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In Jan 2005, I made a decision to step out with a wing and prayer and discover some of our national parks before I got to old. That first step led me to a job with Glacier National Park and six months of living pretty much on Going to the Sun Road. After that, I left for a another position at Big Bend National Park where I learned, you really can’t get to anywhere unless you drive 70 miles one way at 45 mph. And, if you drive a two wheel drive vehicle, it is probably a good idea if you do not try to drive the River Road – took me 8 hours to do it, but I did get ‘er done. And of course, I got to paddle the Rio Grande for a Thanksgiving weekend. What fun!

July 2006 found temperatures in triple digits in Big Bend and me trying to stay cool by hanging out in an irrigation ditch in a camp chair. However, my guardian angel had other plans and put me on the Delta and Mississippi Steamboat for the next six months. I had grand dreams of working on her for several years as it was both fun and scary to be on the river. Fun because I got to see many places. Scary because many times, I would be put on the banks of the river in the middle of the night with either a hurt/sick passenger/employee and told to find my way back to the boat at the next docking. I’m sure my guardian angel worked overtime to keep me and those I cared for in good health. There was a ghost on the Delta Queen who did not like me – guess I was too loud for her and she played tricks on me time and time again. My daughter joined me on the Delta for some cruising work too and that was fun to be in the same place she was for those months. The turning of the trees was spectacular in the fall of 2006 and I’ll never forget it.

Grand Teton Lodge called me to work in Jan 2007 and I got to know what a baby moose looked like, what a momma grizzly bear and her three cubs would do if disturbed, what the sound of elk bugling on a cold morning sounds like, the feel of snow six feet deep when you are buried arse over tea kettle with your snowshoe feet waving in the air, how to drive through a frosted fairy kingdom of trees and live to tell about it, the sound of Jackson Lake breaking up in the spring and the rush and spray of the Snake River in my face. It lasted for two years and at times I still hear the Tetons whispering my name..

When driving back to Texas January 2009, I got another call to go to work with the US Government at Ouray National Wildlife Refuge – it took three months for USFWS to hire me. I knew we had Wildlife Refuges, but never knew what they did. The eighteen months spent in Utah taught me lots – Sandhill Cranes are the biggest birds and make the most noise. A bittern (rail) can stand in cattails and not be seen until he moves the wrong way. Geese flying overhead numbered in the millions and caught against a moon lit night flying high overhead is wonderful to watch. Eagles are thought to be solitary except in mating – I saw over two hundred of them in one place on this refuge, wading to catch fish left by a receding river. A wildlife refuge isn’t just for wildlife – you can hunt in them too. I helped to catch a poacher and it cost the poacher over $1500 for shooting two geese on the wrong side of the fence – dang guy shouldn’t have been shooting over my house; otherwise he would have never been caught.

Ouray NWR led me to work for White River National Wildlife Refuge in St. Charles, AR… population 202 and when I arrived, made it 203. One hundred sixty thousand acres of river bottom swamp land along with 90 river miles of the White River before it emptied into the Arkansas and then into the Mississippi River. Snow, ice, white tail deer, ducks – so many the skies would turn dark when they would fly over. A hunter and fishing paradise. I caught blue g ills that weighed in at 2 lbs. each – if I went fishing, I knew I would catch my limit in a very short time and would spend the rest of the morning throwing those slabs back into the water. Watch a 500 year flood on the refuge and thought it was a good thing I didn’t live in a house boat.

Now, I'm living in Iowa and will be heading back home to Texas in two weeks - I think of all the friends I've made along the way and the possibility of my migrating with all the seasonal workers next spring and I'm excited! It may be a difficult time for me for the next seven months, but look for me somewhere in one of the national parks and be sure to say hi! Bless all of you who have worked so hard this season to keep our National Parks open and running. See you soon. TexasAnnie

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Comment by Shirley L Davis on November 12, 2014 at 3:24pm

Wow this has given me something to look forward too, I am hoping to get on at the south rim  next yr an who knows from there...Just became single an joining the older an bolder crowd. But a little scared to do it on my own so hoping to meet some nice people soon.

Comment by Anticipation . . . on September 3, 2012 at 4:10am

What a wonderful post! So beautifully written. You are already doing what I want to do -- except the arse over teakettle bit and driving through the frozen fairyland. Hope I'm not too old by the time I get to where I can! Congratulations on having the good sense and backbone to get out and do.

Comment by aggie71 on September 2, 2012 at 8:38pm

Wow....I feel like a real novice after reading your blog Annie!  What a diverse experience you've had ..... good for you.  I'm going to branch out and go to Alaska (I hope) next summer.....should be cold, rainy, but fun to do something different.    Ranger Rich

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