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by Ernest Thompson Seton   

The Woodcrafter in the Forest

I suppose there never was a boy or girl who did not love trees. I remember a little prairie boy in my young days whose idea of heaven was a big tree on the prairie with an angel under it, who never said, "I don't know" when asked a question. A tree has always been a blessed and glorious thing to me. Often I feel the ax chopping into my own soul when I see it laid to some splendid tree that has been selected for destruction. Let every Woodcraft Boy commit to mind that lovely little poem by Joyce Kilmer originally appearing in "Publications of Poetry," and printed in Boys' Life, October, 1913.

I think that I shall, never see 
A poem lovely as a tree, 
A tree whose hungry mouth is pressed 
Against the Earth's sweet flowing breast, 
A tree that looks at God all day 
And lifts her leafy arms to pray, 
A tree that may in summer wear 
A nest of robins in her hair, 
Upon whose bosom snow has lain: 
Who intimately lives with rain. 
Poems are made by fools like me,
 But only God can make a tree.

There are only three things that can justify the destruction of a tree. These are: we need its lumber, we need its room, or it is breeding plague.

How very seldom nowadays are we justified in destroying little trees, and above all, what a fearful crime becomes the roaring, racing, raging hell known as a forest fire.

Four--fifths of America's forests have been destroyed by wild fires, which were in most cases preventable--in all cases lamentable. For besides destroying the trees it destroyed thousands of human beings, millions of beautiful, harmless birds and other wild creatures, and utterly ruined the soil of the country beneath.

No one with an ounce of patriotism will be responsible for a wild fire. Wild fire is the demon that we strike at in our sixth law. Oh, Woodcrafter, never, never forget your vow to face and fight all wildfire in the woods. It is far worse in some ways than fire an town. For there you are sure to have competent firemen ready at hand, but the forest fire may spread out over a county before its presence is fully realized, and yet a single Woodcrafter on the spot when first it begins may stop it with a bucket of water, the blow of a shovel, or even of a stick.

These are some of the rules that lead to safety:

Never build a big fire. There is a certain type of madman who thinks a camp is incomplete without a "bonfire." All such folk should be in jail. No Woodcrafter ever builds a bonfire. It is wasteful, uncomfortable, unsocial, dangerous, and criminal.

Let your fire be the little fire of the cook or the Council Ring. Do not build it on piles of logs, rotten wood, or rubbish, nor near them, nor on bog. Try to have it on the bare ground, and so that you can go all around it on bare ground.

In windy weather or dangerous places dig a hole or wall up the fire with stones, sods, green logs, sand, or 'other things that do not burn.

Never leave a camp or the campfire without extinguishing every spark, using water and plenty of it, if you love your country or the good green woods. Never leave the campfire burning even for a short time without some one there to guard it.

Never throw down burning matches or lighted cigars or cigarettes. I suppose half of the fires come from this cause.

These are offered you as Woodcraft rules, offered that your acceptation may rest on love of the thing protected. But do not forget that any breach of this is listed as crime in the law of the land and may be visited by heavy pains and penalties.

But we hope that the Woodcrafter will not need to think of anything but the beauty of the blessed woods and be ready and eager at all times to do his share toward keeping these for the joy of having them.

The Birch Bark Roll 






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Last modified: October 15, 2016.