As Tom and I continue as National Park Service Volunteers, we are always very impressed by the wonderful rangers we get to work with at the parks. There were some differences between rangers at Death Valley and rangers at Chickamauga and Chattanooga. But what stood out to us is the ways the rangers are similar in their dedication and passion about working in the National Park system. They are all college graduates who labor for much less than they are worth and much less than they could make in private industries.
We got to work with a new group of wonderful rangers at Chickamauga and Chattanooga. Most of the rangers at CHCH were history majors in college, specializing in something related to the Civil War. One of our rangers, Lee White, wrote the book on Chickamauga – literally! There were several very scholarly and specialized tomes on Chickamauga and Lee, working as a ranger, saw that many of the guests wanted to learn more about the battle but didn’t want 500 dense pages of it. He wrote a great little book, “Bushwacking on a Grand Scale” that explains the battle clearly and is only 200 pages long. This is the book I recommended to people until they ran out of it in the bookstore. Lee has another book that is coming out next fall.
All the rangers at Chickamauga and Chattanooga knew so much about the battles. I thought I learned a lot, but it was piddly in comparison with what the rangers knew. You could ask them a question about a unit, and they could tell you where the unit fought and how it contributed to the outcome. The rangers were constantly reading, studying, and researching to learn more. Chis Barr specialized in Reconstruction and in the effect of religion on the war. Brian Autry was learning how to use an atl-atl so he could better interpret the history of the native americans in the area. Scott Martin is a fee collector and but knows everything there is to know about Lookout Mountain and probably owns a book on it (which he was always willing to share). All the rangers were like this: always learning more and sharing their knowledge with the guests.
We got to spend a little time with some of the Law Enforcement Rangers as well. Kris Frazier stopped by often to chat and help us learn about the park. When she first started working at Chickamauga she had to work the information desk at lunchtime to give the rangers a break. So she knows a lot about the battle, but even more about the ins and outs of the park. Amanda DeFriese was on light duty (working in the fee booth) when we got acquainted with her, but she was a joy and delight in our day – always making us laugh about something.
Even the people working in the Eastern National bookstore knew a lot about the battle. I was surprised at the number of people who would go into the bookstore first and ask questions instead of coming to the information desk. Fortunately the bookstore employees, especially manager Marie, were up to the task. Marie was as good at explaining the battle as anyone else in the building.
We loved working with all the wonderful rangers at Chickamauga and Chattanooga. We appreciated their patience with us and with the visitors. They are always ready to share their knowledge, lead a tour, or talk to guests. With rangers like these, the National Park Service is in good hands.