Monday, June 24, 2013

Antietam National Battlefield Week 4

Hello everyone, Jess here giving you all an ANTI update. So far I have been here for a month and I am still enjoying every moment; that’s got to be some sort of a sign, I’m sure.
My fourth week at Antietam National Battlefield began on Tuesday June 11 at 8:30AM. As usual, Tom picked me up from my housing to start our day. Before he left the ranger station to get me, he received a call from maintenance workers doing gardening at the cemetery. While they were gardening, these employees ran into a family of possums that was out during the day. THE DAY! That is obviously a matter of security because possums are nocturnal and should not be out during the day. When they are, there has to be something wrong with the animal and should be taken care of. By the time we got to the cemetery, there was only one possum left still awake hiding under a bush. Tom decided it would be best to capture the animal so he found a groundhog trap and put some fruit in it to lure in the possum. Throughout the day, we checked on our possum and saw that it stayed tucked under the bush all day. The next morning Tom and I checked again to see if the possum either moved or was trapped and found that it just moved. We figured that there was nothing terribly wrong with the possum, but it got disturbed by the weed whackers and mowers in the morning and went defensive because of the baby possums. After realizing that, Tom and I returned the trap back to its original place and went on with the rest of our day.
Later that week, Tom and I went in work a little later than our normal times. Because of the ranger who usually closes on Thursday being out on leave, we had the task of working 1:30 to 10 in order to assist later visitors and closing the park. A project that we had that day was changing batteries of emergency exit signs in the Visitor’s Center. First we had to head over to the nearby city of Hagerstown, also home to NCR dispatch (see Week 2), to purchase the batteries that were needed. Once we did that, we headed back to the park to do our current job. Once we got to the Visitor’s Center, we ran into a few visitors who just got to the park. Unfortunately for them, by the time they got there the VC had closed and they were not sure what to do. Tom gave me a park brochure to give to them and they were very appreciative. I remembered what Tom told me earlier in the summer: “You can always make a visitor’s day by giving out a map” and it looked like he was right. That short interaction with a visitor made me realize that I was in the right position, being a public servant.
After we changed the batteries at the VC and I collected the money from the donation box Tom and I headed back to the Ranger Station to get ready to do a final patrol and close the park. Once we got prepared (with our flashlights) I drove the two of us around so that we could lock up and check on anyone else lurking in the park. It was pretty cool driving around the park and closing; it’s like I work here.
The next two days I spent helping out at the Visitor’s Center. I arrived at 8:30AM (when it opens) and shadowed the workers for about an hour, then jumped in to the action. After a while of working the front desk, I went along with Ranger Stanczak to the Mumma House for a program she did for kids from a summer camp. Because of the large group, the kids were split between age groups. I helped out the younger kids as a volunteer told them about the Mumma family during the time of the Battle of Antietam. She explained to the kids how young children like them and like the Mumma’s did during the late 19th century. Afterwards, they partook in activities that they would have during the time and I helped with it all. At first I was very nervous to interact with young children. I haven’t seen people that small in a long time and I haven’t been that small in a really long time. It turned out to be fine and I was worrying about nothing; children are just miniature adults.
The next day with the Interp staff was spent at the VC and on a tour of the battlefield. During the late morning, I went along on a Battlefield Tour with a ranger and two new volunteers. The tour was really interesting because it was in the form of a caravan that we got to lead. Visitors would follow us around the battlefield as we would stop at the three main points of the battle and the ranger would explain why each was significant. During that time, not only did I learn more about the Battle of Antietam, I also had the opportunity to interact with visitors from all over and that’s my favorite part of being a park ranger.
Hope to have more for you all in the coming weeks and thanks for reading.
Till next time,
Jess Cooper

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