"Emergency Conservation Work. Part of the president's 'New Deal.' He's recruiting unemployed men from around the country to work on federal lands. A tree army, he's calling it, but with civilians—the Civilian Conservation Corps. I'm overseeing the groups coming here to Yellowstone."
"What will they be working on?" She grabbed the cleaning rags and tossed them into the waiting tubs.
"Whatever needs doing, I'm told. I'm hoping we can put some of the fellows on the bark beetle problem. That's the biggest conservation emergency we've got at present."
"Do they have forestry backgrounds?"
"I guess we'll find out. I hope so."
Her heart lifted as she followed him back outside. "Maybe you won't have to work so hard this summer."
"We'll see. There's always more to do. And actually—work is why I came looking for you." He scrubbed a hand over his mouth and chin, as if trying to hide the lines gathering there. "This came across my desk today." He took a folded sheet of paper from his breast pocket. "I'm afraid it's not good news."
Unease trickled through her. "What is it?"
He unfolded the memorandum and handed it to her. "After last year's low occupancy rates, the Yellowstone Park Hotel Company has decided to keep the Mammoth Hotel closed this season and use only the housekeeping cabins and campground."
Had she just complained about making beds? Elsie scanned the typed memo, zeroing in on the last few lines that hinted at staff cutbacks. "They can't do this. People are counting on this work." Including her.
Her father shook his head. "I know. But jobs are scarce everywhere. Hardly anyone has money to waste on visiting fancy hotels. Those who are still making the trip are keeping a tight grip on their pocketbooks. Why rent a room when you can pitch a tent?"
Elsie bit her lower lip, even as the selfish thoughts bubbled up like the park's gurgling mud pots. "Who will they keep on?"
"A few pillow punchers and porters here at Mammoth, probably. We still need some folks to take care of the campground and the day lodge. But they probably won't see very many work hours."
"And the rest of the park?"
"The Lake Hotel and Roosevelt Lodge will stay closed, but the Old Faithful Inn and the Canyon Hotel will open on schedule. They'll shuffle some of the best savages to those two."
Elsie lifted her eyes and gazed out over the lines of cabins to the stately hotel in the distance. Closed? Would Mary and Rose both have jobs? Hal, Bernie, and all the others? The past few summers had been filled with their adventures and laughter. A lump settled in her throat. "I guess school will have to wait." She hated to be selfish when so many people were living hand to mouth, but she'd postponed her dream several times already. Most students started college at eighteen, not twenty-two.
Father took the paper back and folded it. "Not necessarily. I know you don't like me interfering, but I've spoken to a few people. There might be one other option for you, if you're willing."
"Put in for a transfer to the Canyon Hotel."
The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, with its pine forests and roaring waterfalls, was several hours away from Mammoth. "But Mama needs me here."
"Hear me out." His blue eyes locked on her. "I can take care of your mother. And if you do this, you might actually have the money you need by the end of this summer."
The world began to spin. "How?"
"They're building a second CCC camp in Canyon. We'll have four in all. President Roosevelt wants the recruits to have every opportunity to better themselves—maybe even earn a high school diploma."
"I don't understand. What does that have to do with me?"
He laid a hand on her arm. "Elsie, those fellas are going to need a teacher."