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Oh, Ranger!

by Roger Turner

If you like a good story I have real gem for you. It's a book called Oh, Ranger!; a fascinating book first published in 1928 written by Horace Albright and Frank Taylor.

I can't put it any better than Stephen T. Mather, director of the National Park Service from 1917-1929. In the first edition of this book Mr. Mather says:

To me no picture of the national parks is complete unless it includes the rangers, the "Dudes," the "Sagebrushers," and the "Savages." I like to picture the thousands of people gathered about the park campfires, asking questions of the rangers. In fact, I like to be at the campfire myself, and listen to the thousands of questions asked about the parks and their wild life. Especially am I interested in the replies of the rangers. These men have become keen students of human nature. In their brief, informal talks, they have learned to anticipate many of the questions of the visitors.

I like the idea of this book, "Oh, Ranger!" It tells the story of the parks in the simple, informal style of the rangers. It gives the rangers the credit due them for their fine work in guarding the national parks and preserving them in their primeval beauty. It breathes the spirit of the people who belong to the parks, who make possible the parks as they are today.

They are a fine, earnest, intelligent, and public-spirited body of men, the rangers. Though small in number, their influence is large. Many and long are the duties heaped upon their shoulders. If a trail is to be blazed, it is "send a ranger." If an animal is floundering in the snow, a ranger is sent to pull him out; if a bear is in the hotel, if a fire threatens a forest, if someone is to be saved, it is "send a ranger." If a Dude wants to know the why of Nature's ways, if a Sagebrusher is puzzled about a road, his first thought is, "ask a ranger." Everything the ranger knows, he will tell you, except about himself. Now "Oh, Ranger!" tells you about him."

Yellowstone Lake Story from Oh Ranger

Here is an excerpt from Oh Ranger, from ranger Joe Douglas that you might like.

Ranger Joe Douglas was crossing Yellowstone Lake on skis in the dead of winter. He came to a place where the snow was blown off the ice. Skis are of no use on the ice, so Doug unstrapped them and carried them over his shoulders while he walked across the ice. In an unwary moment, he plunged through an air-hole into the icy water. The skis bridged the hole and undoubtedly saved his life.

Clinging to them, Doug cautiously pulled himself from the water and trudged on, his wet clothes frozen stiff about his body.

Reaching the shore, he dug through four feet of snow, located some wood, built a fire, undressed, and stood there naked while his clothes dried by the blaze.

"It's a wonder you didn't freeze, Doug," someone said, when the ranger told his story.

"Naw, it wasn't cold," he retorted. "It was one of the warmest days of the winter--only 'bout seven below zero!"

Glacier National Park Story from Oh Ranger

Here's another Oh Ranger fun "story". I'm pretty sure this one could be classified as a "whopper".

A ranger doing patrol duty on the boundary line, having run out of supplies and being in immediate danger of starving, told how he grabbed his trusty old gun for which only one shell remained, and, going beyond the park line, maneuvered around carefully, hunting diligently so as to be sure to get the best possible results with the one shot. Finally he came upon a brace of quail perched in a cluster of brush close enough together for both to be bagged at one shot.

Carefully raising the gun, he fired. Imagine his great joy when on running to the spot to pick up his two quail he found that he had killed six more, which were on the other side of the bush and which he had not seen.
Hearing a great commotion out in a small lake near by, he saw a big buck deer that had become frightened at the sound of his shot and had run out into the lake and bogged down in the mud. Dropping the quail, he hurried out into the lake and cut the buck's throat.

In carrying the deer out, he sank down into the mud himself up over his boot tops. Upon reaching the shore, he sat down and pulled the boots off to pour out the water and found in them a dozen nice fish.
Placing the quail, fish, and deer together so that they could be more easily carried, he was struggling to get the load on his shoulders. This put a great strain on his suspender buttons, and one of these flew off with such force that it killed a rabbit a hundred yards in the rear.
I enjoyed reading Oh Ranger. It gives you an idea of what it must be like to be a national park ranger.

You can read the whole book of Oh Ranger online at the national park service website.

About the author: Roger Turner is the webmaster for www.yellowstone-area-guide.com. He enjoys the outdoors, music and his family. He also teaches at the local high school.

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