With unemployment rivaling Great Depression levels, some have suggested reinventing the Civilian Conservation Corps to create jobs and protect public lands. Rebekah Bloyd's family made good use of the program in hard times.
When I hear calls for a new “Tree Army,” a 21st-century version of the Civilian Conservation Corps, my Uncle Kenny comes to mind.
As part of the CCC, Kenny cleared underbrush in Wisconsin forests, dug roads on Orcas Island, Washington. He was 18, and, like most of the nation in 1935, down on his luck.
In between his two CCC enlistment periods, he was back with his brothers and parents, tending charcoal kilns and cutting cordwood near Houston, Texas, to survive another year of the Great Depression. My father, at 13, learned firsthand about physical toil, meager earnings — and the surprises of environment — that helped to sustain the family. Like Kenny, he never forgot the “elegant fragrance” of yellow jasmine that permeated the forest in springtime, the armadillo meat and dewberries that broke the monotony of their diet.
Later on, Kenny picked fruit in California as a transient farm hand; served in World War II; worked in the factories of his home state of Illinois.