to sleep sitting upright in a school bus seat.

Somewhere in Oregon, at dawn after a really long shift. I know, "sleeping
on the job"! Well, we'd cut line for umpteen hours, then mopped up for some more...
Then it was 'patrol' until we got relieved. See the guy standing up?
He's the patroller. Looks more like death warmed over to me.

Ever fall asleep standing up? Ever work 34 hours straight?