Wednesday, April 11, 2007

My Year of Living Rangerously: the reckoning

It's been almost a year. And what a year, the best yet. But now, as I approach the end of my ranger hours for this year, I'm reminded of the fragile nature of being a seasonal ranger.

I was very fortunate to have an additional 900 training hours in this, my first year, of rangering. Now however those hours are sputtering out as I come up on my appointment date of May 28. I'll be rangering only four days a week to make up the shortfall in hours until then. On May 29 (my birthday) my clock will be reset and I'll have another six months of rangering hours ahead of me, which also means six months of doing something else to keep a paycheck coming in.

I've already posted entries about the world of substitute teaching and its ups and downs. I've recently been picking up hours in a retail/warehousing setting. I'll be exploring opportunities as diverse as being a paraprofessional in the public schools (which would allow for weekend and summertime rangering) and Home Depot or some other home improvement place (with our new house and yard the employee discount could make this one a better choice).

I've also been doing more paid writing and illustrating gigs.

Everything, though, pales in comparison to this thing I've really come to love; rangering at Antietam National Battlefield.

I guess its alot like being an artist, actor, writer, athelete or musician. Seems that everybody who does something that they're passionate about needs to have "a day job". Its a pretty big club, my wife is a member.

Jobs that require passion aren't really "jobs" at all, they're trancendent experiences, a rush, a high, a you-know-what.
So the piper's got to be paid eventually, cause those groceries won't just walk in the door by themselves.

There are a few writers, and a few musicians, and a few artists, and a few rangers who are fortunate enough to experience that passion full-time with healthcare no less!

To become a full-time ranger is difficult enough for a young person who has no ties. For a middle-aged homeowner who has put down roots it may well be impossible. 90% of the ranger force is comprised of seasonals. They come and they go. Some stay for a long long time. I hope, at least, to be one of those.

Another seasonal with a decade of service, sums it up thus:

"It is what it is"

And, despite its frailty, "what it is" is better than just about anything else.

Watch for me in the orange apron, in the school lunchroom, and hopefully, for a long time to come...

in the big hat.

Ranger Mannie


Eric Wittenberg said...


As a guy who despises his job and can't wait to escape its evil clutches, I envy you a great deal. Even if it's just six months per year, you're getting paid to spend your days on a battlefield, and a beautiful one at that. You are a fortunate fellow.

Whatever you decide to do with your other six months, treasure every minute you spend on that battlefield of yours.


Anonymous said...

Just remember - a bad day on a Civil War battlefield is still better than a good day anywhere else. You have a gift and if anyone should be able to work their way into a full-time ranger status - it's you my friend. Patience is a virtue.

However, IF Home Depot comes a calling - I'm sure that you will explain the latest in nail gun technology to your customers with the same zeal that you explained Stuart's artillery to me.

isa said...

I think you should look upon it as a "glass half full" rather than half empty...Many of us would love to follow our dreams (and be paid for it!), even on a part-time basis ;-)

You are a lucky guy, Mannie!