Skip to main content

Looking Back on Rangerhood

Since I've only two more weeks to "do that ranger thang," I feel I am in a good position to reflect over how this summer has impacted me. First, some pictures:







Three cave pictures. Some popcorn, frostwork, and some flowstone in the third picture.



The magical elevator building, built by the CCC in the 1930's, along with the shaft.



Readouts from the anemometer stationed inside the Natural Entrance.



In the ready room, we have everything we need to do the tours, including the iconic ranger uniforms...



...and an army of flashlights. These are the stingers, the brightest of the three we carry.



Next to the only natural entrance into Wind Cave, one of the longest, oldest, and most complex caves in the world.

I'll begin my reflection with some frankness - I don't want to be a ranger "when I grow up." It has been fun for a summer gig. I've got to see parts of the cave that few people ever get to see. I've learned how to explore the backcountry of the cave. I've interacted with visitors cut from all sorts of cloth. And my public speaking skills have no doubt grown tremendously (on some days, I can take 120 visitors through the cave).

But -

I say more or less the same things every day. And what I'm allowed to say is determined by the national park service, and more directly, by the head of interpretation here at WICA (Wind Cave). I want to speak freely. Why should it be such a big deal on cave tours?

Because cave tours inevitably involve geology. There are fossils of ancient brachiopods down in the cave. And I'm living in a country where 39% of the population believes in evolution.* Many of the people that do not believe in evolution also scoff when confronted with the age of the earth. Many of them come to the cave to challenge the ranger.

In training I was upset to learn that we are not allowed to engage in such "controversial conversations." In other words, this is what is expected of me:

Visitor: How old is the cave?

Me: The limestone was formed 250 million years ago. The cave largely began to form 65 million years ago, when the Rockies were uplifted.

Visitor: That can't be true! God made the world 6,000 years ago!

Me: Well, we all have our own beliefs on the matter. In any case, know that the cave is really old.

I'm not allowed to challenge anybody's beliefs, even with scientific evidence. That's "disrespectful" of the visitors' "divergent backgrounds."

Sure, whatever.

In any case, I've been very pleased to spend the summer out here in the Black Hills, among the pronghorn, bison, prairie dogs, and yellow warblers.

I've had a chance to finish The Kite Runner, which immediately became a favorite. We wish to inform you that tomorrow we will be killed with our families was excellent journalism, but required a lot of commitment to get through it. John Krakauer fascinated me again with Under the Banner of Heaven. It has solidified my contempt for religious thinking: belief in an afterlife, so-called divine utterances (whether in the form of books like the Christian Bible or "oral revelations"), devotion towards religious leaders or prophets, etc.

I'm ready to come home. Two more weeks.

* According to a Gallup Poll taken in February 2009.
1 comment

Popular posts from this blog

The Clink (New Friends)

Each other is all we have. It's no surprise, then, that when we think about the chapters of our lives, those chapters usually begin and end with the beginning and ending of relationships. My current chapter began in July 2016, when I made the move from Philadelphia to Denver. In many ways, it was the fulfillment of a promise made between Peace Corps friends; Carly, Evan, and I spoke often of our desire to live in the same place some day, and after two wonderful years spent with Kyla, it was time for me to join them.

The great advantage to this arrangement is that Evan and Carly had been cultivating friends in my absence, so upon my arrival last summer, I was met with a wonderful group of people who had been carefully conditioned by Evan and Carly to like me.

Readers of this blog will remember Evan and Carly from my Peace Corps days. They were the closest I had to family for two years, and by the end of our service, we were inseparable.


Evan

Pappy. Pop-pop. Dilly-dally. Evan is know…

Reaction to Dante's Hell as Portrayed in Dante's Inferno

Since its Patristic roots, the Church has struggled with two seemingly contradictory aspects of God's nature. One one hand, God is said to be loving and caring towards his creation. At the same time, however, God is seen as a judge, dealing out justice to all according to their actions. Some Christians have argued that God, due to his overabundance of love, can never punish or cause harm. Other Christians have no qualms in maintaining that a loving God sends people to Hell, even against their own will. Most fall in between these two extremes. I would maintain that Dante's view of punishment in Hell errs on the side of the latter extreme, given the assumption of a loving God as described in Christian literature. The God portrayed in Dante's Inferno punishes based on gross oversimplifications. His God ignores the larger picture of human psychology and sociological influences in addition to the rehabilitative capacities of wrongdoers.

Good parents do not punish their children …

Morocco, Land of Ambiguity

The sun was pummeling me. On my shoulders and on the back of my skull. When Moroccans catch the sniffles, they say "The cold hit me." On this particular afternoon in Sidi Bennour, as I wandered from street to street, that bully Sol took no mercy, and as my fragile frame absorbed each blow, I could feel the scorn from the sun, the mocking and scorn, and not just from celestial bodies, but Arab bodies as well, from behind their piles of watermelon and cactus carts, straw hats and tooth-ish grins going "What is this white guy doing wandering around here in the middle of the afternoon?"


What I was doing was looking for a damned pair of socks. Eventually, I found a guy selling piles of used clothes. There appeared to be no order to the mess, so I just asked him if he sold any packages of socks. Hell, I didn't know. I've witnessed butchers selling toothbrushes on the side. Anyway, I might as well have asked the man if he had any poisonous snakes for sale. He could…