Monday, December 1, 2008

LAST DAY!


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.

Blue Skies,
Ken

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.

13 comments:

Twisted Fencepost said...

Congratulations on the retirement, Ken!
No more chasing bad guys.
Relax and enjoy.
I can't wait to see the pictures you take now!

Bradley Myers said...

Congratulations Ken, I don't know if you seen it but knowing yesterday was your last I left a message for you on the previous post. Brad

Adrian_O said...

Congratulations Ken!
Now go enjoy what you have been protecting for years!

Ivar Ivrig said...

Congrats Ken. I guess that yout days won't be empty and boring. I am looking forward to all your photos.
Take care and enjoy :-)

T and S said...

WOW...Ken. I m speechless. This is an awesome piece of writing. You have written an entire career in a single crisp post.

Congratulations on your last day at work and on a incredibly well written post.

Now you can become a fulltime wildlife photographer

Tommy V said...

Congratulations you made it to retirement. Sounds like you had a wonderful career. I envy you for pursuing your dreams.

Stacey Huston said...

Ken, my hats off to you for all that you do and have done. Thank you for your time and service..I hope you enjoy your "retirement" and I am sure you will have many more photos to post.. enjoy!

fishing guy said...

Ken: Best wishes for all you do after today. Your future is truly ahead without some of the danger. Keep the camera ready for the neat shots from nature.

SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

Congrats on your retirement. Now we look forward to seeing many more wilife shots!! :)

Salty said...

Congratulations Ken!

Wildlife criminals have always been out there and always will be. Thank you for the service you have given to your state and to the wildlife.

Best wishes for a long healthy retirement

Willard said...

Congratulations on the retirement, Ken.

I hope you will enjoy retirement like I do, except that with some of the things that are happening here now, I could use a badge again for awhile. (someone apparently shot at the deer again on Sunday and today I found where they drove into the field and loaded at least one deer-No Sunday hunting here and this would have been a road hunting violation anyway, had it been a hunting day.)

Thanks for your very accurate comment on my last post.

The Birdlady said...

Congratulations! Now you can really enjoy your (very excellent) photography - I look forward to seeing lots of wonderful images.

gina said...

congratulations on your retirement. i look forward to more of your wonderful photography from florida. i've always liked the purple gallinule, they are both pretty and comical at the same time.