Sunday, May 31, 2020

Trail's end

And here we are 777 posts later, and My Year of Living Rangerously has come to a close.  

Today I retire from the National Park Service.

So here's an interesting thing: This afternoon I was lounging around the house, just running-down the clock until my 5:00 pm retirement from the Park Service. On the Mall we've all been teleworking because of covid and I've been working from home for the past two and a half months.  Retiring in this vacuum was pretty anticlimactic...and a little bit sad.

Suddenly, a lightbulb went off over my head.

Before I knew it, I was walking out the door, in uniform (with facemark and anti-spit goggles) and making a bee-line to nearby Antietam National Battlefield, where I spent so many happy years.
I wasn't exactly sure what my plan was.

I got out of the car at the visitor center and spotted a family sitting on the steps of the New York monument, which overlooks much of the battlefield.  I headed toward them.

The day was perfect - 73 degrees, mostly sunny, a crystal-blue sky with puffy clouds, and my beautiful South Mountain looking down at us.

What followed was an impromptu 15-minute Q&A program.  They were enthusiastic and asked some great questions, and I was really bringing down the interpretive thunder, we were having a ball.

The dad was one of those people who think that the Battle of Antietam ended in a the time that I was done with him, he was convinced that it was a decisive Union victory.

I went out on my terms, and it was great to be a Ranger that these nice people will remember.

Thanks for staying with me as this blog progressed through 14 years of rangering. Some years I was posting like fury, and there were also a few years were the blog lay almost dormant.  

The ebb and flow of my entries was directly related to my enthusiasm for the places that I was working.  Antietam was responsible for hundreds of posts.  Those were happy days for me, as was my recent 60-day detail at Monocacy National Battlefield which was responsible for the wealth of posts and videos from January and February of this year.

These past six years in Washington DC on the National Mall were a different story altogether.  The daily five-hour commute would color any experience...and the bottom line is - I'm a "cannonball ranger", battlefields are where I belong, and where I am happiest.

"Power of place" is what works best for me as an interpretive Park Ranger; to be able to point to a spot on the ground and say "Here is where the 16th Connecticut was rolled up by A.P. Hill's division, or, here is the spot where McCausland was surprised by veterans Union soldiers when he was expecting only militia.  The immediacy of the place is exciting  for me, and exciting for the visitor...there is just no substitute for that experience, and you just don't get that on the National Mall.

So, my career had its ups and downs, but nonetheless, through it all, I got to be a US Park actual American icon.  Putting on that uniform every morning was a transformative experience, and the responsibility that went with it was was the joy.

Being a Park Ranger for the National Park Service was, professionally, the thing of which I am most proud, and what I think was, next to my military service, my most important contribution.

It was worthy work, and I gave it my very best.  The greatest thrill, and the thing that I thought was of the most significance, were the times that I was able to fire the imagination of a child.  A trip to Gettysburg when I was nine started me on this journey, and I was glad to start other boys and girls on theirs.  An active interest in our history can inspire an active interest in citizenship, and that's the job of all of us adults - to inspire children to be the best citizens that they can be.

I've enjoyed the job, and the reporting of it in this blog, and I hope that you enjoyed those reports.

I keep other blogs which you may find interesting:
as well as some others.  Tune in, you may enjoy them.

Very best wishes to all of you, and thanks for your company as we side by side, hiked the Civil War trail together.

Your pal,

Mannie Gentile
Park Ranger (ret.)

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Looking back over fourteen years of Rangering.

On May 28, I will have been with the Park Service for Fourteen years.  Here's some photos.

Ranger Alann Schmidt and I during the transfer ceremony of the remains of a New York soldier that were found in the Cornfield at Antietam.

One of my favorite things was giving the orientation talk at Antietam.

 The best day.  Marrying my sweetheart in Dunker Church.

 Talking artillery on an Antietam hike.

Wrapping up the two-hour driving tour above Burnside Bridge...always my big finish.

Ranger Mannie...finder of lost children.

Making a video about wildland firefighting at Antietam.

When I was at Antietam, we had a lot of leeway in I'm in cargo pants, the Park Service barn coat, and my trusty ball cap.

Beer on tap made tours run long (kidding).

Class A uniform for my wedding and talking to long-time Antietam volunteer Bob Murphy.

Freezing my tail off at the 2009 presidential inauguration.

Freezing my tail off at Antietam.

Ranger Mannie in black and white.

Three interpretive legends:  John Hoptak, Matt Atkinson, and yours truly.  All three of us could really "bring the interpretive thunder."

Posing in front of the mural I painted for the Antietam 150th.

Antietam:  the album cover photo.

What doesn't kill me makes me stronger.  I commute five hours a day because I work in Washington DC.

Having a good crew when working the Washington monument made all the difference, and this was one of the best:  me, the supervisor Mary Collins, the legendary Mike Townsend, rockstar Jason Barna, and the incomparable Ed Flemming.

Operating the elevator at the Washington Monument.

The social media crew for the Gettysburg 150th. NPS director John Jarvis is at center.

Artillery projectiles were my thing at Antietam.

Swearing in two new Junior Rangers at Belmont-Paul Women's Equality National Monument.

Park Rangers are always good role models regarding proper nutrition.

Me and my minions at the Gettysburg 150th

Painting murals at Monocacy National Battlefield; a fabulous experience.

Leading a toy soldier-painting workshop at Monocacy National Battlefield.

For as much as I loved Antietam, my two-month detail at Monocacy was the most affirming experience of my adult working life.

I had a flair for wearing the iconic campaign hat.

Ranger Mannie
In quarantine, in Boonsboro Maryland

Wednesday, May 06, 2020

VOTES FOR WOMEN! for 100 years. (blog post 771)

Twenty-five days and a wake-up.

Your favorite short-timer is racing to get a couple more videos made before retirement day on May 31st.

 At Belmont-Paul Women's Equality National Monument we are working from our homes and one of the projects the Rangers are working on is "Suffrage in Sixty Seconds."  We're each making super-short videos on topics related to the centennial of the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment.

This one talks about the invention of picketing the Whitehouse by suffragist Alice Paul.

Tennessee and votes for women

It's pretty late in the game gang; ol' Ranger Mannie only has 25 days left, so I'm tying up loose ends and trying to get out a little more historic interpretation before my career with the Park Service come to a close at the end of this month. 

 At Belmont-Paul Women's Equality National Monument we are working from our homes and one of the projects the Rangers are working on is "Suffrage in Sixty Seconds."  We're each making super-short videos on topics related to the centennial of the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment.

Thursday, April 30, 2020

The Old Ranger

Well loyal readers, this morning I pushed the button;

I've put in my retirement papers.

My last day of rangering will be June 30

It is, as they say bittersweet.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Without historic preservation...history disappears

A note about historic preservation on my final day at Monocacy.

Ranger Mannie

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Farewell Monocacy

All good things must come to an end, and it's back to my regular job on the National Mall on Tuesday, but it was great to be reminded that I am first, last, and always, a cannonball ranger.

This past two months was the most satisfying and affirming experience of my Park Service career.

See you out on the Civil War trail gang.

Ranger Mannie

Mannie's Monocacy Murals

Finished, with one day to spare.

It feels very good to be able to leave something behind.

Tomorrow's my last day at Monocacy National Battlefield...sounds like some shenanigans are planned.

Ranger Mannie

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Junior Rangers at Monocacy

The Junior Ranger program is one of the best ideas that the Park Service ever had.  It's a great, and fun, way to get kids engaged in their park, and it makes their tax-paying parents really appreciate the parks.

I swore these four fun-lovers in as Monocacy Jr. Rangers last weekend...boy, were they in to it.

Ranger Mannie

Friday, February 21, 2020

The clock is ticking on the murals, I'm about seventy percent done and I have exactly four and a half days to complete them, fortunately, ranger Anthony has been a great apprentice in this project.

I can't believe how fast the time has flown; I've enjoyed this detail so much. This sixty-day detail to Monocacy National Battlefield was the most satisfying and affirming experience of my fourteen-year career in the National Park Service.

Ranger Mannie

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Monocacy murals progress

I finished the line work today and tomorrow I start applying the color.

Two more weeks left in this adventure at Monocacy... what a great experience this has been.

Ranger Mannie

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Making a mural

Today the work began in earnest on the children's corner mural.  This will be the larger of the two.

I'll post pictures as it progresses.

Friday, February 07, 2020

Behind the scenes in the historic Worthington House

On Wednesday a group of historic structures conservation students from the NPS came  to check out the Worthington house.  I was supposed to open the door for them.  In the telephone meeting beforehand, I asked their fearless leader how long he wanted my program to be.  He responded that there would be no program but they were there to just check out the house.  At that I informed him the the program will be fifteen minutes in length, as it was...and I had their complete and enthusiastic attention as I told the story of Lew Wallace at Monocacy. 

It was incredibly satisfying for me.

Then I opened the door and let them prowl around.

I don't know much about the house, so I lifted the following from the Historic Structures Report that was written in the late '90s.

[The Worthington house is a] two-story five-bay brick dwelling with an ell extension in the rear.  Considered influenced from Greek Revival and Italiante styles from the third quarter of the 19th century.  Built between 1847 and 1852.

Served as a hospital after the battle.  Was the seen of action in the late morning and early afternoon phase of the battle.  

Here's a little hand-held video I did for this post, touring the first floor.  I'll let this video provide the bulk of this post's narrative.

The kitchen is a post-war addition to the house.  This stove remains from the 1960s when the building was used to house cannery workers...much to the detriment of the house.

A colleague told me that seven layers of linoleum have been uncovered.

Now down to the cellar and a visit with little Glenn Worthington...eyewitness to "The Battle that Saved Washington."

These are pieces of the original the ground and out of the damp, awaiting better days.

The far window on the left is the one from which Glenn watched the progress of the battle.  While his    family and their enslaved servants shuddered in fear, Glenn was thrilled with the spectacle of war.

Glenn's window

Glenn's view.

And finally, a short video that leaves much to be desired (better luck next time).

So there you have it...a whirlwind tour.  I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.  I only have three weeks remaining at Monocacy, and I'm going to relish every minute.

See you next time with more cool Monocacy stuff.

Ranger Mannie