CHAPTER B. MARK TWAIN AND THE FOREST RANGERS
In a quarterly magazine published solely for the Rangers of the Tahoe Reserve, one of the Rangers thus "newspaperizes" Mark's experiences in two different sketches, one as it was in 1861 "before" the establishment of the Reserve, and the other as it would be "now."
AS IT WAS IN 1861
Extract from January Harper's. - Mark Twain heard that the timber around Lake Bigler (Tahoe) promised vast wealth which could be had for the asking. He decided to locate a timber claim on its shores. He went to the Lake with a young Ohio lad, staked out a timber claim, and made a semblance of fencing it and of building a habitation, to comply with the law. They did not sleep in the house, of which Mark Twain says: "It never occurred to us for one thing, and besides, it was built to hold the ground, and that was enough. We did not wish to strain it."
They lived by their camp-fire on the borders of the Lake and one day - it was just at nightfall - it got away from them, fired the Forest, and destroyed their fence and habitation. His picture of the superb night spectacle - the mighty mountain conflagration - is splendidly vivid.
"The level ranks of flame were relieved at intervals by the standard-bearers, as we called the tall dead trees, wrapped in fire, and waving their blazing banners a hundred feet in the air. Then we could turn from the scene to the Lake and see every branch and leaf, and cataract of flame upon its banks perfectly reflected, as in a gleaming, fiery mirror. The mighty roaring of the conflagration, together with our solitary and somewhat unsafe position (for there was no one within six miles of us), rendered the scene very impressive."
AS IT WOULD BE NOW
Press Dispatch, - August 15, 1912.
MARK TWAIN FIRES FOREST! ! !
NOTED HUMORIST CHARGED BY FOREST OFFICERS WITH CRIMINAL CARELESSNESS
Mark Twain and a friend from Ohio, who have been camping on Lake Tahoe, are responsible for a Forest fire which burned over about 200 acres before it was checked by Forest officers. The fire was sighted at 6 o'clock P.M. by one of the cooeperative patrolmen of the Crown Columbia Paper Company, who at once telephoned to the tender of the Launch 'Ranger' for help. Within an hour the launch was on the scene with a dozen men picked up at Tahoe City, and by 10 o'clock the fire was practically under control.
Twain and his friend were found spell-bound by the Rangers, at the impressiveness of the fire. After fighting it for several hours, however, its grandeur palled upon them, and at the present time they are considerably exercised inasmuch as it was ascertained that the fire was a result of their carelessness in leaving a camp-fire to burn unattended. It is extremely likely that the well-known humorist will find the penalty attendant to his carelessness, no "joking" matter.
To which I take the liberty of adding the following:
From the Nevada City Bulletin, Sept. 6, 1912.
Samuel L. Clemens (popularly known as Mark Twain), together with Silas Snozzlebottom, of Columbus, Ohio, was to-day arraigned before Justice Brown, of the Superior Court, charged with having caused a destructive fire by leaving his campfire unattended. The eminent humorist and author was evidently unaware of the seriousness of his offense for he positively refused to engage an attorney to defend him. When called upon to plead he began to explain that while he confessed to lighting the fire, and leaving it unattended, he wished the Judge to realize that it was the act of God in sending the wind that spread the flames that caused the destructive fire which ensued. The Judge agreed with him, and then grimly said it was a similar act of God which impelled him to levy a fine of $500.00 and one month in jail for leaving his campfire subject to the influence of the wind. The humorist began to smile "on the left," and expressed an earnest desire to argue the matter out with the Judge, but with a curt "Next Case!" Mark was dismissed in charge of an officer and retired "smiling a sickly smile," and though he did not "curl up on the floor," it is evident that the subsequent proceedings interested him no more.