How I Became a Park Ranger

                       by Lynda Boose
     From the Editor: Not long ago I came upon a Talking

Book titled A Superior Death. The author was Nevada Barr.

The mystery was fun, and the author's ability to evoke the

scene and the various characters was certainly above

average. But the most memorable thing about the plot was the

casual appearance of Sandra, a blind secretary in the Park

Service office. She was efficient, funny, and knowledgeable

about people and the workings of the programs she carried

out. The techniques she used were accurately described, but

no particular fuss was made about her competence or her

blindness. It struck me at the time that this author had

observed a good blind secretary at some time and brought her

to life in these pages. Then one day Lorraine Rovig,

Director of the Job Opportunities for the Blind Program,

sent me a copy of a letter she had received from Lynda

Boose. Miss Rovig had learned of Mrs. Boose's work as a park

ranger and had asked her to write describing her duties and

the ways she had found to carry them out.
     As I read the letter, I realized that here must be the

inspiration for the character in Nevada Barr's book. I

called Mrs. Boose and asked her if she had ever met Ms.

Barr. She confirmed my guess. For two years Nevada Barr had

worked on Isle Royale, where Mrs. Boose worked. They lived

at opposite ends of the island, but they talked often on the

radio and telephone. Mrs. Boose assured me that, although

Barr had drawn on her observations of Mrs. Boose for the

character, there was very little resemblance between herself

and Sandra. Here then is a matter-of-fact description of how

one blind park ranger does her job:
     Before I started working as a park ranger, I was a

teacher of severely handicapped children in California. Then

I met my future husband, and my life changed drastically.

When I met my husband, he was working for Isle Royale

National Park, which is located in the middle of Lake

Superior, seventy miles from Houghton, Michigan. The Town of

Houghton is headquarters for the park. Some park employees

live in Houghton year-round, and others live in Houghton six

months and are on the island for six months. For the past

ten years my husband and I were in the latter category.
     So how did I go from teacher to park ranger? I was in

the right place at the right time. I did not work my first

summer on the island, but the next summer I heard that the

park was looking for a part-time dispatcher. I felt I could

do the job and went and talked to the chief ranger. We

discussed dispatcher duties and talked about how I could do

them. The rest is history. I was hired part-time, which was

two days a week. The next year the permanent dispatcher

left, and I got his job.
     My duties were to monitor and respond to park radio

traffic, monitor the marine radio and respond to any calls

to the park service from boaters, put up the flag, take mail

out to the mail boat, which came about three times a week.

This boat carried passengers around the island. I also

answered the phones and took messages. If there was a

medical emergency, I assisted the park EMT's by relaying

messages and calling doctors. This was the most stressful

part of the job. I kept track of lost-and-found items. I

also kept track of case incident numbers and issued them to

the rangers when they needed them.
     To do my job I had the following equipment: a computer

with voice output; a light sensor, which I used for the

phones; a tape recorder; and a Braille writer. I also had an

Optacon, which I used quite a bit to fill in forms before I

had computerized templates.
     One of the biggest challenges was organizing the lost-

and-found. Each item had to be numbered, so I made a

database on the computer, which included everything that

appeared on the actual lost form. People would call me on

park radio, I would give them a lost/found number, and they

would give me most of the information I needed for the

computer. Then I would send them an envelope with both

Braille and print case numbers on it. I had them put the

completed form into the envelope and attach it to the item.

This way I could handle the lost-and-found items without

much assistance from a sighted person. I made up a phone-

message form on the computer and filled it in whenever I

took a phone message for someone. I labeled all the

mailboxes in Braille so that I could put the messages in the

right mail boxes.
     My husband and I now live in Houghton year round, and I

work in the Houghton Visitors' Center. Last summer was my

first summer in Houghton, and there were lots of new things

to learn: operating a cash register, taking Ranger III

reservations, and answering visitor questions and requests.

The Ranger III is the park service boat, which takes

passengers to the island. The reservation program is

computerized, so it didn't take too long to learn how to use

it.
     I now have a scanner and a Braille printer and find

them both very useful. I am working on getting a talking

cash register, which will make me more independent. Right

now visitors have to help a lot when I am operating the cash

register. They don't seem to mind doing this. I just tell

them what I need for them to do, and they do it.
     I have been working for the park for ten years now and

really enjoy it. I like new challenges and learning new

things. I like figuring out how to do things as

independently and simply as possible. I'm glad I was in the

right place at the right time and that I took advantage of

the opportunity.