I had a long, yet fulfilling, day today. I worked at the battlefield from 8 to 4:30, then babysat 7 kids from 5 until 11:30. And I am not sure why I am still awake. I think I just need to unwind. But I thought I would record some more memorable visitor interactions from today.
We often go on roves over the course of the day. "We" means the seasonal rangers and the summer interns/volunteers. "Roves" mean going outside, either walking or biking, and greeting visitors. Going on a rove is a way for us to make deliberate informal visitor contacts. We can help orient visitors and give information, always finding opportunities to connect people with this resource called battlefield.
Today, I roved for a little on my bike. The first family I met had driven down from Michigan to visit family in Nashville. We had a spectacular conversation about visiting places and experiencing history by experiencing historic sites. We walked for a little ways (I walked my bike along with them) and chatted about family traditions (especially Independence Day traditions) and the ideas of freedom. The dad wanted to bring his girls to historic sites to help them truly understand the meaning of freedom. I think that the battlefield is an interesting place to try and understand that idea, especially if you are going to look at it historically. What did freedom mean to the slaves and former slaves, during and after the war? What did freedom mean to Southerners, during and after the war? What did freedom mean to Murfreesboro citizens after the Union left? How did the meanings of freedom change according to who you were?
I encountered a five-year-old boy and his grandfather next. The boy had a canteen practically half the size of him strapped to his waist. I asked him what he had been up to and he told me "hiking." Evidently, he went on his very first hike today. He went to his grandfather this morning and stated, "I want to go on a hike." His granddad geared him up and took him around the tour loop and on some of the boundary trails. His bright blue eyes radiated his excitement of his recent adventure. Can I remember my first hike? My family did outdoorsy-stuff and I was a Girl Scout for 8 years (plus helped lead troops for 2 years following that). I don't know if I can specifically remember my very first hike. I imagine my canteen-toting friend will, though.
Later in the day, I had the pleasure of signing in a total of 11 new Junior Rangers. I love to do that, too. And these kids were very serious about becoming Junior Rangers (my favorite!). I became a Junior Ranger at Mount Rushmore when I was 10 years old. I also remember being very serious about my new role as Junior Ranger. Those rangers probably had no idea how important that moment was for me (and, quite possibly, how it affected my later career choices). Maybe one of the 11 today will one day become a park ranger, too.
I love my role as park ranger (even if I am just a seasonal). I consider myself a steward/manager/care-taker/guardian/protector/extraordinaire. I think most serving in the green and grey feel that way, too. My appreciation for the place and historic stuff combined with my love of the histories mixed with my passion for sharing makes this job way too easy and far too much fun.