A Park Ranger’s Life

Everyone has a dream job. For most people, it involves paparazzi flashes, fantastic wealth, or maybe gunplay. Not for my friend Nora and me. Five days a week, we share an extra-large cube that we affectionately call the doublewide. In it, we toss out Southernisms (a new favorite — madder than a bobcat caught in a piss fire) and stream twangy tunes on Bluegrass Country. It’s a hoot as cubes go, but we’d rather be fighting forest fires from horseback.

For 23 years, Bytner worked on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Park ranger — that’s our dream job. Whenever Nora and I are ready to buck the man, we plot our escape to the National Park Service where we will dawn wide brimmed hats, nurse baby possums to health, and hook-up sewer hoses on elderly tourists’ RVs.

If we’ve learned nothing else from the new book “A Park Rangers Life: Thirty-two Years Protecting Our National Parks,” the job isn’t all glamour. Author and retired ranger, Bruce W. Bytnar recently told the Staunton News Leader that “Park rangers are responsible for everything that happens in a national park.”

That includes the mundane — answering inane questions, shoveling poop from escaped cows, and monitoring dogs for leashes — but also the bizarre:

“I remember one incident when a ranger was conducting an evening campfire program showing slides to an audience of over one hundred visitors. Suddenly they were interrupted by a man covered with blood, who ran in front of the group, lighted by the projector, screaming for help. Most people initially thought it was part of the program. When the ranger followed the man out to his vehicle, she found a second man who had been shot.”

Nora and I aren’t deterred. If you work with us, don’t look in the doublewide the next time we miss an all-staff meeting. We’ll be in the Great Smoky Mountains scouting injured bears or maybe shoveling a composting toilet. Either way, we’re we’ll be wearing the hats.

1 comment

  • Michelle Crouch

    Hi Bruce,
    I’m a writer for Reader’s Digest, and I’m working on a story about “secrets” of park rangers. I thought you’d be a good person to interview. I could mention your book.

    Please email me directly and let me know if you’re interested. I’d love to talk this week if possible.

    Thanks so much.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will never be published or shared, and required fields are marked with an asterisk (*).