By Ken Brafman, Image from ROWHS Collection
TITLE: BERT SWITZER, FOREST RANGER: Passage of the Federal Forest Reserve Act of 1891 gave the President authority to set aside timberlands from the public domain. Early pioneer rangers had a challenging job. The work was arduous. They patrolled many miles of rough mountain country. They chased sheep out of the reserve, cited unauthorized timber cutters, and used their persuasiveness to urge lumberman, cabin dwellers, and campers to be careful with fire. They aided lost or injured mountain travelers. They built trails. They camped out wherever they happened to be, usually carrying just a blanket for warmth. Out of their $50 a month salary they were required to pay all their own expenses including horse and saddle. Then come the fall rains they were discharged until the next year’s fire season. In 1900 a gaunt young man named Bert Switzer was sharing a campsite in Running Springs with his wife, Sara. With his wife’s help along with the fresh mountain air, he recovered and served as the first Arrowhead District Ranger from 1902 to 1926. Switzer’s wife served as an early postmistress for the Twin Peaks post office. Switzer ran a resort located at present-day Pine Rose Cabins, as well as a general store that he operated into the 1940s. With the dawn of Prohibition in 1920 mountain folk discovered that the forest was the ideal location for hiding a still. There were over a half dozen full-fledged moonshining operations underway, and one of the rangers’ duties was to abolish them. A particularly prolific and resilient moonshiner was William ‘Squint’ Worthington who had a ranch north of Lake Arrowhead. Throughout Prohibition none of his stills were ever found. Ranger Switzer, however, got a little too close to one of them. Until his dying day he proudly wore his ranger hat with a bullet hole running right through the center.