Ever Wonder What a Forest Ranger Thinks About?
By: Kenneth Avery
There was This Lonesome
time not so long ago, not that many years back, that I grew very selfish. Not as much for power or money, but the money sufficed my inner-yearnings to be rich, out of debt, and own a two-story log home in the Rocky Mountains where my wife and I could live in peace and quiet and be happy.
So much for dreaming. By this time, I have had to refinance our home twice, visit the local hospital a few times for some “mysterious” illness, which the doctors have yet to name, and I can tell you that Medicare and my health care supplement will NOT cover the bills. Sorry. I get very upset with the entire situation!
But we move along. Step after step, day after day, and wait for “that” last breath that will take me from this natural world to a spiritual plane where my body will not need any medicine or doctors. I cannot wait.
So, With my Latter Years
I have done a lot of serious soul-searching and have tried to NOT let selfishness be my master (like it was in my 20s) and actually do some things for those around me—not necessarily friends or family, but strangers that pass in and out of my life. It might some little thing such as opening the door for them or maybe buying their lunch for them and NOT tell them who did it. That kind of thing. I know from experience that doing for others in secret is in line with the Holy Scriptures, so if God approves it, then I can go for it.
And so with “this” ministry of sorts that I have rolling, I am thinking of “that” one somebody way out there in Arizona or Wyoming, working all alone for the Dept. of National Parks and Conversation, yeah, those guys are Fed’s. They mean business. But that one thing makes me feel so bad about that ONE guy who rolls mile-after-mile in his Cherokee jeep . . .he is ALONE. No one rides with him, eats lunch with him, talks over his radio, and watches over 600 hundred or so acreage, mostly pine and fir trees, that this ONE solitary guy is responsible for and will be held for each pine, fir, and rock that is in his responsibility.
Does “this” ONE guy ever get lonely? Now, what do you think? And I guess that you want me to ask another stupid question, don’t you? Sure, this ONE guy gets lonely. And more lonely as each week draws to an end. He is not afraid of the job. In fact, he knew the psychological problem of loneliness went with the Forest Ranger job and still smiled like a wild jackass munching on kudzu vines. Yes, he is going to win the Forest Ranger of The Year for always making sure that not ONE of his trees on that 600 acres ever burned. And not even one beaver poacher ever got away with 244 beaver pelts.
But, I Still Cannot
stop thinking about the Forestry guy, we will call him “Bert,” because this is a manly name and he has so many values and great traits that he could run for almost any political office and win hands down. But now, look at what Life’s Casino has dealt him: a lonely job that pays $57,420.00 a year . . .still, this is chicken scratch compared to those Hedge Fund Investment Managers take home, on a bad week, $288,000,00. Did you get that? A BAD week? Wake-up, Forestry guy. You are being taken for a long ride, buddy.
But, you are a well-balanced guy and you have NEVER had anything remotely like a nervous breakdown. Not you. Naaah. You graduated in the top 59% of your college class at Brown University. Your dad and mom had so many high hopes for you. And so did your fiance, “Cheryl,” you loved her so much that you gave her a nick-name, a term of endurance: “Pooh Pooh” and when you said this to her, you and her would bow-over and laugh until you both cried.
Since you left the Upper Management Training Seminars that your dad’s company started, you lost your temper when the head trainer, “Hal,” made the bad mistake of calling you,”Bobby,” for fun, and you decked him with a nasty left hook that would make Muhammad Ali jealous—you left your dad’s booming electronics company and went into the Forestry Service to as you said, “find my true self and identify with my real inner-feelings,” and said good-bye to “Pooh, Pooh!” your mom, “Whitney,” and little brother, “Jake,” so you could be a forest ranger to take care of the forestland in order to have trees for the future.
From the First Month
to the current time, you have not had one incident to speak of. You just get up at 7:30 a.m., eat your modest breakfast, do your morning exercises, read the headlines and dress for work in your Forestry Service uniform consisting of an off-green shirt and a loud green pair of pants. You have an authorized Forestry Service logo on the left of your shirt and you wear your uniform with pride. If you could, you would drive through your nearest town, but that is a two-day trip, so you could walk around in the busiest store as to show your uniform and be proud of what you do for a living.
Everything in the Forestry Service that the Federal Government Parks and Conservation gave you to oversee was new a few weeks ago—and you awoke each day with a new goal to set for yourself—it might be trimming the most pine trees or checking for poaches over the 600 acres that you are responsible for, but in two months, your position became mundane, boring, and listless to the bone. You did not hate your work. It was knowing that only YOU would be at the job no matter what—tornadoes, thunderstorms and a few snow storms. Your only friend was the Weather and you have never thought anything contrary to this idea because your loneliness is like a cancer that slowly eats at you day after day—with no medicine or incantation that will cure you of this deadly disease.
Oh, there were those days that you would design (and play) Imaginary Games to entertain yourself so you would not go nuts. You played Hide ‘N Seek, but with you it was only Hide and when you could not find yourself, you became depressed and then you played another imaginary game: Cops and Robbers, but the only one who played with you . . .was YOU. I cannot begin to tell you just how I feel for you, Mr. Forest Ranger. I know that you have a responsible job and you do a great job, but that loneliness, well, you will have to learn how to fight it if you want to retire from this government-based job and oh, that pension that you will receive in 35 years. What a time you will have in years to come.
And When Those Imaginary Games
did not satisfy you, the opportunity surfaced and you began to march up and down in a straight line as if a drill instructor was yelling orders at you. And you took the drill instructor’s harsh words and these commands made a better man out of you. And you remembered the evenings that you would arrive home, all alone, at your Forestry Service cabin that was furnished for you to live in, and you would find that your shirt and pants would be soaking with sweat from all of that infernal marching.
Games such as Army and Football were okay for a short while, but your mind started to sit around in your look-out position inside your tower that stood 600 feet in the air—giving you a perfect line of vision across every square mile of your coverage area and you loved it. Except the time when you would think that you heard a car and a travel trailer coming—hoping that tourists had surely thought that they wanted to stay in one of your cabins, but the noise that you heard was only a couple of squirrels playing with a few leaves. And now, you were made lonely once again.
But the dark day came when you were eating your modest-but-healthy breakfast made of raw apple pieces; toast and two egg whites along with orange juice, you began to notice that the games that you had once enjoyed, now became annoying to you. The only logical thing for you do was quit the games and hopefully something or some ONE would drop through your dismal life taking care of your allotted 600 square miles of pine and fir trees and make your life worth living.
When you thought that depression and loneliness had defeated you, that inner-strength that you helped at Brown University’s Rowing Team, came to the rescue for you once again. You got up from bed and for the last few months went about your mornings in a meticulous, methodical way that some around you would testify about you and say that you were the most-predictable person on earth. Like there was something wrong with this.
The Saddest Times
came the days when you gave up on all of your games and just sat in the safe confines of your lofty office and stared out over the never-ending pines and firs. Of course, you knew all along that you could not fool yourself, being the realist that you were, began to do Animal and Bird Impressions as you went about your monthly-tours and this new twist of whistling like a hawk or maybe growling like a groundhog, made you smile and have happy thoughts.
You were to happy at one time that you began to give birds and animals special names as to adopt you into your life and you went a step further by believing that these birds and animals WERE your siblings. The hawk was “Henley,” and the groundhog was “Georgie,” and so it went. This part of your Forestry Service gave you about three full months of happiness like you had when you were first accepted into the Forestry and Conservation Service.
When your yearly-vacation rolled around, you made a deal with the Supervisor of Forestry and Conservation Service Officers and opted to be paid for one of your two weeks and the other week you decided to visit your parents and catch-up with their lives.
With no more “Pooh Pooh,” to make you worry, you and your little brother, “Jake,” took in an action film that was playing in your local theater and you had one great time. That was until “Jake.” confided in you that your heart’s desire was for him to follow into your footsteps and become a Forestry Service Officer and learn how to combat loneliness and win the game of wills. At first, you were against this move, but since “Jake,” was dead-set for this work, he gave in without as much of a small argument.
The End of a Glorious Career
came to a sad end when you looked solemnly into your bathroom window only to find a serious look on your face and then noticing that the hair that once looked very combed and in place, was now just a few patches here and there, made that way because (during one of your yelling sessions) you were not aware of it, but you clawed and scratched-out most of your nice-looking hair. You knew at the right moment, when you looked into your bathroom mirror on just how sad, depressing, and lonely that the previous four months of Forestry work had taken such a toll on you.
With (a) telephone, the only means of communication, it’s a miracle that you never called your parents, not even “Jake,” who would have jumped to come to your rescue, but you, the young man at Brown University who wanted to conquer the obstacles of overcoming the pathway to becoming a man, never thought about calling your family for their love and support in your battle for sanity and well-being.
You just sat on the steps of your office adjacent to your high, lofty office and looked into space without saying one word. The easy breezes caressed your face as you felt a strong urge of drowsiness begin to take affect of your nervous system then a deep sleep that you felt sure would soon take the rest of the day causing you to sleep, only swept by leaving you frustrated.
The next morning you were beckoned by raindrops that soaked your clothing as you were caught on the outside of this mild rainstorm that made you feel so silly and ignorant, but you kept the humiliation to yourself.
Comparable to every feeling and thought process that you had been feeling and absorbing such thoughts and urges that you felt in those previous four months . . . and at the end of this four-month time of testing, you began to grow mentally as well as spiritually into THE whole man leaving the weakling who you thought was a REAL man in the shadow of your dismal self then walking into the sunshine of a new day.
April 11, 2019____________________________________________________
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© 2019 Kenneth Avery