Questions I’ve Often Been Asked


What’s a “Retread Ranger?”

National Park Service slang for somebody who spent his career wearing a Smokey Bear hat, protecting the parks and the people from each other, and is doing something different now.

So you're not really a ranger anymore?

Wrong. Being a ranger is for life.

Where did you work?

Out on the lake, in the mountains, along the ocean, and down by the river, but not at the same time. Some people call the places other names:

  • Apostle Islands National Lakeshore- Park Historian, 1997 to 2005
    Typical history major- took me a quarter-century to get a job in my field.

  • Apostle Islands National Lakeshore- West District Ranger, 1992 to 1997
    Brushing up my boating skills on nice days, using them on bad days, and spending way too much time behind a desk.

  • Harpers Ferry National Historical Park- Supervisory Ranger, 1988 to 1992
    More history than just about any place I've been this side of the Atlantic, but there's been way more folks writing about it than here.

  • Fire Island National Seashore- Watch Hill Supervisor, 1985 to 1988
    A backcountry station, 50 miles from the Twin Towers. Four of us NPSers there in the winter. Ranger Sue and I got our groceries and mail by boat when Great South Bay was open, drove down the beach to Smith Point if the bay was icy and the tide was low enough.

  • Cape Cod National Seashore- North District Patrol Supervisor, 1983 to 1985
    Learned a lot about beach driving and dealing tactfully with naked people. More visitors per year than Yosemite, nearly as many lighthouses as here.

  • Cuyahoga Valley National Recreation Area- Law Enforcement Patrol Ranger, 1978 to 1983
    Locked up a lot of drunks, froze my toes on the sledding hills, and discovered some places no NPSer had seen yet. The last two parts were a lot of fun.

  • Sequoia Kings/ Canyon National Parks- Seasonal Patrol Ranger, 1977 to 1978
    Thought I'd get back there some day. Still working on it.

  • A few years in the minors, figuring out big-league pitching, 1972 to 1977
    The North Fork was awful pretty before they traded potato fields for vineyards. Still is, actually.

Can you come out? My boat is dragging anchor off Rocky Island.

Sorry, sir. That’s for younger guys and gals.

Where’s the tree that you drive through?

There never was one here, and the one that you’re thinking of fell down anyway.

What does that sign say?

“Mennen’s Borated Talcum Toilet Powder.”

Is this the river that caught fire?

Yeah, but it was way downstream from here.

How can you stand living on this island in the winter?

It’s lot easier than in the summer.

How come that guy can take his shirt off, and I can’t?

Law says so, ma’am. 36 CFR 7.67, to be precise.

I’ll bet you’re getting a real kick out of…

Not really, ma’am.

Why do you rangers carry guns?

Long story. I’ll tell it some day.

Is Ranger Sue a real ranger, too?

Definitely. Realer than most.

What’s with all the dogs?

Ranger Sue likes big dumb critters, a trait which worked to Ranger Bob’s advantage way-back-when. A while back we adopted an adult female Newfie, to keep our big guy company. After we got her home, we found out we’d actually rescued twelve dogs, just most of them were hidden.

Then things got weird: The Thanksgiving Puppies.

Clapton, Beck, or Page?



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