Way back in 1926, a legendary figure in the history of the National Parks spelled out his idea what it takes to be a ranger. Horace Albright, Superintendent of Yellowstone, and later Director of the NPS, sent this letter to prospective job applicants that spring:
Qualifications of a Ranger
Applicants for a ranger’s position must be 21 years of age or must attain that age by June 15th. If you are not 21, or will not be by June 15th, don’t apply. If you have the reputation of appearing unusually youthful or immature for a man of 21, don’t apply. We want men who are mature in appearance. We prefer men of 25 to 30 years of age.
The ranger is primarily a policeman, therefore he should be big in frame, tall, and of average weight for his age and height. We always prefer big men to small men, other conditions being equal. If you are small of stature, better not apply.
The ranger comes more closely in contact with the visiting public than any other park officer, and he is the representative of the Secretary of the Interior, the Director of the National Park Service and the Superintendent of the Park in dealing with the public. Naturally, therefore, the ranger must have a pleasing personality; he must be tactful, diplomatic, and courteous; he must be patient. If you are not possessed of such characteristics, please don’t apply. Without them you would become, if selected, a failure from the beginning of your service.
The ranger is charged with the protection of the natural features of the Park, especially the forests. Applicants should present evidence of their having had experience in camping out in the woods. Forestry students who have had training in forestry work and forest fire fighting are given preference to other applicants if they possess the qualifications as to age, size, and personality.
The ranger must know how to cook ordinary foods and must have experience in kitchen police. If you cannot cook and care for a ranger station, don’t apply. You would be an unpopular burden on your fellow rangers and the butt of all station jokes should you be selected without this essential qualification. We want big mature men with fine personalities and experience in the out-of-doors in riding, camping, woodcraft, fighting fires, and similar activities.
I suspect that Superintendent I mentioned in the last post might have a little trouble on the “pleasing personality… tactful, diplomatic, and courteous” requirement, as well as a few other screen-out elements.
Oh, and for those who continue to believe that law enforcement is a recent addition to the ranger’s job:
Duties of A Ranger
The ranger force is the park police force, and is on duty night and day in the protection of the park. Protection work primarily relates to the care of the forests, the fish and game, the geyser and hot spring formations and the campgrounds. Of equal importance is the detection of violations of the speed rules. The ranger force is the information-supplying organization. The issuance of publications, answering of questions, lecturing, and guiding are all accomplished by rangers.
Horace Albright lived until 1987, and even in his 90s, remained a keen observer of NPS management, and when need be, a sharp critic of same. Some of us present-day retreads do our best to follow his example.