The first day of my time with the Forest Service in the VetsWork AmeriCorps Program was eye-opening. Within the first few hours, I became re-acquainted with the headache that is government computers. It seems that just like the computers the military uses, the Forest Service gets its own share of the excruciating contraptions that the government calls computers. But, after a few hours (and a wish or two for a hammer), I got to see a little bit of what the Forest Service was all about.
I was taken to the Forest Service Work Center and their sister office (Poteau Ranger District) in Waldron, Arkansas, and was introduced to everyone. One of the things that many people may not realize is how close knit and friendly the people of the Forest Service are. Everyone has a smile on their face, and they all work extremely well together. The small number of people and the large amount of work involved to maintain our national forests are the main contributing factor behind it. For them to be able to do their job, they have to help one another.
After being introduced to everyone, I was taken to what is called West Haw Creek which is one of their Heritage Sites (Archeological Site). It was an old homestead from when non-native people first started settling the area. One of the first features I noticed was an old rock foundation and wall. The foundation was nothing more than some rocks lined and stacked in about a ten foot square, and the rock wall was formed from what was believed to be rocks cleared from a stretch of land used for farming.
A short distance from the foundation and wall was a rock-lined well. The Forest Service put a fence around the well to protect the public from the hazards of falling in the well. It is not unheard of for someone to actually fall into an undocumented well in the national forest, so when one is found, they fence it off in efforts to stop accidents and help with public safety.
After I was shown around the site, we proceeded to mark it. Marking the site is nothingmore than putting a protective space around the area, and then scraping the loose bark from trees surrounding the site and applying paint to them with a little dot on the bottom to point to the center of the site. The Forest Service does this so when they are doing other work in that general area, the workers know not to disturb the site or to take extra precautions not to damage it.
Once we had finished marking, we headed back to the office. On the way, we stopped by a small inlet along a nearby creek. My guide for the day told me that this used to be an old Native American campsite. We walked around for a couple of minutes and found a few flakes of chert here and there. On the way back to the truck, we found the tip of an arrowhead, right on top of where we had just looked.
Later that night, after a modeling session from AmeriCorps cutest fan, I began to think if all my days turn out to be like my first day, I’m going to have a very good year. I’m getting to see how to care and maintain our national forests, to learn the history of how our areas came to be developed and to help preserve our history for our future generations. I’m no longer punching a time clock; I getting to make a difference and get to have fun doing it.