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Design: Rick Swan Editing: Elizabeth Danforth Black and White Art: Terry Dykstra Color Art: Julie ... - page 136 / 157

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If a stranger's motives are more ambiguous--for instance, if he's chopping down trees or hunting animals beyond his needs--the ranger will confront him, politely but irmly inquiring about his intentions. Generally, the abrupt appearance of an intimidating ranger, particularly if he's accompanied by a bear or two, elicits immediate cooperation. If the stranger explains himself satisfactorily, the ranger departs, perhaps implying that he'll be back if the stranger doesn't keep his nose clean. Should the stranger resist the ranger's authority, the ranger may take whatever actions he deems necessary to ensure compliance, using violence as a last resort.

However, physical confrontations are rare. More commonly, strangers require directions, medical care, or advice. A ranger is usually willing to help, especially if his assistance facilitates their leaving his territory more quickly. If the strangers are lost, the ranger will point out the best route leading to their desired destination. In some cases, he'll volunteer to guide them. Most rangers have a rudimentary knowledge of first aid, and can bind sprained ankles, splint bones, and attempt to resuscitate for drowning victims. A ranger can explain which plants are edible and which are poisonous. He can direct strangers to sources of fresh water, orchards of ripe fruit, and safe campsites.

In return, the ranger may well insist that strangers clean up after themselves, avoid disturbing local habitats, and preserve the natural beauty of the environment. Those who violate the ranger's trust can expect a brisk escort out of his territory.

A ranger who occupies an undeveloped wilderness must spend a fair amount of time making and maintaining trails. Some of these trails may be permanent roads or paths, usable by anyone traversing the ranger's territory. Other trails may be known only to the ranger, concealed by dense woods or similar terrain. The ranger and his followers use these concealed trails to get from place to place while monitoring the movement of strangers. Although animals in their native habitats are efficient trailmakers, the ranger may improve their trails by making the footing safer, or linking feeding grounds, watering holes, grazing pastures, and lairs.

An effective trail system requires a thorough understanding of the land, including the precise location of streams, hills, and other significant terrain features. A ranger occupying a small territory may be able to hold this information in his head. For larger regions, the ranger may need to keep maps. In this case, a conscientious ranger will regularly review and update his maps, adding new features and looking for discrepancies.

Constructing a new trail begins with clearing debris and smoothing the ground. This may involve cutting trees, pulling stumps, and filling in holes. If a road passes though a valley or ravine, the ranger may have to dig ditches to direct rainwater away from the trail. He may then need to plant grasses along the roadside to prevent soil from washing into the ditches.

Trail maintenance is an ongoing chore, requiring weeding in the spring and ice removal in the winter. In exceptionally harsh climates, the ranger may have to build snow fences, which are constructions of wood or stone that run parallel to a trail. During blizzards, blowing snow piles up along the fence instead of covering the trail.

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