Forest Service Folk Stories

This being my first oral history project, I must say that Dr. Argow was the perfect candidate. I was a bit nervous going into the interview, but Dr. Argow quickly made me feel comfortable with the interview process. I was unsure of what to expect from him, but he proved to be quite entertaining. During the interview Dr. Argow told some stories that represent folkways encountered by Forest Service employees. It was through these stories that I realized what kinds of challenges Forest Service employees can potentially encounter.


Dr. Argow worked as a ranger in the national forests of North Carolina back in the 1960s. While he was there, he tended to his duties such as fire lookout. One day, the rangers noticed a string of five fires on Pilot Mountain and in Balsam Grove that were quickly converging into one, which presented a host of problems. Along with trying to control the fires, they had to investigate why they were happening. Dr. Argow said that his partner told him it was arson and that “he wouldn’t ask any more questions.” Meanwhile, Dr. Argow and his fellow rangers were dispatched. They had a brand new six passenger Forest Service truck for traveling the forest. They left the vehicle to go watch the fires over night. While they were on the watch, they heard six gunshots. It turns out, a local citizen shot the truck and caused serious damage to the radiator, radio, and tires. Dr. Argow said this was a warning to the Forest Service.


A few days later, Dr. Argow and a sheriff’s deputy travelled to the suspected arsonists house to question the shooting. When they arrived, a woman and four children answered the door. Meanwhile, Dr. Argow and the deputy heard a door slam and the deputy indicated that the man they were looking for had escaped out the back. The woman claimed that he was not home. Dr. Argow and the deputy left the house and the deputy asked if he noticed anything strange about the kids. Dr. Argow said, “Well, their faces weren’t quite together right.”  The deputy replied that the kids’ “daddy is the man you’re  looking for” and the woman who answered the door “was his wife, but also his daughter.”


This is only one of the stories Dr. Argow shared with me during the interview. I realized that Forest Service rangers encounter dangerous situations while performing their jobs. I previously did not think the Forest Service posed danger and was especially surprised that it comes from humans as well as wildlife. I was able to gain a better perspective of the Forest Service and Dr. Keith Argow’s career while he shared his many folk stories.


-Susan