Monday, July 12, 2010

Things I have learned during my five days working on the Parkway:

1. How to set a mousetrap: Is it unusual that I have never set a mousetrap before now? The women I work with seem to think so. I am very against mousetraps and my parents don’t like to use them so it's just never come up! I have now set nearly thirty mousetraps since taking Mousetrap Setting 101 on Thursday. Pretty impressive, eh? And I have yet to catch my hand in one! When one of my fellow rangers, Sierra*, taught me how to set my first mousetrap it took about ten minutes because most of the time she was going, “Okay, now let it go,” and I was going, “I can’t! It’s gonna get me!” When I did finally let it go I dropped it to the floor, screamed and rolled across the cabin. What a trooper!

2. How to make flax: Flax is a plant similar to hay. It grows in green stalks, which you cut, tie up, and then hang in a dry room for about four months. You then soak it in water, let it dry once more (not for four months, but just until it’s dry), and then you set about beating it until it breaks apart to reveal the soft fiber underneath, which is a substitute for wool or cotton. This process is actually kind of fun and extremely stress relieving (not gonna lie, I beat the shit out of that flax a little too aggressively). First, you put the stalks on this mini wooden blunted guillotine thing, repeatedly chomping down on the stalks with the blunt wooden blade as you pull them through. Once you have done this several times you take the beaten flax over to a wooden board where you then beat the thing some more with a paddle. This all serves to get rid of the hard outer-shell. By this point you should be seeing the soft blond-haired flax and all that’s left is to run the strands through a group of spikes on a wooden slab to get rid of any leftover outer-shell. In the end, only the soft haired flax should remain (it looks so much like my hair that I've had several tourists ask if I cut it off :P). I’ve gotten to demonstrate this quite a bit over the past few days because it’s basically the only thing I know how to do. I had a group of international student tourists the other day who were REALLY enthusiastic about the whole flax process although once all the women disappeared and only the men were left I realized they weren’t just into the flax. It was pretty hysterical honestly. I have never had so many come-ons at once and five of the guys even took their pictures with me and one Japanese guy told me he loved me.

3. This brings me to my third piece of Blue Ridge education: the compliments. Wow. I had an eighth grader the other day tell me that he didn’t need cellphone or internet reception when there was a beautiful sight like me in front of him. Ha! What a cad! I’ve also had one motorcyclist (they are everywhere here) drive past me while I was directing traffic and yell, “Hiya, Pretty!” and on this same day I had another biker walk past me and say, “I always love a woman in uniform.” Well, thank you. Good to know someone appreciates those unflattering outfits.

4. Directions: As a treat, I was assigned to go to Bluegrass Music Centre in Virginia yesterday to see a one-woman performance about a midwife from Appalachia who delivered over 1,000 babies (you can’t make this shit up)! I got to leave at 11am so that I could reach the Music Centre by noon (driving thirty miles takes close to an hour on the Blue Ridge). Unfortunately it wasn’t until a little after 11:35am that I suddenly realized I was heading south and not north. Oh shit! I stopped at a craft store to ask the woman how far Virginia was; she said, “About forty miles,” I said, “SHIT!” and ran out the door. It was pretty funny because some people looked at me apprehensively since I was still in uniform. I then hauled ass in the correct direction and made it just in time to help direct traffic before the performance started.

All in all, this week has been full of ups and downs. As you can see, the biggest ups are the tourists. I just love talking to them and I’d really love to be living in the campgrounds with them (which is initially where I thought my housing would be). The down is that I’m still unsure about this whole place. One of my roommates, Holly, will be moving out on Saturday to start a position at a busier park ten minutes outside of Boone (lucky bitch), which sucks because I really really like her. Jennie and I heard that there is an Interpretative position open at this park, too, and we both want the job ("Interp" rangers are the ones who give the tours). I want it because I literally may go crazy with the seclusion of my quarters and she wants it to guarantee herself a position at that park next year. Unfortunately, I don’t know what I’ll do if she applies and gets the job because that means she’ll be moving out, too. I can’t be in that house alone!! That would just be a horror movie waiting to happen and with my imagination I would easily convince myself Jack the Ripper was outside my 2nd floor window.

Also, as a side note, not only is my house a black hole for reception, but the entirety of Doughton Park cannot receive wireless to save its life except one specific spot: up the hill from the historic Brinegar Cabin, on top of a wobbly stonewall that borders the parking lot, about 3,000 feet in the air. At least I get a pretty view of the mountains while I check my email! One of my best friends is coming up (down?) tomorrow and we're going to go hiking so if I don't write another post in the next few days assume I am lost in the woods (did you see what I did there? :D).


  1. This might be a coming of age story...

  2. Georgia, I love reading this stuff. And the flax story=priceless.

  3. #1. I found the sticky-trap mouse traps work great. Put some black-oil sunflower seeds in the middle (or peanut butter). The downside is that you then have to kill the mouse after it's caught and the traps can't be reused. There are also packets of poison you can pit down (would the park service frown on that?). If you meet any mammalogists, you could ask to borrow some Sherman traps (box-like live traps).

  4. #2 Compass. Did you hear about the time your sister Mary went to visit Grammie and Grandpa in Chicago (while she was at Ohio State). Didn't know she was going the wrong way until she saw a sign saying "welcome to Pennsylvania". Doesn't the blue ridge have mile markers like the interstate?