Conservative Ideals

In reading this weeks postings I have come to the conclusion that conservatives and liberals do in fact “do history” differently.  The bloggers that I read this week like to write about how things were better before liberals ruined the country.  They believe that if only they could eliminate the liberal indoctrination of the children of America things would be much better.  This is a concept that keeps popping up over and over again; indoctrination.  This is a real fear for them.  Because they believe that liberals are evil, as Strickland stated, and have morally compromised leaders as Scott affirms.  This is why they can show Barak Obama as the devil and state that Jimmy Carter is the worst liberal ever.  Really, Jimmy Carter is the worst liberal ever?  This man has spent the past 35 years building homes for the homeless and attempting to stop the spread of disease in Africa through creating methods for cleaner drinking water.  This is not the worst liberal ever.

Another concept that I noticed is that some bloggers use facts in a new and surprising way.  For example, Barton claimed that the 3/5ths clause was not a measurement of human worth.  The reality is that they did not see slaves as human, they were property.  This can’t be ignored.  To call it an anti-slavery provision is a bit disingenuous.  The North did not think it was fair to have slaves be property and yet still count as population.  There was also an argument made that the Founding Fathers were mostly opposed to slavery.  Again, this is an interesting interpretation of the facts.  Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe all owned slaves.  Even Klugewicz, another conservative blogger, stated that after the Constitutional Convention Madison sold off his valet because he was afraid that his slave might get ideas about freedom and liberty.  So while they might have claimed to dislike the institution of slavery, none of them were willing to take the financial hit that freeing their slaves would have caused.  This class is also aware that Washington created the runaway slave laws after his own slave ran off.  So it’s not like they were fighting the good fight to end slavery or that they were willing to put their money where their morals were.

I agree with Vanessa Anderson regarding the contributions of blacks in history.  I think too often we focus on what was done to blacks.  History shows that they had their own methods of rebelling.  Black people have made enourmous contributions to this country, as have women and Native Americans.  We should talk about that more often.  It is funny that she made this point by attacking liberals for wanting to teach sex education.  “I firmly believe that if accurate history regarding this era was actually taught in schools (instead of teaching our youth how to have safe anal sex), we would by now be dealing with fading racial scars instead of wounds that wont heal; better yet, wounds that are not allowed to heal.”  Sigh.

There seems to be this idea among conservatives that only they are truly patriotic.  They use the founding of America and the mythology that surrounds the Founding Fathers to point out that they hold the only means to saving this country from the horrors of liberalism.  Ken Taylor brings up all the men who died defending the heritage of America.  He writes about Old Glory, my country tis of thee, bravery, and freedom.  He wants us all to remember the fighting men and women keeping this country safe for democracy.  This is nationalism at its scariest.  He’s not really saying anything here, just using patriotic rhetoric to remind us that there is a war being fought that we should all be supporting.

The teacher/blogger made me laugh.  I had to roll my eyes at some of the things he said because I believe that, yes, the government should protect the environment because it has been proven that without the government business will use the most economical means of disposing of hazardous materials.  Usually this involves dumping them.  “Only by removing the communist principles in education can teachers again teach and further the life, liberty, and prosperity of our children.”  Again, I see fear inducing rhetoric.  Do this or life, liberty, and prosperity will be unavailable for your children.  I doubt it, but ok.  I will say that I liked his take on the preparedness and education of high school students.  Often what is overlooked is how intelligent some of these kids are.  Each succeeding generation is afraid for the lazy good-for-nothings coming up behind them.  I doubt that the USA will fall into failure when the next generation comes of age.  It will just be different than it was before; as it should be.  There is the crux of the difference between libs and cons.  One wants thing to stay the same and one is forever wanting change, to bad that they can’t work together, like yin and yang, bringing balance to the force.

Atlantis, Voices, and Protection…oh my!

Cultural resource management is a tough and complicated field.  That is what I got from reading Tom King’s book.  His bleak outlook on the laws and mandates created to give voice to those whose heritage is threatened by profiteering is sobering.  He makes it seem like even trying to protect the environment or historic sites is impossible.  The unlimited money bag of companies whose main goal is increasing the weight of those bags makes it difficult to stop the misuse of cultural resources or the environment.  That is King’s main point.  I think that he is burdened by years of fighting a good fight that no one else seems to care about.  Here’s what I am taking away from this book. We have to get as good at protecting our resources as contractors and businesses are at working around the laws created to protect our heritage.  States have to enact laws with teeth.  You come here, you pollute our ground, you tear up our land and you are going to pay and pay and pay.  Make it hurt for companies at their bottom line and they might think twice about some of their underhanded tactics.

We also have to be aware of when we are being sold a bill of goods.  My mind springs instantly to BP.  Recently this oil company has been running ads stating that they have happily and willingly done a wonderful job cleaning up the environment surrounding the coast.  They boast about the amount of money that they have poured into cleanup.  They swear that the people who live there are happy with the results.  They promise that the environment has returned to normal and tourism is higher than it ever was before.  All of that is of course, false.  BP is attempting to weasel out of its commitments and is fighting several lawsuits in court.  They want out of their responsibilities but the people of the gulf coast are not letting this slide into oblivion.  Neither are the states that were hurt by the spill.  I know that most issues don’t have quite as much coverage as this one, but most American’s have forgotten that the spill ever happened.  Being heard might be hard, but it has to be accomplished if you want to protect you land.

Finally, I wonder how interested people would be in preserving an archaeological site if they knew that by studying it we could learn that prehistoric cultures in Idaho were invaded by Polynesian’s with laser rifles who sailed across the Pacific Ocean at a time when London was a circle of huts.  I’m not saying that happened, but the truth is we don’t know what evidence lies in an archaeological site until we dig it out and examine it.  That is why preservation is important and good.  Not because of any inherent value in the site, but because we don’t know what is there until it is examined.  As a philosopher once said, “An unexamined life is not worth living for a human being.”  Well an unexamined dig site has the capacity to answer any number of questions about our ancestors (or possibly the lost continent of Atlantis).  If that is blown up to put in a new railroad that profits no one but the rail company, then what have we lost?  Preservation may not always be the answer.  Wanton destruction of cultural landmarks in the name of profit is not the answer either.  The good of the many has to be taken into consideration against the good of the few, but no one is doing that!  This is King’s point.  The laws were created to protect people and give them the opportunity to plead their case and corporate greed and overworked government employees are pushing projects through to fast to make sure that anyone who wants to have a say is listened to and heard.  Major fail on that one.

Like an Ostrich with its Head in the Sand

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could all just ignore the “negative stuff” in life?  That’s the wish of all children.  Close your eyes and no one can see you.  Unfortunately reality often intrudes.  The sad fact is that those who believe in the Lost Cause of the south are grasping at any straw that will allow them to hold onto an idea that never really existed.  This notion of a group of men fighting northern aggressors for states rights.  If the Sons of the Confederacy can hold onto the idea that the Civil War was not about slavery then it makes them less culpable for the atrocities that were committed by their ancestors.  It also means that they don’t have to change their behavior and adapt to a new world.  It galls me that what is never mentioned is that EVERY state in the confederacy put slavery as the motive behind the Civil War in their declarations of secession and in their constitutions.  The new south may be confused as to why the Civil War happened, but the old south was most definitely not.  I guess that’s one of those negative parts of history that shouldn’t be discussed.

I find it ironic that the founding fathers are considered by many to be highly principled men who could do no wrong.  For me it has always been their flaws that made them interesting.  Ben Franklin was a womanizer who liked his comforts above all else, George Washington was an elitist who believed that only rich folks should have a say in government, Thomas Jefferson believed that Jesus was a philosopher, not the son of god, and John Adams was a cranky old coot who believed (rightly so) that folks didn’t like him much.  None of them were perfect, thank goodness, and that is what should be taught.  If those guys can do what they did, then imagine what the next average person with a dream and some guts can accomplish.  What is truly scary to me is that the people who believe that the founding fathers were sent by god to anoint America as the new bastion of all that is good and holy are not wing nuts.  They are definitely misguided, but they are not crazy-eyed-dirty-hair-torn-clothes-loony-toons.  An educated man who uses that education to misguide others is far more terrifying to me than a wing nut.  The average person is much more likely to take such a man seriously.

I don’t even know where to start with the volunteers at the Baron Von Munchhausen House.  Museums need all the retired folks who give out of love of their past but something has to be done to make their interpretations a bit more realistic.  In this case they need a strong leader whose prejudices don’t warp her ideas, which they apparently they don’t have.  What they have is a bigot in curator’s clothing.  Really, you think that the black kids need to be protected from the truth?  How is that not paternalistic bull****?  It seems like what she is trying to do is protect herself and other white people from owning up to the truth of slavery and the damage that it did to EVERYONE involved.  It is uncomfortable for her to talk about slavery in the presence of black people so she uses protecting the kids as an excuse not to do it.  Until we can have the conversation about race and slavery we will never be able to overcome our shared past and move on to a better future.

One last thought; as I read through these articles I kept thinking about how racism seems to be at the root of all of this.  It makes me wonder just how much of the fear and ignorance were brought on by the election of our first black president.

Working at the carwash?

Possibly, but probably not.  I’ve had a lot of jobs in a lot of different fields.  Here’s what I have learned throughout my career.  If you think the game is over, then it is.  When you are looking for a job you have to keep going.  If you believe that you won’t succeed then that belief will be apparent to anyone who might possibly hire you.  Lead with a positive attitude and you have a much better chance for success.  Companies don’t care about your classroom experience or what your degree is in (unless they’re looking for an engineer, then probably not going to hire a history major).  What businesses care about it value.  Do you have it and can you give it to them.  Sell them your value by telling them what you can bring to their table.  Yes the job market is tight right now but all those people who were writing about the bleak job market for historians have a job, in a field pertaining to history!  It can be done.  It might require making some sacrifices, but if you really want to work in a museum then approach your job search like an adventure, not a chore.  Start networking.  Meet people who work in museums.  Volunteer, hang out, phone curators once a week, fetch coffee, offer to bring a hammer and nails when they are building something.  Do whatever it takes to make yourself memorable.  Eventually something will open up and they might remember you.  I have found that when most people say that something can’t be done what they really mean is that it will be hard and it will be scary.  If you truly want it then find a way to make it happen.  That said, sometimes life hands us opportunities that we didn’t even know we wanted until they were right in front of us.  I think that is what these articles are saying.  Be open to other possibilities while you are pursuing your dreams.

Jim, I agree with your analysis of the article “What Employers Seek in Public History Graduates.”  I think that classroom experience is valuable.  It expands knowledge and helps people learn how to think.  When searching out a job hands on job experience is twice as important.  Employers want to know that the person they are going to hire can apply their classroom experience to the task at hand.  The only way that happens is through experience.  This is why the catch 22 of “can’t get a job without experience, can’t get experience without a job” exists.  The only exception would be if you are chasing an academic career.

$100 Startup. Really?

The $100 Startup was an interesting read.  Basically what he was saying was that the world is full of choices and to be successful you must be open to possibilities.  As a historian in a constantly changing field where the traditional path is becoming harder and harder to follow,  I felt like that is especially good advice.  However, I found that this book was a little to slick and full of buzz words for my taste.  It always bothers me when people start throwing around how much money someone made is only a year.  I always feel like I’m being sold something.  It felt like he was trying to create value in his ideas by telling me how successful I could be.  I also found that he relied very heavily on anecdotal evidence instead of facts.  I think that he set unrealistic expectations for what starting a business is.  I know that there are people who start companies and succeed.  Yet what about the people who started a business and failed?  I want to hear their stories.  I want to hear the story where they picked themselves up and went right back at it.  It feels like he painted this great picture of huge successes without having to put any effort into a business.  Just find what you love, follow your passion and with little work at all, you to can be on track to make $100,000 next year.  I get it, and I agree with some of the things that he talked about.  You do have to be willing to take risks.  Half of the battle is the ability to see opportunities where others see roadblocks.  I also believe that value can be found in helping others.  This book felt really slick to me and read like it was ice cream instead of protein.  I think for him the best business of all was writing a book about how to start your perfect business for just $100.

I found far more value in Historians as Consultants and Contractors.  This was a much more realistic study of opportunities that exist for historians.  It stated the pros, the cons, and some of the industry needs that can be filled by individuals with schedule flexibility and a thirst for adventure.  No frills in this article, but there was lot of valuable information.  (Style + substance = success.)  I also enjoyed Crafting a New Historian.  This was a look at one individual’s road to an unexpected business.  This time without all the flash and buzz displayed in $100 Startup.  The author spoke of creating opportunity out of a hobby and his historical and research skills by becoming a freelance craftsman.  His realistic portrayal about the uncertainty of trying to follow the traditional academic path in his chosen field was helpful and timely.  History is a constantly changing environment.  To be successful as a historian I believe that it is vital to be open to non-traditional opportunities and careers.  I found this to be a much better example of how to create a niche for yourself out of a hobby.

Conservation Methods

The readings this week covered a lot of ground.  The field of historic preservation is vast and complicated.  If I learned anything, I learned that there are as many different ideas of what and how history should be preserved as there is actual building that should be preserved.  One of the things that I found most interesting is the argument on when a building becomes historical.  The McDonalds building in DowneyCalifornia is a prime example.  It is both a piece of architectural history and a cultural monument.  It represents a style that should be preserved and a piece of Americana.  Who would we be without Big Macs and the Ronald McDonald?  This building is the perfect representation of that because it is so stylistically 1950s.  I also enjoyed reading about Rehabilitation preservation, also known as adaptive use (197).  Buildings can’t sit empty.  When they do, they tend to fall into disrepair.  To maintain their viability they need to be used.  It also becomes dangerous if a block of prime real estate is taken up by a building that has no discernable use.  Profit seekers tend to start salivating when that happens.  Sometimes the original purpose of a building no longer exists and if it to remain a part of the community, it must have a new life.  Turing an old Mill into a museum is an example of adaptive use.  Turning old warehouses into lofts is another example.  In this way the past is recognized and preserved yet the building does not sit idle.  Who knows, in another 100 years, today’s loft apartments might turn into shops.

I love the idea of the experience economy.  People want the experience of stepping into the past and by using that desire coupled with a historic area, cities can be both profitable and historically preserved.  By involving people in the idea of a historic building or district a link is created.  People are much more likely to fight against development when they have an attachment to something.  The Boise Egyptian Theatre is the perfect example of this.  It brings in smaller venue events and created an intimate atmosphere in a restored theatre.  It is a public site where people can gather and be entertained in a historic and intimate venue.  If anyone threatened the Egyptian with destruction today they would have quite a fight on their hands because the people of Boise are involved with the history of the building.

Wiki’s Wiki’s Everywhere

I did not want to do this assignment.  I don’t post to websites often anymore because, frankly, I find that the people who exist on them tend to be ignorant and mean.  Why subject myself to that kind of violence when I don’t have to.  I grudgingly began to search for a topic that would be interesting to me, historical, and not controversial.  For the Wikipedia article I chose to expand the plot of one of my favorite childhood books, Caddie Woodlawn.  This book was based on a real family who lived in a small frontier town in Wisconsin in the 1860s.  It was written by Carol Ryrie Brink, whose grandmother and great aunt told her the stories that would become Caddie Woodlawn.  One of the reasons that I chose this particular Wiki entry is because of the discussion we had in class a couple of weeks ago.  Women are underrepresented on Wikipedia.  The fact that Halo has a story overview that is several paragraphs long while this book had a plot description three sentences long was concerning to me.  Caddie was a great role model.  Strong, stubborn, independent, and fierce, she faced all situations with calm and a determination to survive.   Editing the existing page was time consuming and complicated.  One thing I learned is that Wikipedia does not make editing easy.  Once I did post, it was fun to check it several times a day to see if it was still up.  It was, and is.  I never had a problem with my post being rejected.  I wonder how much of that had to do with the subject I chose.  I am sure if I had attempted to edit the Halo page I would have met with much more resistance.  I will probably never create another Wikipedia article, but this was not as bad as I thought it was going to be.  I like Wikipedia and I am very glad that it exists, but I am not a fan of creating articles for it.

The Boise Wiki was a lot easier to use.  Wikipedia’s editing page was complicated and not at all user friendly, especially when compared to how smoothly the Boise Wiki edit page is.  The directions were very clear on what needed to be done and how it should be done.  For example, I did not know why linking was a big deal until it was explained in the directions.  It was also very easy to understand how to create a proper link.  I enjoyed the Boise Wiki assignment quite a bit and love the fact that Boise’s history is being examined, one subject at a time, by the people who love Boise and it’s past.  This is truly a community driven resource.

For the Boise Wiki I chose to create an article about Billy Fong.  Billy was the last member of Boise’s Chinatown to reside in the old Chinese district.  He was 84 years old when his home was purchased by the Boise Redevelopment Agency and slated for destruction.  Billy had lived in the Hop Sing Tong building for over thirty years, but that was not important to the BRA.  Nor was the historic significance of the Eastman Building, Chinatown, or many of the other old buildings in downtown Boise.  Billy and the old buildings in the area stood in the way of perceived progress.  Despite his eviction, Billy remained in his second floor apartment, refusing to move for several months.  His treatment at the hand of the BRA became a symbol of everything that was wrong with the redevelopment plans for Boise in the 1960s and 1970s.  It was partly due to Billy and the destruction of the Chinese district that several other buildings and districts were saved.  The Egyptian Theater was also supposed to be purchased and torn down but it was rescued, due in part to the efforts of those who were determined not to let another piece of Boise’s past disappear.  Billy was tough to research because there is not a lot known about his early life.  I’m sure that something could be found if I had longer than three weeks, but who he was prior to his move to Boise is unclear.  What happened when he finally surrendered and left his apartment is also unclear.  What is known is that he lived in the same apartment in Boise for thirty years.  He was a member of the Hop Sing Tong and worked for them in many administrative roles.  He was a cook at the Golden Wok and he fought the Boise Redevelopment Agency and lost.  He is also responsible for the Boise curse.  Legend says that as he left his apartment he cursed the ground, a curse that caused havoc at the site and spread to help create the Boise Hole.

The Importance of Historic Preservation

America is a country that likes new things.  We like new faster cars, new and better technology, and new buildings with all the conveniences that can be added.  The downside of this love of the new is that many beautiful and historic places are lost in this mad rush to “new and improved”.  The Eastman Building in Boise is one example.  It was scheduled to be torn down, ignored, fell into disrepair, and then burned to the ground.  Replacing it for 20+ years was a lovely hole in the ground.  How is that progress?  Downtown Boise did not need another mall, which is what was supposed to replace the Eastman.  Nothing remains of the once vibrant Chinese community that lived in Boise.  The buildings that housed them are long gone along with anything that could be learned from visiting them.  The Basque culture, on the other hand, managed to preserve many of its important sites.  Many people recognized the significance of the Basque history in Boise.  Because they did people can visit the Basque Museum and Cultural Center and see how this unique population lived and played in Boise in the 19th and 20sth centuries.  Acknowledging and understanding why a building or site is important is the first step toward preservation.

The thought of Mt.Vernon or Independence Hall being torn down is chilling.  It would be like tearing down Notre Dame to build a mall.   While many sites have been preserved due to the interest and diligence of the communities involved, there are many more that need attention.  In this city alone there are many buildings that are subject to destruction in the name of progress and most in Boise don’t know or care.  While the situation has improved from the 1960s era of plastic replacements, it is still not at a level that keeps historic buildings safe.  If the tide had truly changed then all historic sites would be fully funded and repaired.  The public likes the idea of preservation, but not the realities.   History is often learned through research at a site.  Digging at the pueblo sites in New Mexico and Arizona has been invaluable to providing knowledge of the indigenous people of the southwest.  Had those sites been lost through looting or neglect or the need for a new parking lot then the history of a people would also have been lost.  What we build today is so temporary we have a name for the massive homes that are thrown up in a month: McMansions.  Being able to visit, see, and touch a piece of our past is vital to understanding that past.  Writing about an object is great, but being able to put your hands on it brings it to life.

I loved reading about how other cultures deal with their past.  I found in fascinating to read about how different nations view preservation.  Japan’s rebuilding of the Ise Shrine every 20 years is a great way to preserve the history of a building and the reason for its being while at the same time making sure that it can still be used.  I am going to have to research it online and find out when they will be tearing the old building down and putting a new one right next door.

One question that I do have is to what era does a building get restored?  How does that choice get made and how do we preserve the other histories of a site?

History, Truth, and the Modern Era

Who gets to decide what history is valuable enough to be presented to the public?  Who gets to determine how that history will be interpreted?  These are questions that ran through my mind as I read all of the articles this week.  In this case the focus was on the British representation of the French and Indian War and it was their “truth” that was presented.  For those representing this view the siege of FortNiagara was a pivotal event in American history because the British won.  Without a British victory at this battle the French would have controlled the Northeast and the Revolution would not have occurred.  Although this is the only truth that was presented in this article, it is not the only view of this particular battle.  The French have a completely different opinion of the French and Indian War.  They see it as the beginning of a time of oppression by the British.  Their truth is not considered relevant to men dressed up as Rogers Rangers.  The response to the bitterness of the French people regarding a traumatic event in their past was that they are a “bunch of asshole French separatists.”  I also wonder what modern day eastern Native American tribes think as the watch the reenactments.  Their opinion is not sought out by those representing the American truth but I’d be willing to bet it’s not happiness that the British defeated the French in this particular war.

The Civil War reenactors have some of the same issues.  They represent a specific idea of Confederate history and have not updated that view in years.  This outdated stand is apparently driving new members away from joining the fun.  No one wants to be part of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.  If they don’t change the way they approach the Civil War, change their truth, then they will simply fade away as their members die.

This representation of a narrow “truth” is one of the issues facing history and historians.  Without looking at how an event shaped all involved, how can we honestly say that we understand the past?  The single focus interpretation becomes dangerous ground when people want to spread ideas that confine minority cultures to the fringes of society.  I am also bothered by the response of Andy Famiglietti who stated that: “Consensus, then, is an important mechanism by which we judge the validity of certain truth-claims.”  This is troubling.  I agree with Famiglietti that Wikipedia “demonstrates that it holds a deep respect for a collaborative scholarly process that is collectively more capable of producing “truth” than any individual scholar.”  However, when one organization, even one created collaboratively by the people, controls that much information the possibility for twisting “truth” exists.  Famiglietti is not a historian so maybe he doesn’t remember that the Americans twisted facts and created a consensus “truth” that the Japanese needed to be rounded up and placed in internment camps for national security.  Consensus does not always mean that those with coinciding opinions are correct.  Sometimes it just means that ignorance and hate are easy to spread.

Interview with field Ranger Mike West

When people think of historians they picture someone working in a museum or a classroom or an archive.  Not many think of the Grand Canyon, Little Big Horn, or Gettysburg.  The National Park Service, knowing that much of history has occurred outside, has a huge number of historians working to educate the public about the events that have often shaped the country.  Those who are lucky enough and tough enough to work as park rangers interpret the past for all visitors who come to a national historic site.  For those working in the Park Service, history is not enclosed within a building, rather it resides wherever man has managed to interact with nature.

Park rangers are not just the people who wear funny uniforms and tell you how to get around Yellowstone.  They are historical interpreters who bring to life significant sites.     For those who love history and education but have no interest in working a typical 9-5 job behind a desk, the Park Service is the perfect answer.

Rangers come into the job in many different ways.  Some enter knowing that this is what they want to do and some, like Mike West, fall into it by accident.  Mike, a 32 year veteran in park management, earned a degree in human resources with a minor in film studies.  After his job evaporated Mike found himself looking for temporary employment.  He wanted something that he could do in the short term to earn money while he attempted to find another professional position.  The National Park Service was hiring for the summer season and Mike accepted what he thought was a six month job and saw it as an opportunity for further training in his chosen profession.  He discovered a passion for the work and when he was offered a full time position, accepted it and never looked back.

Mike said that the Park Service is highly competitive but that there are still opportunities if someone is dedicated.  Field rangers are generally hired as temporary, seasonal employees and seldom stay in one location for very long.  The frequent transfers were a part of the fun for Mike in the beginning.  He said that making the yearly move from park to park can be draining and many rangers give up the life after a few years.  “Knowing that you can fit everything you own in a car can suck”, but for those who stick it out, the opportunity for full time employment does eventually occur.  He recommended that anyone interested in being a field ranger get training in multi media or films.  Mike found that his education in those areas has served him well as he is responsible for creating documentaries and interactive media shows for visitors.

Rangers have the monumental task of keeping tabs on all the people that visit the national parks across the nation.  Because of the uncontrollable nature of the parks and their visitors, there is not a typical day.  Mike said that rangers have to be prepared for anything.  One of his most memorable visitors was a man who argued with him regarding the use of a metal detector at Little Big Horn.  Guess who won that argument.

According to Mike the most difficult part of the job is the overly needy people who want their hands held and who take no responsibility for creating their own dream vacation.  Rangers love to teach, but they don’t like to parent.  Ironically, people are also the best part of the job, according to Mike.  He loves interacting with those who come with a passion for learning about the site and an interest in the environment.

Mike stated that his path was not a typical one and did not recommend it for others.  “I got lucky,” he said.  “I thought I wanted to work in human resources.  Looking back the best thing that ever happened to me was getting laid off.”  Mike has turned down several promotions in order to continue being hands on.  A field ranger is not an administrator and had no paperwork, a job bonus as far as Mike is concerned.  Administration is not for him.  He likes to be in the field, teaching people about the history of sites like Little Big Horn and the Grand Canyon.

Mike laughed when I asked him what advice he has for people who want to work as historical interpreters for the Park Service.  “Bring a lot of patience and humor.  Being a ranger means having a plan for the day but knowing that your plan is subject to sudden and drastic changes.”  He laughed again then added, “For example, I didn’t expect to spend an hour talking to a history student today, but this kind of stuff is the best part of my day.”

Mike also said that interpretative field rangers have a lot of leeway in how they impart information regarding the history of the parks.  “Some monuments have a pretty bloody history and you learn to tone some of that down when you have a group of kids.  You get pretty good at reading a crowd and tailoring your talk to the group.”

Mike said the single most important factor in working with the park service is enjoying people.  “So much of our job is about interacting with the public.  Liking the outdoors is another vital part of the job.  People get excited when you’re excited.  If you dislike hiking and going out in all kinds of nasty weather then this is probably not the job for you.”

According to Mike working for the park service means that you are an educator, conservationist, nature expert, camp counselor, and guide.  He ended with this thought.  “No matter what else happens during the day, I get to watch the sun set over the Grand Canyon.  How can you not love that?”