Saturday, June 30, 2007

Reunited, and it feels so good: The Brothers Bruce (just joking)

Last Sunday was a very special day.

Four old friends, who hadn't seen each other in two decades once again mounted a stage to rekindle their salad days, you may have heard of us, "The Scapegoats" (o.k. ask your mom and dad).

It seems a lifetime ago that Jean-Claude, Ernie, Destry, and I first got together in our high school cafeteria to combine our mutual interests in the Civil War, girls, and barbershop harmonizing and started our vocal group. As "the Cattons" and then later as "the Brothers Bruce" we headlined all of the important hops, proms, and socials at good old John Singleton Mosby High School.

This was 1969, the Vietnam war was raging and so were our hormones, and believe me, everything they say about being in a band is true when it comes to the ladies, or as Destry used to say - "the ladeeze". These where still the days when you could get a room full of girls gyrating to covers of the Buffalo Bills' hits, "Lida Rose", and "Where is the Sin in Sincere?".

As barber shop began to fade, we moved on, stayed hip, and embraced the do-wop scene. This brought another name change, and, as "The Americans of Heritage", we toured the legion halls in the tri county area and did a lot of swell society and country club gigs.

As we matured, so did our taste in music as well as our individual interpretations of Civil War history. We started turning away from the squaresville establishment types (even denying that we had once been "The Cattons") emulating instead the trendsetting bands like "The Marvels" and "Ethan and the Refusers".

Togged out in really mod rags from Carnaby street we sported outlandish muttonchops and dubbed ourselves "The Scapegoats". We wuz rockin' and the party wasn't stoppin'!

We got "discovered" at the Hap Arnold/George Romney birthday bash and actually got a contract for a record deal. This was the big break!

The "a" side hit was "Plenty of Dames to go Around" penned by Ernie and Jean-Claude, while the "b" side was Destry's whimsical "Gimme Some New Thinking, Baby".

The release was followed by three solid weeks of euphoria. Life was just a landscape turned groovy.

Sadly, it all came to a very abrupt end by the events that inspired our final recording "Super Max Anti-Climax, Baby"...Destry and I got drafted, Jean-Claude embraced his French Canadian Quakerism, and Ernie went to law school.

As the years rolled by we had pretty much lost contact with each other, and just got on with our lives. But there was a rockin' rythym still resonating in our souls that would not be denied, I started looking for "the lads".

In 2003 I found Destry through the website:

Our "aquaintenceship" was rekindled (we'd always been pretty chilly toward each other, even back in the day) and we resolved to seek out Jean-Claude and Ernie.

With the miracle of the internet, parole-board records, and the musicians union we tracked down the boys. We met up in cyberspace and before long "The Scapegoats" were talking about the good old days of barbershop, do-wop, dub, and our final foray into Tibetan throat-singing (oops!). It made for great conversation, and we resolved to stay in (cyber) touch.

Then three months ago Destry phoned to sound me out about getting back together for a reunion concert. At first I thought he was trippin', but in his signature iconoclastic manner he convinced me, as well as Ernie, and Jean-Claude that this would be a great affirmation of mid-life crisis as well as an opportunity to get to the Antietam Battlefield on someone else's nickel. We were sold!

The venue was the third annual Keedysville (Maryland) "Soundsation Spectacular and praise-a-thon YES! 2007".

The day was perfect and so was the vibe. We mounted the stage and harmonized our hearts out in front of a crowd of upwards of fifty or so sixty-somethings. We kicked it out with our old hits as well as two new pieces we whipped-up just for the event - Ernie and J.C's "Hoofbeats Across my Heart, Baby", and Destry's wry "Centennial Serenade". The crowd was a little reserved at some of the more cryptic passages of "Serenade" but we won them over with a really cranked-up "Hoofbeats".

With the applause still ringing in our ears we piled into Ernie's rockin' Winnebago and laughed ourselves down the 34 to Sharpsburg. We four amigos pulled up triumphantly to the Antietam Visitor's Center and had our picture taken together for the first time in 33 years.

(left to right: me, Ernie, Jean-Claude, Destry)

Living proof that Civil War scholarship, desperately clinging to youth, and barbersop will never die.

Rock on brothers and sisters!

Ranger Mannie

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

To be a Ranger: hang in there

Summer's increase of visitation at the park brings along lots of young and youngish folks who tell me that they follow my blog (which is nice) and hope one day to become full-time Rangers (me too). As providing that sort of information is one of the goals of this blog, I'd like to give the subject a little more attention.

Those folks who are in the best position to get Ranger jobs are young, college educated, combat veterans,

...and remember, we as a nation are making more combat veterans every day. Veterans, especially those with service-related disabilities, go to the head of the line. I certainly don't begrudge this policy, being a veteran with a five point edge myself, but it is important that you are aware of this going in.

Keep your roots and entanglements to a minimum, meaning don't own a house, don't be married, don't have children, and DO be willing to move at the drop of a (ranger) hat to parks where there are openings that may lead to "Status" or full-time jobs.

Be prepared to relocate to Boston, Philly, Washington DC, or Alaska; the magic portals into the National Park Service.

Be open to the idea of having apartment mates.

Consider NPS law enforcement.

Be patient.

Don't whine.

Keep wiggling your toes so they don't get numb.

Everybody starts out as a seasonal Ranger, working 3 to 6 months out of the year.

Landing a seasonal job is difficult in itself. Being a seasonal is just being a seasonal, Its sort of like being a ranger reenactor, with pay. Its a great job, but it is what it is.

I run in to people every day who were seasonal rangers once upon a time. Much like paper towels from a dispenser, they appear, they perform, and they're gone. Don't get me wrong (and I'll certainly get the comments) I love this job and hope to keep it as long as I can...but if you want to make an impact, be noticed, account for something within the larger organization, and have some financial security as a ranger, you've got to be full-time.

Your goal, young person, is that full-time job.

Like perfect diamonds, those jobs are exceedingly rare, but they do exist.

So, set your goal and be willing to commit to it for the very long haul.

And always remember;

it might not, after all, work out for you. Perhaps you'll have to settle for something less than the life of a Ranger...

like, say, president of the United States

Keep the faith,

Ranger Mannie

Below is the blurb from the website of the Association of National Park Rangers. Its a helpful site for you to begin your long, long journey toward that ranger hat.
-----------------------(I wish I knew how to put text in italics)----------------------

"Live the Adventure: Join the National Park Service"

The Association of National Park Rangers has embarked on a publications program to educate others about the national park ranger profession and issues important to park rangers. The newest publication is "Live the Adventure: Join the National Park Service."

It provides definitive steps on becoming a park ranger - and could help increase your chance of gaining employment with the National Park Service.

Get general information on the park ranger profession and related fields.
Learn about types of appointments and hiring authorities used by the National Park Service to fill vacancies.
Gain tips about preparing for a career in the NPS. Which courses should you take in high school? Which college majors are preferred? How can you become a full-time park ranger? And more!
Individual copies are $6 each (includes $1 per copy for shipping/handling). For bulk orders (10 copies & more), the prices are:

10-49 copies: $3.50 each plus shipping/handling
50-99 copies: $3.00 each plus s/h
100+ copies: $2.50 each plus s/h
For more information or to check shipping/handling charges on bulk orders, contact the ANPR business office at

ANPR can process your order with a credit card payment (Visa or MasterCard) via our secure server now.


Monday, June 25, 2007

How to get a job as a Ranger

See my next post.

As a matter of fact these will be my only posts this week. I'd like the next one to be helpfully available for awhile.

Best wishes,

Ranger Mannie

Thursday, June 21, 2007

The view from where I sit

A big storm rolled through this afternoon.

It left cooler temperatures and a clear sky in its wake.

And here is my view at 8:30 this evening:

South Mountain to the east...

North Mountain to the west...

and me, smack in the middle.

I love it here, just north of Sharpsburg.

Ranger Mannie

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

When is a Ranger's vacation not a vacation?

When you already live where you most want to be.

Virginia and I have taken four days off.

People ask:

"So where are you going?"

We reply:

"We're already there."

We love living here in Maryland's Civil War country.

Here's a tip for fellow Rangers and Ranger wanna-bees:

One of the cool things about being a Ranger for the National Park Service is that you are in a place that everybody else wants to travel to...and you're already there!

That's how it is for me and Virginia; we're already here, just a stones throw from Sharpsburg, Williamsport, Harper's Ferry, and that park up in Pennslyvania.

The big projects for this off period were:

Virginia's painting and organizing her studio
I'm building a bookcase to transform what had been a dining room into our new library.

Man, have we been having a good time.

This morning we took a break to drive up to Gambrill State Park to picnic with a fantastic view.

What a day. On the way home we stopped by a cool nursery to get some landscaping ideas for the distant future when our incomes are a lot more secure.

There was some very cool, and very old, farm equipment lying artfully about...

Also lots of hard working bees, pollenating up a storm.

Over our chicken parmesan picnic lunch, Virginia again remarked how glad she is that we moved from the snowy climes of West Michigan to the heart of Civil War country.

Whatta gal!

Note to middle-aged seasonal rangers everywhere: stay tuned to this blog starting in October. That's when I'll have to figure out how to find employment for the other half, the non-ranger half of the year. Talk about suspense!

But for now, pass the baguette and enjoy the view of the valley.


Ranger Mannie

p.s. I was quite serious about my suggestion to President Bush that he hire me and Ranger Hoptak to fill two of those 3,000 Park Service Jobs he's proposed. Hope springs eternal.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Whaddya' mean "yankee bias"

If I'm ever accused of letting my northern roots drive my battle interpretation by giving short shrift to the Confederate side I'll be able to quickly quash the accusation.

John Hoptak startled me when he barged into my walk-in closet at home and snapped this picture.

How he found the secret sliding door behind the fireplace is anybody's guess.

Ranger Mannie

(I hope he didn't make it down to the cellar)

Oh, Lovey, smashing frock!

Zip over to Richard G. Williams Jr. blog

"Old Virginia Blog" and check out his 11 June entry.

It is so good to see Thurston Howell (the third) once again.

I like it when really smart people aren't afraid to use a little silly imagery to drive the point.

Thanks, Richard

Oh Gilligan my boy...

Friday, June 15, 2007

Hey...look over here!

Heard on NPR tonight that the president has promised 3,000 new jobs for the Park Service.

Hire Rangers Mannie Gentile and John Hoptak full-time and there's still 2998 openings left...everybody wins!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Dear publishers, here's the way it is:

I recently received the following comment. If you are a publicist, agent, or publisher, kindly take note.

But please do know that I thank you for thinking of me.

Ranger Mannie


I’ve been going around to all the Civil War bloggers to let them know about our new book, the Historic Photos of Gettysburg by John S. Salmon. Tom Churchill of the site has already reviewed it, and I have a link to a book trailer showcasing some of the photographs within the book, If you’d like to post a review online as well, I’d be happy to send you a complimentary copy. The title is done in a large format, 10x10 and all images used are culled from several archives that represent rare or never before seen photos. There are the more famous ones included as well, to round out the pictorial narrative and tell the story of the Battle of Gettysburg and its aftermath, including several reunions and shots of the park and how it’s evolved over the years.

Also, if you are a fan of military history in general, it might interest you to know we have a picture book coming out about Theodore Roosevelt as well, and its book trailer is here:

Thanks, and I hope you don’t mind me dropping you a line to let you know about our book! Talk to you soon.

2:39 PM

mannie said...

Thank you for the generous offer, however I must decline.

Although I make it clear that my blog does not reflect the views of my various employers (including the National Park Service) I can't let it appear that I'm accepting gifts or favors based upon my status as a Ranger at our nation's finest park.

Though, again, I thank you for your kind offer, I cannot accept.

Best wishes,

Ranger Mannie

8:09 PM

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

...but I know what I like.

Over the recent quarter century there has been quite a proliferation of Civil War art. Some of it is pretty good much of it is only mediocre, and some is quite dreadful. All too often Civil War art seems overly influenced by stills captured of overweight and overwrought reenactors plying their hobby in painstakingly accurate uniforms under ideal lighting conditions.


A few years ago, before I moved to Maryland, the local art museum in my town mounted a wonderful show featuring works by the American artist Winslow Homer.

As an illustrator for Harper's, Homer was sent to the front of the actual Civil War to capture imagery of both the momentous and the mundane.

I challenge any modern CW artist to capture, with such authenticity, that which flowed from the eyewitness pen and brush of Winslow Homer.


"Home Sweet Home" My gosh, is that a "she-bang" in the background? And would reenactors approve of all of that "brass" on the kepis?

"Prisoners from the Front"

The dynamism of the ramrods almost makes this simple illustration seem animated. "Infantry in Action"

I can almost smell the tobacco smoke.

"The Sharpshooter"

A testimonial to another kind of contribution during the war, lounging black teamsters in Homer's 1865 work " The Bright Side" One can almost hear the mules braying in the background as these men get a brief respite from moving an army.

"Army boots" is another study of black participation in the war. The glow of the canvas is unlike any detail I've seen in recent ACW art.

"Cavalry Soldier on Horseback" This is one of the works that I was able to view close-up at the Grand Rapids Art Museum (Michigan) shortly before I left. This is Homer at his most deft...

...and this may be Homer at his most comic. "Playing the Old Soldier" finds a young malingerer who just may find the cure worse than the detail he's trying to escape from.

This is, perhaps, my favorite piece of Civil War art; Homer's "The Veteran in a New Field" (1865). One can only imagine the relief that this returned soldier feels as he picks up the tools he left behind a lifetime ago.

The best Civil War art has been around for a long time, celebrate it.

Ranger Mannie

Rehab: a day in the life of a seasonal interpretive Ranger

We've quite a collection of replica projectiles that we use in our school and public programming. Over the years these projectiles - shot, shell, ball, elongated, and cannister, have become pretty beat up through regular use and handling by school kids, rangers, and other visitors.

I thought I'd take some time to inventory what we have on hand and spend a little time and elbow grease to bring this rather dog-eared collection back to its former glory.

Its pretty evident that these old soldiers need some TLC. In addition to the projectiles, the park also has some pretty neat replica ammo crates that these have been stored in. The problem is that they've been banging into each other over the years and all the paint's been chipped off of them.

I brought my tool bag to the park two weeks ago to start the process of rehabilitating our projectile collection. Ranger Hoptak was kind enough to capture the moment with my camera.

The old paint comes off way too easily, seems the manufacturer of these replicas didn't prime them prior to painting (tsk, tsk).

On goes the primer. Ranger Hoptak jocularly commented:
"Pizza box turned red" (apologies to Stephen W. Sears).

Now, all dolled up with two coats of black paint, some of these will have powder bags reattached to the sabots. The bags will be filled with crushed walnut shell for the weight and feel of the real thing. The rehab'd ammo boxes will be lined with high-density foam to keep the projectiles from knocking into one another.

And here's the finished product all ready for the next artillery program at Antietam National Battlefield.

Do join me...

just north of Sharpsburg.

(I'll bring the ammo)

Ranger Mannie

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Antietam Artillery Weekend: Part 2

Here are four reasons to get to the park tomorrow.





Hope to see you tomorrow, just north of Sharpsburg.

Ranger Mannie

Artillery Weekend at Antietam!

If you're in the area today and tomorrow (June 9 and 10) come down to Antietam National Battlefield for Artillery Weekend.

We've got two 12 pound Napoleons set up and will be doing firing demonstrations throughout each day. If you've never seen a section of guns being loaded and fired before - now is the time and Sharpsburg is the place.

Ride to the sound of the guns.

Ranger Mannie

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Memorial Day in Sharpsburg

I'm told that Memorial Day pretty much started here in Sharpsburg. Certainly the parade boasts itself as the oldest such parade in America. Who am I to doubt it?

All I know is if you want a Norman Rockwell version of Memorial Day in America you need to come to Sharpsburg Maryland to watch it unfold before your very eyes.

All of the local high school bands and fire companies show up to celebrate this most American of holidays which marches along Sharpsburgs very hilly, very straight, main street. It's wonderful.

Important committee ladies

All seats are good and people chat with the folks they know on the other side of the street.

Serious flag-waver

Preparing a float

Locals visiting

An attentive musician

The National Cemetery in full regalia

The park superindent touches bases

Wreaths await presentation

The parade in full swing

Here come the yankees

The neighbors enjoy their parade

If you're ever in the area come the end of May, do swing by Shapsburg...the local folks will make it worth your while.

Ranger Mannie