I found Hey Ranger!: True Tales of Humor and Misadventure from America’s National Parks (2005) when I was looking for another audiobook to read. I love camping and backpacking and I’ve been to a number of national parks. Part of me wonders if I should have been a forest/park ranger–except the ignorant tourists who litter and feed animals would drive me crazy.
Jim Burnett worked at a number of different National Parks during his career. He includes stories from the big parks, like Glacier as well as the smaller National Historical Sites and such. He describes the parks he worked at as well as some of his experiences living and working in them. Some of the chapters are more general and don’t seem like his personal experiences but stories he’s heard.
On the whole, I found this audiobook an interesting way to pass my commute. Apparently Burnett was a ranger back in the 70’s. I did get the feeling that this book was rather old fashioned and/or directed towards children. Nothing too serious ever happens–even the rescues and stories of illegality were pretty light–and everything turns out just fine in the end.
The author mentioned not wasting tax dollars pretty frequently. I’m not sure if government spending is something he’s had to defend a lot as a park ranger or if he’s very conservative and feels the need to justify his existence. However, one story felt especially dated–when he described a large group of Arab campers somewhere down South. They were definitely unprepared but his description of trying to keep them away from the only other campers in the campground and their interesting last names rubbed me the wrong way.
I did get some idea of what a career as a park ranger felt like. There’s lots of moving around–fortunately Burnett’s spouse was able to move around the country as he changed parks. In addition, the emergency after-hours phone number was wired directly into their ranger housing–so you were never really off the clock. And Burnett’s poor spouse ended up answering lots of those calls when she was at home. Burnett had stories of frigid temperatures and frozen pipes in Glacier National Park as well as preparing for a huge, political, anniversary party for the country. They also must answer the same questions over and over again.
Apparently there is a Hey Ranger! 2, but I think I got a good enough idea with this one. On the whole, I think I’m more interested in the more serious stories and discussions of how we should run our overrun parks.
Random thought: I read this somewhere, and I hope it’s true. Apparently a Yosemite ranger, while discussing the bear resistant trash cans in the park, said, “There is a significant overlap between our smartest bears and our dumbest tourists.” It’s funny and just shows some of their challenges in running a National Park.
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