Last week Jay and I had a steller time at Antieatam Battlefield. We were really kicking it. We spent the week with Cultural Resources. Cultural Resources at Antietam is amazing; they do a lot more stuff than I thought they do. Lucky for us, the week we spent with Cultural resources, they had a professional from Washington D.C. come out to administer a training on how to preserve the monuments on the Battlefield. We have a lot of monuments at Antietam, and with our 150th Anniversay coming up on September 17, we want to make sure the park looks its best. Many of the monuments have been subjected to years of rain and rust and the bronze plaques on them describing the regimants of various states have turned green. Katherine, the Historic Preservationist from D.C., shared her experience with us; for years she has worked on preserving monuments such as the Vieatnam Memorial, the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, and even some of the monuments in my hometown of Philadelphia, PA at Independence Hall.
We began the restoration process by cleaning the actual monuments the bronze plaques were on (the stone parts). We sprayed the stone with water and a solution that is slightly stronger than DAWN dish detergent. Monuments that needed more work or that were covered in linchen- a kind of dark green moss that looks like green veins on the sides of the monuments- we sprayed with a stronger chemical called D2. D2 was invented by the same man who thought of the Green Solutions cleaning products, so while the D2 chemical was excellent at cleaning the monuments, the chemicals in it were relativley mild. After we sprayed the D2 solution we let it sit for a minute and then we scrubbed the monument with scrub brushes. All this cleaning was preparation for the second phase in the monument restoration process: waxing. Wax is used on the bronze portion of many monuments because it acts as a protective coating against rain, snow and other elements. The process of applying wax was an experience I will never forget. We had to use a torch to heat the bronze surface of the monument, then quickly apply the wax with large paint brushes. One thing we had to remember was to move the torch either in circles or back and forth as we applied the heat so as not to burn the monument. I was nervous because I don't have too many problems burning toast when I cook breakfast. But with the help of the cultural resources staff and my partner Jay Copper, I did alright. We all worked together on the New Jersey Monument and the New York Monument in the park. I personally think you should all travel down to Antietam to see the beautifaul, shiny monuments we worked on.
Let me see...we did other cool things last week; but what I really want to tell you about is how we spent Thursday afternoon with the Law Enforcement Rangers at the C&O Canal shooting Range. Our supervisor, Tom Jones, was nice enough to let us come and watch the Rangers from our park manuver through some obstacles and fire at targets. The shooting range was lined with targets. The Rangers had to drive up to the scene and exit their vehicles; then they had to load their rifles and shoot at a target. Once they successfully shot at the target, they had to load their hand guns and shoot at the targets from behind a make shift door, and a piece of wood lying on the ground that acted as a curb. The targets were balloons hidden under t-shirts hanging from paper clips at the opposite and of the range. Jay and I had the responsibilty of blowing up the balloons. It was a good time.
When we came back from our lunch at McDonalds, Ranger Jones allowed Jay and me the opportunity to try firing at the targets. Ranger Jones and another Ranger at our Park, Ranger Moore, are both Firearms Instructors. Jay and I fired SIG SAUER 40 and 45 caliber guns. Now, you may laugh at me, but this was my first time shooting anything. Really, I wish someone would have told me how loud guns are. They are super loud; and when you pull the trigger and fire them, they kind of push back at you really hard. I would not want to be on the other end of one of them. Ranger Jones and Ranger Moore told us how to load a magazine into the gun, how to make sure a gun was empty of rounds, and how to load rounds into the magazine. It was all a bit overwhelming to me, and exciting, and cool, and a lot of fun. I'm glad I had head gear on to protect my ears. Going to the shooting range made me understand even more the amazing sacrifice Law Enforcement Rangers make everyday to keep the resourcs and visitors at our National Parks safe. It was a very good day.