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      girraween > history

"How do you get a job like yours?"
Written for the QNPWS Newsletter "Ringtail"
June, 1980

"How do you get a job like yours?" the bloke with a frosted stubby in hand, feet up on the banana lounge in his shady campsite, asked me enviously. He then appeared to be puzzled when I gave him a withering look. At the time, I was cleaning out a bin full of maggoty rubbish. It was blistering hot and sweat was trickling down my spine. The bin was buzzing with flies, stank to high heaven and I was wondering in the back of my mind how I was going to, after disposing of that reeking mass, face eating my lunch.

I’m sure, like myself, most Ranger/Overseers have been asked this same question many times. Among the standard answers I give, I find my favourite is: "You have to be slightly mad". (I’m joking, of course ... I think?) Although NPWS does not stipulate minor insanity as one of the qualifications on job application forms, it certainly does help. If you don’t start off that way, after eight years of being a Ranger/Overseer you’ll certainly end up going bonkers!

Of all the occupations in the world, what other job requires such a wide range of skills and attributes? (Besides being slightly mad, that is?) For starters, as mentioned in my introduction, a Ranger/Overseer has to be a sanitation and cleansing service expert. Those tasks range from what to do with tons of rotting garbage to emergency pumping or cleaning out of septic tanks, because the trenches are not coping with all the effluent they are copping from the long-weekend crowds.

At the other extreme, the Ranger/Overseer has to be both a stoic policeman and compassionate priest, so at 8 o’clock at night, he can locate one particular person out of a possible 500 massed in the camping area to tell him his father has just died.

It also helps for a Ranger/Overseer to be a veritable walking encyclopedia to answer questions like these:
"What’s the road like to Carnarvon?",
"What time does the church service in Wallangarra start?",
"What’s the oldest tree in the park?",
"What did the temperature get down to last night?" and
"When do you feed the koalas?".

There are also those questions which are set to try your patience:
"Do you sell teaspoons or souvenirs here?" (from little old ladies with blue-rinsed hair, pearls, patent leather shoes and handbags), and
"Are you the camp ranger?", (to which I am so tempted to reply, limp-handed and with a broad wink, "Oh, you found me out at last, sweetie!")

It goes without saying that a Ranger/Overseer should be an experienced vet. You need to be able to make instant decisions about how to deal with a kookaburra with its beak falling off, or how to look after an orphaned wallaby joey with explosive diarrhoea.

Of course, everyone knows that the Ranger/Overseer is a qualified medical practitioner. He doesn’t mind getting up from a sound sleep at half past one in the morning to expertly attend to a camper taking an epileptic fit. And, of course, he naturally has the kind of iron constitution that can calmly cope with a gory car accident.

A Ranger/Overseer is also pretty good at finding lost people - even when they’re not really lost. When Fred, Joe and Mabel front up to the counter frantically babbling that: "Ethel’s lost somewhere up on the Pyramid!", a Ranger/Overseer naturally should be able to determine whether he should organise an immediate search because Ethel really is lost somewhere up on the Pyramid, or instead wait a while, because having lagged behind, Ethel is now haring off down the Junction track cursing "those thoughtless so-and-sos up ahead!" and will eventually return safely in her own time. There is also the case where young Harry has gone missing from the school group. Is young Harry actually lost or has he merely decided that boarding school is a bore and has done a carefully-planned bunk? The Ranger/Overseer should know.

If your car has broken down, go see the Ranger/Overseer! If he can’t fix it, he provides a pretty good towing service, at any hour and any day of the week. If you’ve run out of petrol, go see him for that too. No worries! He always carries a spare gerry can full of petrol in his own vehicle, just for such an emergency. If not, he can always nick some from the park supplies, can’t he? After all, the Government takes plenty of money from us in taxes, so it wouldn’t miss a gallon of petrol, would it?

The multi-talented Ranger/Overseer is also a highly trained weather forecaster. He has no problems at all answering enquiries such as: "We are thinking of coming to camp in the park in two weeks’ time. What will the weather be like then?" Or... "Do you think it will snow this coming weekend? We’ll come up if it will." Then, when it’s chucking it down with rain outside and the real weather experts have forecast: "no rain for the next three days west of the ranges", "Big Chief" Ranger/Overseer can give a reassuring reply when his "tribe" asks: "how long will this rain go on?"

Another part of a Ranger/Overseer’s job is to be an ombudsman. When the Calathumpian Church group complains that the mob of Long-hairs camped next to them had their music blaring out at 11 o’clock at night and the Ranger/Overseer then discovers from the Long-hairs that the Calathumpians had a church service with accordions and hallelujahs echoing through the camping area at 6.30 in the morning, his brilliant diplomacy comes to the fore and he knows exactly what to say to appease the warring parties.

Besides the skills and attributes I’ve already mentioned, a Ranger/Overseer is also expected to be a: clerk, receptionist, plumber, fireman, photographer, surveyor, groundsman, botanist, biologist, engineer, magistrate, landscape architect, nurseryman, soil-conservationist, draughtsman, carpenter, painter, statistician, professional whinger, comedian, and Lord Mayor all rolled into one!

That’s a lot of expectations ...

And then, finally, everyone thinks that the Ranger/Overseer hates pets and expects him to "kick ‘em out of the park" or "shoot ‘em on sight!" This couldn’t be farther from the truth. The Ranger/Overseer would actually be much happier kicking people out of the park.

(Plaintively...) Why do they have to come here? Why can’t they go to another National Park and annoy some other long-suffering Ranger/Overseer? Or go to the Gold Coast? Or, better still, stay at home where they belong?

If it wasn’t for them, there’d be no filthy bins, toilets or showers to clean and repair, no problems with overflowing septic trenches, no workmen to instruct, no tracks to maintain, no messages to deliver, no lost Ethels and Harrys, no wounds to bind or bites to daub and no stomach ulcers from pandering to the whims of Calathumpians or Long-hairs. None of that! I could just relax and sit here happily, surveying "my backyard" in peace!

(Hmm... Perhaps I could erect an electric fence around the whole park? Or paint a sign with large unfriendly letters saying: "Beware! Bubonic plague!" or ... or ...)

Why does a Ranger/Overseer do all this? Why? Because he is quite bonkers, that’s why.

And because he once innocently asked: "how do you get a job like yours?"

Signed: Paul (Basil) Grimshaw
Fawlty Towers National Park
(ex. Girraween National Park)

© Vanessa and Chris Ryan, 2009 | Copyright Details and Disclaimer
Last updated: 27th June 2015