Monday, December 1, 2008
It all started as a youngster on those special summer vacations to national parks. Seeing the sharp looking park ranger with an awesome uniform working in a place where people escape was an inspiration. I told my father, "That's what I what to do when I grow up pops." I was one of those kids that was always in the woods, fishing and bringing critters home. The seed was planted, grew and blossomed when I prepared to pick a major for college. After obtaining a degree, I was fortunate to receive a park ranger position. After just a couple years, I realized that my true calling was wildlife protection.
I have been blessed to be a warden/conservation officer for the last twenty some years. The job has truly been a labor of love. Although experiencing the bad side of the profession like most of our folks (was shot at by a nut job; jumped by 3 guys who I thought were spotlighting but had a kilo of cocaine they didn't want to depart with; worked or assisted on/with 30+ fatalities; death notifications to family members) I by God's will am still well.
The positive side of the profession certainly outweighs any negatives. Sometimes it was the simple things that spiked the senses that made the job great, like amazing sunrise/sunsets, watching/hearing huge rafts of ducks rise off the bay, seeing an osprey catch a large fish or checking a kid right after he gets his first deer or first big bass and seeing him and his father with Chesser cat grins. Some of my best recollections were those successful arrests of violators who really hurt the resources most (several mile in the rain pursuit at 2:00 AM on a bad guy spotlighter that I had been after who ended up being a habitual offender, drunk, with drugs and 3 illegal deer; watching Guinea men shoot so many birds over bait and after hours and with unplugged shotguns they needed a herring net to scoop all ducks up; running down bad guys at night who came back to retrieve a massive mound of covered up illegal deer; writing a closed season ticket to the #1 poacher who bragged within the community that he would kill the game warden before he would get caught and then watch his hand shake as I said "press hard, 3 copies".
However, the one thing I cannot capture with an example is the fantastic companionship that I have had with everyone in my department over the past years. Within my own division or as a team working at major events or projects, I could not have worked with better bunch of folks, always joking and laughing with each other no matter what the circumstances. They are the most dedicated, motivated, caring folks anyone could work with and I am lucky, honored and a better person because of those relationships and I will miss them all.
Today was my last day of the job. I am looking forward to spending some more time in a recreational aspect in the outdoors and certainly pursuing my passion of wildlife photography.
The above photo was taken on my last day in uniform by Captain Mike Minarik, the best boss a guy could ask for. FYI, I am standing next to my last issued vehicle, a Dodge Charger. Unfortunately, office guys like me are not assigned SUVs like our field folks, since we spend most of our time is primarily traveling back and forth to the office.