Towards the end of mine and Russell’s interview with Mr. Bob James, there was time for just one more story. Mr. James looked over to me with an almost guilty grin on his face. With the courteous manners of a Southerner, he simply said: “You’ll have to excuse this.”
Naturally, I excused it. I was curious to hear a story that required such a pardon.
He explained to us that this particular story was a favorite around the Sierra Nevada Mountains, almost too tickled to continue. “After the summer season, they had what they called ‘burn out toilets’, where they would go in there and burn … clean it out,” he began. He continued to tell us that recreation guards would use a mixture of gasoline and diesel to clean with. According to Mr. James, this particular guard was rather careless on this day. After doing a sloppy job, the guard came down “flipping a fuse into the things, burning them out,” he said. Little did the guard know, however, that one of the toilets was occupied.
“The guy decided while he was in there, why, he would smoke and so he lit up and threw his match down the…” and Mr. James just bursts into laughter, as we all did. “Long story short, that was an experience that he probably won’t forget!”
I think that was the first time I had seen Russell laugh that hard.
Seeing me in a fit of laughter was nothing new to him, obviously; after being my “teammate,” for two and a half months, he was pretty used to it.
I know, I know: This story was not really necessary, nor was it relevant to Mr. James’ time with the Forest Service, but I presented it to you, Reader, to prove a point.
It was silly stories such as this one that really gave Mr. James’ career ‘a face,’ so to speak. Such was the case for myself, anyway. I could have sat there and listened to this man talk about his incredible career all day long, trust me. It was surreal, and unlike any other career that I had ever heard of.
It was the little side stories, however, that made Mr. James’ career come to life. They served as little reminders that ‘Wow, such an exciting career does actually exist!’
And how could it not? Mr. James has the stories to prove it does, after all.