Home > Stranger Ranger (Park Ranger #2)(6)

Stranger Ranger (Park Ranger #2)(6)
Author: Daisy Prescott



Chapter Three






Monday morning, Gaia finds me at my desk in the ranger station. We chat about our weekends for a few minutes and then she gets down to business.

“Daphne, I want you to take over social media for the GSM. There are a couple of private accounts tweeting about the park, so we need to have an official one. We gotta gear up for the fall visitor season.”

Normally, I’m happy to take on any project she brings to me. As a seasonal employee, I want to prove myself in hopes of getting promoted. I need a good recommendation from her to be considered for full-time, year-round positions in any of the national parks.

Problem is I hate social media and sharing about myself. A support group is basically my worst nightmare—too close to my past. This might explain why I personally have zero social media presence. I can also proudly confirm that online photos of me don’t exist. Occasionally, I search for my name and I’m always relieved when nothing directly related to me shows up on the first couple of pages.

My life is better without too many people complications, but I’m not foolish enough to believe living is easiest without anyone else in it. I have zero desire to live off the land in isolation like a doomsday prepper, stockpiling canned meat and pickling anything semi-edible, but on a scale of social butterfly to hermit, I probably lean toward the latter. I do have friends. Besides Kacey from college, there’s Isaac, my best friend from childhood. Throw in the rangers, campers, hikers, and visitors, and I have more than enough social interaction.

I’d like to continue flying under the radar, so I deflect with the first thing that comes to my mind. “Ranger Lee is a much better writer than I am. He’s great at quips and pithy commentary.”

Bus, thy name is Daphne, and this route runs express to Deflection Town.

Gaia’s mouth bends into a frown. “We don’t need quippy. What we do need is updates on road closures and parking being maxed out at the visitor center, bear safety reminders—things like that. This isn’t a popularity or personality contest. We’re federal employees. No one expects us to be pithy.”

“Which is a shame,” Griffin grumbles from his desk across from mine. “No reason we have to be boring. Nature is hysterical—ask Jay and his bird puns.”

“No,” Gaia and I both groan together.

“Hey.” Jay’s head pops around the divider. “I will try not to take your bad attitudes as personal insults. Et tu, Daphne? If I’m not mistaken, you used one of the owl jokes in the campground not even a week ago and received loud laughter and hearty applause.”

“The audience were mostly twelve-year-old boys.” I defend myself. “Smelt it dealt it got an even bigger guffaw.”

“I can appreciate a fish pun. I’m not as bird-obsessed as y’all make me out to be.” Jay huffs with inflated disappointment.

The three of us stare at him in silence.

“Whatever.” He sighs and disappears behind the partition. There are times when I think we’re a colony of meerkats or prairie dogs, popping out of our various holes before quickly disappearing again. This visual is typically followed by imagining us all trapped in a human-sized whack-a-mole game. My mind can be a strange and sometimes terrifying place.

We all have our distinct roles. Jay is the bird guy, aka an avian specialist. When not playing the clown, Griffin works in operations. He’s great at systems. For some reason, he prefers to act like a doofus instead of the smart person he is.

Gaia is our head ranger and therefore everyone’s boss. After ancient Ed retired earlier this year, she took over as the interim chief before getting the official promotion over the summer.

As for me, I work in education and interpretation, which means I’m the front line of visitor interaction both in the park and the community.

Want to know more about the history of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park? How long do ya got?

Curious about bears? I have stories.

Nervous about skunks? Let me tell you more about this misunderstood animal.

Want to bring home that cool rock you found as a souvenir? Drop it and leave it for the next visitor to enjoy.

Thinking about eating those berries or mushrooms you found on your hike? I’m probably going to tell you not to forage without being informed.

I’m full of fun sayings like “Leave it better than you found it” and “National parks are for everyone.”

If I were a cheerleader, I’d be yelling out, “Give me a P! Give me an A! Give me an R!” (You get the idea.)

And yet, I’m probably the least outgoing and social among the rangers, except maybe Jay—although he has loosened up since he’s been with Olive.

Gaia prompts me about the account again. “Just give it a go. Type up information from the daily bulletin into bite-sized, morsels that can be fed to the public in a few hundred words.”

“You can do it!” Griffin gives me an enthusiastic thumbs-up. “I believe in you.”

“You’re only saying that because you’re glad this isn’t your assignment.”

His grin reveals more teeth. “Yep.”

“Be sure to follow the other parks, including state and local ones. Build a community. Have fun!” Gaia smiles before returning to her office.

I spin in my chair with my head tilted back, which I’m pretty sure is the universal posture of someone who doesn’t wanna do something.

“What’s worse?” Griffin asks. “School visit or typing a bunch of stuff on your computer in the silence of your own cubicle?”

He makes an excellent point.

“School visits.”

“Change your attitude, change your life,” he offers as a bit of random Griffin wisdom.

I spin myself so I can stare at him upside down. The effort to lift my head is too much on top of my existential angst at the moment.

“That’s kind of deep,” I tell him, actually meaning the compliment.

“I have my moments.” He gives me a genuine smile before spinning my chair with his foot. “Back to work. We have a school visit this afternoon, first one of the year. Aren’t you excited?”

When I sit up too quickly, my head pounds as blood returns to my brain. I can’t fake enthusiasm to cover my nerves, muttering, “Yippee!”



My job requires me to visit local schools to encourage kids to enter the junior ranger program and Ranger Lee accompanies me on many of these presentations. He’s charming and goofy. The kids always love him, and I’m grateful to have him take the lead.

Honestly, a crowd of children still freaks me out. The staring and the questions—so many questions. How. When. What. Why. Always with the why.

They may act innocent and sweet, but I believe deep down they are completely aware of what they’re doing—especially the younger ones. People think the tiny humans aren’t fully developed, aren’t smart enough to figure out the ways of the world. To which I say, “Ha!”

Children have one foot in this world and one still in wherever souls come from before they are born. They know things. They see ghosts. This is a well-established fact. Fairies and magical bunnies and the bearded guy with his sleigh and presents all exist in their version of the world because magic is real. Anything is possible, so therefore, everything is possible.

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