Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Ranger day

This is the typical schedule for a GS5 seasonal interpretive Park Ranger at Antietam National Battlefield.

9:15 arrive at Smith house, location of my desk
-check phone messages
-stow lunch in frige
-crank up AC
-shine boots
-crack a Pepsi
-walk across the road to the visitor center

9:45 work day begins
-check roster of rangers and volunteers for the daily schedule (transpose to palm of hand in ink)
-assemble materials for orientation talk
-put on the big hat, announce the orientation, and walk up to the observation room "Good morning everyone..."

10:00 - 10:40
Orientation talk. Thirty (or so) minutes of explaining how the battle of Antietam came to be fought in the peaceful valley, how the battle unfolded over the course of September 17, 1862, and what the lasting legacies of this battle are.
Answer visitor questions. (56 visitors)

11:00 - noon
Visitor Services counter
- greet visitors
- sell tickets
- explain scheduled programs
- explain self guided driving tour
- provide directions to Gettysburg (where?), Harpers Ferry, and other area points of interest.
- start the 26 minute film at 11:00 and 11:30
- answer the telephone
- announce programs
- answer all visitor questions and help them with research
- facilitate the Junior Ranger program for kids 6-12
- at noon change over the film to the one hour documentary


11:00 - noon
Ranger-led Artillery walk
This presentation starts at the 10lb parrot gun in front of the visitors center and walks around the grounds of the VC to the the four-gun battery in front of Dunker Church. Its an exploration of Civil War artillery in general and the artillery employed at Antietam in particular. Always a very popular and well-received talk with lots of questions afterward.
(44 visitors)

Noon hour
Lunch at the Smith house. Shirt and boots come off and lunch gets microwaved. Lunchtime ranger bull-session

1:00 - 3:00
Research. This two hour timeblock (today at least) gives me time to go over to the archives and do research for the "aftermath of the Battle" program that I'm writing. The rangers all write their own programs, which is one of the things that makes this job so enjoyable. The chief of interpretation provides the general themes and subthemes and its up to each ranger to come up with the narrative thread, photos, anecdotes, maps, etc. to make a really compelling presentation for the visitors.

3:15 Prepare for second orientation talk
- shine boots again
- gather materials
- don the big hat

3:30 Second orientation talk (47 visitors)

4:00 - 5:45 Visitor Services Counter (as above)

5:45 - 6:15 Closing
- complete all paperwork
- lock exterior doors
- unplug all appliances
- chat up visitors on the way to the parking lot and head home

The big variable to this schedule is on days when one has the tour. This is the once or twice-daily ranger led tour of the battlefield which takes between two and two-and-one-half hours. The program starts in or out behind the observation room with a general orientation to the battlefield and a discussion of why the armies came here. Then the visitors car-caravan behind the ranger who will provide presentations at three stops: the Cornfield, Sunken Road, and Burnside Bridge, answering a wide-range of visitor questions at each stop. This rain-or shine tour will only be cancelled or shortened due to electrical stroms, otherwise its always a sure-thing and the favorite type of daily program for both visitors and rangers

Preparation includes gassing up the van, filling the water jugs with ice and water, replenishing the paper cups, gathering all program materials, grabbing a walkie-talkie, and generally "getting in the zone". In the heat we've been having for most of this summer, the ranger ends up pretty exhausted at the end of a day that includes the tour (62 visitors, 98 degree heat).

Generally, after the tour we have an hour to relax in an air-conditioned room in our undershirt, eating a banana, and sipping cold water. This is almost enough time for the sweat to dry out of my shirt.

Every day at Antietam National Battlefield is a good day.

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