Three of us summer employees perch on the park benches at the amphitheater, having driven from the other end of the park (half hour) to support our colleague, Ranger Patrick. Patrick is unveiling his new Evening Program tonight, a campfire program about campfire programs, and we want to be there for him. Moral support, and all that. The sun is setting, the first bats are out, and Patrick has started a nice crackling campfire in the ring.
Once all the campers have taken their seats we have the requisite “where are you from?” introductions all around. Folks from coast to coast, plus Germans and French, have come tonight. Patrick warms up the crowd with ancient Kodachrome slides from the 1970s of adorable baby animals, and one realizes that a little “interpretainment” goes a long way. He picks up his guitar and plucks/sings a lovely tune about camping. I think to myself, I could never compete with Ranger Patrick. And then I think, It’s not about competition. Be yourself. Take a chance. Volunteer to put together an evening program.
The next 40 minutes go by delightfully, with Patrick presenting a Full Meal Deal to the visitors — song, story, anecdote, sharing, reflection. We all sing a bunch of choruses of “Good Night, Irene” in harmony, as Patrick makes up verses about camping. Abruptly, there is a commotion from the sidewalk. “Excuse me, I am sorry to interrupt, but a man asked me to go quickly and find a ranger as his son has been missing for two hours.” It was pitch black out, 77 degrees, with less than a half moon. I slip out of my seat and head over to see if I can help, even though I am not in uniform. It is the code of a Ranger.
Teen-aged son went off on own, never returned. Dad frantic. The campground hosts radio to HQ to send Law Enforcement, and take the boy’s description. Part of me wonders if “angst-ridden” is an adjective, or whether the guy has fallen from a rock. Neither way is good.
Patrick wraps up his program and by the time we get down to the campground entrance (host’s house) to the rendezvous point, we find that the boy has appeared. We radio Law Enf. to turn around. These are the preferred endings — happy ones. We hope that Dad and Son are having an important conversation at this time, and both are learning lessons they are to learn through it.