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The Sketcher

   

ALONE ON MOUNT DALE. .

(By J. Perry.)

My thoughts grow Lazy. Here I am, like Alexander Selkirk, monarch of all I survey; and I'd give it all for a bath and a cool drink. But such luxuries are not for forestry employees on watch tower duty.

Ah! There-a flickering dot of light in the distance steadies and becomes motionless as I look. My own helio, is already set up, and sighted on the spot where the dot of light shines. I tap out: "Dash, dot, dot, dash." The tiny pin- point of light flickers in acknowledgment, Alert and watchful once more; even that wee dot of light reminds me there are other people in the world, though   they be 12 miles distant at Grey- stones. True it is not I in whom they are personally interested, all alone on Mt. Dale though I be. What they sig- nal for is not to inquire if little Sammy is well and fit, or if he'd like a cool drink. No, indeed! Their quest is; "How's things?" Is their area clear of fire? Life! Just everybody for them-

selves.

I relapse into thoughts and am just spending riotously a portion of the Tatt's   ticket which one always hopes to win, when a wisp of smoke rises. A bearing taken on it with the theodolite, in con- junction with one taken simultaneous- ly from Mt. Gunjin lookout tower, places it outside the area. I have just located the fire on the map when the telephone rings. "Hullo! Hullo! Dale, this is Bar-   ton's speaking. Howdy?" "All clear on the area," I reply, "It's pretty warm. (Say, Bill, when you're on Dale, did you see any butterflies?" "Sure thing, Sam, you can always see them when you've been there four days; you can't see them yet; you've only been up two days." "Well, I can, any way, big black and white ones." "Oh, my lad, they are there all the time. It's the coloured ones that turn up after four days. Well, so long Sam. Good luck.".

Haring entered up the calls, helio, and telephone, in the time message book, and taken another survey of the country, spread out for miles below the look- out tower, I pick up the only book there I have not read, and try again to get up an interest in the impossible cha- racters. Jessie, the simple country maiden, rejects with scorn the Lord of the Manor, in favour of the noble-hearted ploughman, etc., etc. Oh. drivel! and

I've five more days to put in. I'll be reading the ads. of purple pills, 'ere those five days are gone. Oh, well, it's all in a life time, and a rest cure at that. Next week some other poor blighter will take my place. There's   the view; that's worth a good, deal; from Mt. Bakewell in the east, far past Chid low's in the north, away over Rott- nest in the west, and bound by the Jar rahdale range to the south. It is a fine panorama.  

The State forest, over which we keep watch for fires, is quite a small part of the view, occupying only one of the four sides of the tower, which con sists of a small open-sided hut, mounted on a 25ft. tower. It is equipped with a theodolite and map for finding and locat- ing fires; a heliograph for communicating with any of the Forests Department em- ployees in the State forest, and a tele phone connection to Mt. Gunjin look out tower, to Barton's forest station, and to forest headquarters at Mundaring Weir itself. Thus communication can be es- tablished any time between forest head- quarters and any employee in the bush.

I have often thought (and Dale is a rare place for finding time to think) that an enforced term of fire-fighting would perhaps have more effect as a deterrent on a man who maliciously sets miles of country aflame than imprison ment. Consideration, then, for those who have to fight the fire, might sway them more than the fact that it is their own wealth they are burning when they light the country for miles.

The afternoon draws in. A final "all clear" has been flashed to the helio. sub- station at Greystones. Batrton's forest station and headquarters have been given the same message by telephone. A final "so long" to Gunjin and down

I go to the hut below the tower for tea.

Quickly the sun sinks. lt is dark now, and the wind that ever blows on Dale

murmurs in the trees around the hut; a brush rustles by. Away on the western

horizon Rottnest lighthouse is blinking,   the only sign of civilisation - about 40 miles away I think.  

The hard-hit hero of some of our modern best-sellers, who retires to an obscure spot to "find himself" should assuredly come to Dale. No one will ever interrupt him. and there are many thousands of large stones in the granite ridge that forms the backbone of the hill under which he could prosecute his

search.

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