Friday, June 8, 2012

Antietam Week Four

Dear Fellow Prorangers and NPS Friends,
We have just completed our fourth week at Antietam. Good news! Comcast will be coming this Sunday to install my cable and internet! The struggle is over! This week we did some pretty cool things in the park. I am getting to know the folks and staff at Antietam pretty well. It is fun to not only recognize faces, but to put names to faces as well. I am learning my way around, remembering park roads, and even becoming familiar with most of the trails and farms. Monday we had the day off, I can’t really remember what we did on Tuesday, and Wednesday and Thursday were tons of fun; seriously, they were fun. Wednesday Jay and I put the flag up in front of the Ranger Station together…wait! I do remember what we did on Tuesday. Hold on.
On Tuesday as Jay and I were patrolling the park with Ranger Jones, we came across a team of archeologists who were excavating the Otto House. The Otto House is an old house that was lived in during the Civil War, even when the Battle of Antietam was fought. Folks lived in the Otto House until the fifties or so; if you go in there now (I recommend you go in with a partner because it’s really quiet and eerie) there is no furniture, the wall paper is peeling, and everything has turned brown with age; it is like stepping back in time. On the second floor, someone- we are not exactly sure who- carved the words “Hawkin Zouave” into the wood on the windowsill The Zouave’s were a volunteer infantry from New York that fought in the Battle of Antietam. Fascinating hunh? Anyhoo, once we finished looking at the Civil War graffiti in the Otto House, we went outside and talked to the archeologists who were digging around the House. This team was doing a simple site excavation, turning soil every twenty-five feet to see if they could find any artifacts. You see, back in the Civil War days, there was no such thing as trash collection. A garbage truck did not roll down your block ever Monday to collect the trash from the sidewalk; instead, people would dig holes on the side of their house, and throw all of their garbage into the hole. The hole was called a “trash mitten”. Once the mitten got full, the owner’s of the home would cover it with soil and dig another hole somewhere else. What the archeologists were telling us was that they were searching for the trash mitten that the Otto’s may have used during the Battle of Antietam; if they could find it, the mitten would contain tons of artifacts that could tell us more about the era of the battle; however, they had not been able to find it yet. Still, it was fun to see them work.
Ok. Wednesday we just did a patrol in the morning, had lunch, and went for a hike along some of the park trails in the afternoon. On our hike, we ran into some of the staff from Natural Resources, who were chopping down some invasive plant species on the Bloody Lane Trail. Near the end of our hike, Jay decided that we should go up into the Observation Tower. Now, I didn’t really want to go up into the Observation Tower because we had hiked three miles and I was tired; but to make Jay happy, we went up to the top of the Tower and it was a good thing that we did! A lot of visitors were stopping at the Tower, and once they had climbed all the stairs, they would chat with us and ask us to tell them about the Battle of Antietam. This was a great opportunity for Jay and me to talk about all that we had learned since we had been at the park. We could tell them about the key points of the battle, who fought where, important dates, and even a few things about the wildlife in the park. This was completely a good call on Jay’s part. I
just wanted to get into the car and into the air-conditioning.

Now on Thursday we did some pretty amazing stuff. Our supervisor, Ranger Tom Jones, was teaching a Defensive Tactics Refresher at the park. You see, every year, LE Rangers need forty hours of refresher training so that they can stay on their toes. Jay, a ranger from Monocacy, a ranger from Gettysburg, and me participated in the refresher. We covered handcuffing, asp techniques, and punches and kicks. Ranger Jones allowed Jay and me to partner with each other, each of us taking turns being the suspect and the LE Ranger. Using chain or hinge cuffs, we practiced arresting each other in the standing, kneeling, and prone positions. We practiced extending our asp to the ground and to the sky, as well as striking with it. You should have seen me during the kicks and punches! Or maybe you shouldn’t have seen me. I have never punched anything before; I mean, I got into a fight once in grade school but I didn’t know what I was doing, just a lot of pushing and shoving. Anyway, we got to do jabs, cross punches, upper cuts, and right hooks. I would pretend the pad I was hitting was a bad guy and try to hit it as hard as I could, while shouting “Stop! Get Back!” I tried my best. I think Jay and I both did a good job. I’m thankful Ranger Tom was nice enough to let us participate in the class.

We did other cool things this week, but I think the blog is long enough. Be safe, and I will see you all soon!

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