James G. Cayton, Pioneer Forest Ranger is a 240-page coffee-table style book drawing from sixty years’ worth of memorabilia and one man’s Forest Service diaries kept up-to-date every four hours. It portrays the roots of the Conservation Movement in the United States through the actions of an everyday hero.

Jim Cayton led a rugged life in which physical stamina and courage were essential. In his early career he routinely rode twenty miles a day and camped out in harsh weather as he guarded the resources on his 667-square mile forest territory. Stationed on the Battlement Mesa in Western Colorado, the young ranger faced many challenges as he helped shape the new landscape of the West. Known for his diplomacy and integrity, Cayton managed the introduction of new restrictions on forest use without violence. He was able to enroll local ranchers and citizenry in the notion that land practices “for the greatest good in the long run” were in their own best interest as well as that of the public at large.

With his bride Adelaide “Birdie” Cayton, known locally as “Sweetheart of the Forest Service”, Jim built by hand what is now one of the oldest existing ranger stations in the country. Jim’s sweetheart worked side-by-side with him, becoming essentially an unpaid employee of the service.

On their second district around Rico, Colorado, Jim and Birdie used their maturity and experience to guide and protect the forestlands in their care. Jim helped build an extensive stock driveway system through the district, developed and wrote about the unique hot and mineral springs in the area, and dealt with record snowfalls, floods, and fires set by the ever-present and essential railroad.

The Caytons were beloved community members on both districts where they served (totaling thirty-five years). They were honored by friends and colleagues during life and memorialized by an appreciative public after their passing. Reading their story and viewing the more than 400 photos and documents in this book will give you a memorable experience of real lives lived taming the Wild West.

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