The early 80`s see a big downturn in the economy and building activity wanes. I need to jump into new employment and I see that the Provincial Parks Department is looking for Park Rangers. I apply, and later, as I am cursing away while laboriously chain sawing a big cedar post in half lengthwise, for the house, I see a pair of brown shiny shoes out of the corner of my eye. My interview for the job has begun! My academic qualifications may actually count against me for this ‘man`s job’ but I guess my chainsaw abilities and cussing qualifications ( learned from the goats) are just right, so I become the new supervisor for the three provincial parks on the island. It is difficult adjusting to being a cog in a civil service wheel, I have lived a remarkably independent life so far, but I do adjust and at least I am quite confident at running the island parks with limited visits from head office in Victoria. The union pay is good and regular too which eases our financial worries. By this point the main house is framed and roofed so I can work on it as time from ‘Rangering’ permits.
The Park Ranger.
24th of May long weekend.
In one dark park a once yellow schoolbus, now spray-painted with graffiti, is surrounded by a screaming multitude of drunken young adults. It is my new job to control this and I have no training, no idea what the rules are and it is just a tad risky to even approach this lot. In another waterfront park, a large crowd of drunken people have lit an enormous beach fire out of drift logs. Beer bottles fly about in the darkness. Now what do I do? It turns out that there is a good reason why this job was available!
It will take me several months to clean and prep the parks for the summer season, to study the Park regulations and to decide that, despite the general lawlessness of the majority of park users at that time, that I will begin to push back. Interestingly enough, my ex-teacher self is of little use here and occasional supervisors who wander by have few useful suggestions. I remember an American park ranger I met briefly as a child and decide to model my new park ranger self after that impression: friendly, fair and firm. Of course he had a proper uniform while I have a used green jacket, he had training and a large organization that was prepared to supporting him, but I realize that this is mostly a matter of acting. Until I really have the experience to professionally fill the role, I can confidently act as if I do. It works! Several exciting years would pass before the word gets out to all the youth, party and motorcycle crowds that things had changed on Saltspring and I will have lots of technicolour evenings on patrol to talk about. “What happened last night Dad”, would be how I was greeted by my children in the morning. “Well I had to call the RCMP again last night because...”.