Book Club: Hey Ranger Review

Hey RangerI had a permanent smile on my face as I read "Hey Ranger: True Tales of Humor & Misadventure from America's National Parks". It was just a fun book to read. The book is written by a former park ranger. The stories are told in the first person, as if a friend were telling you in confidence about these sometimes remarkable tales. We follow the action as the author Jim Burnett's career takes him from Lake Mead National Recreation Area to Buffalo National River to Glacier National Park to Grand Canyon National Park and more over a 30 year career in the National Park Service. All told, there may be over 100 tales in this book. Some are very short (maybe two paragraphs at most), but others consume a whole chapter.

I found that I learned quite a bit about the parks as travel destinations through these stories. The punch line to many of the stories is dependent on the reader's understanding of some of the unique features of particular parks. There is a lot of set-up to each story where we as readers learn things like geology, human history, prevailing weather patterns, animal behavior, and aspects of regional economies, all of which play into the stories that are told in this book.

DISCUSSION POINTS:
  • What was your favorite story?
  • Did you like the 1st person narrative?

There were three stories from the book that have stuck with me since finishing the book. I won't give away the punch-lines here, but if you've read the book you'll remember these funny ones. The story of the two fisherman in Lake Mead National Rec. Area that had a chance encounter with a beaver I found really funny. It is easy to imagine the confusion that Burnett had listening to these two men complain about these extra aggressive creatures. Another story I really enjoyed was the adventure that a group of Afghanis had canoing down a stretch of the Buffalo National River. That particular story was funny from the moment the group enters the campground to its end when the group heads home. I also found the story of keeping fresh water pipes from freezing during the winters in Glacier National Park very amusing.

I thought the first person narrative really worked for this book. I don't think these type of stories could be told any other way. It had been a long time since reading a book in this voice and it took me a couple chapters to get used to its style. Because of the punchline nature of a lot of these stories, they need to be told in a way that you can be prepared with a set-up. Over the course of the book you begin to understand the authors style and can anticipate the direction of the humorous story.

If you didn't have an opportunity to read Hey Ranger for the Park Remark book club, it may be one you would enjoy reading this summer as you travel to our nation's parks. The book will give you insight into the sometimes crazy world of Park Service law enforcement, and if nothing else, the book will leave you with a smile. Would you agree?

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