Tuesday, May 28, 2013

A Tribute

My last few days as a National Park Ranger were not all I hoped they would be.  A struggle with forces beyond my control over a small matter reddened my eyes and quieted my laughter.  But this same struggle showed me how many of my fellow rangers cared and supported me.  So now as I breathe in the thick, heady scent of roses and honeysuckle that surrounds Groundwell Farm, I can look back upon my days at the great Mammoth Cave with kindness and respect.

I look at the shiny toes of my boots
and am reminded of the value of the attention to detail necessary when trying to communicate a message to hundreds of people.  I put away my wristwatch and breathed a sigh of relief that, while my days on the farm will still be governed by the seasons and the weather, they will no longer be ruled by the minute hand.

The numbers scratched onto and out of my NPS notebook bring back to me the many pleased visitors that proved that my partners and myself could accomplish what we set out to do.
Boxing up my flat hat (for what future I know not) makes me think of all the other rangers out there, at Mammoth Cave and all over the U.S. This is an amazing group of people who sacrifice more than most folks will ever know, to help others gain a deeper understanding of both the park they are in and of the surrounding natural and cultural worlds.  Anyone reading this who is not a ranger, should go to a National Park soon and listen to a ranger.  Pay them some appreciation, they certainly deserve it.
This badge that I no longer lay claim to goes along with the flat hat to turn a person into a ranger.  It brings is bearer a measure of respect, while asking of that same bearer a great responsibility. The responsibility of taking care of the public, of demonstrating to U.S. citizens and visitors from every nation of this world, the value of the natural areas of this country.  It is a responsibility we take on with pride and hopefully keep with us even when we relinquish our badge.  And finally the item that makes us Mammoth Cave guides and rangers.  The cave key.
This key unlocks a myriad of underground wonders.  And though in the everyday routine of giving tours and dealing with the challenges of bringing hundreds of people through a piece of the longest cave in the world, we may sound as though all love for the cave is lost; each time we are required or permitted to go into the deep by twos or threes to perform some necessary task or complete some research, a small thrill runs through our bones, because deep down inside every one of us feels an attachment to her winding corridors, and nothing is better than quietly passing through areas of the cave the public never sees.

On Monday afternoon, when I slipped that key into its hole and watched the bolt slide home, I knew I was giving up something tremendous.  But I believe I am going into something just as tremendous.  And today, as we paddled around Barren River Lake noticing shaley layers and dolomitic layers of limestone; watching a green heron for many, many, long minutes; seeing insects we'd never seen before, wondering which new plants we were encountering; thinking about the communities who used to farm the hillsides; we also remembered all of the geologists, birders, entomologists, botanists, archeologists, schoolteachers and other amazing people we worked beside and learned from over the past two years.  They have permanently enriched my life.

Thank You Mammoth Cave Guide Force.  Rock On!


  1. We are all cogs; you are valued, appreciated, and always welcome back.
    Be well,

  2. This is great Barb. Good luck to y'all and come back and visit some time!

    Younger SK

  3. We'll be back to visit for sure!