A veteran of 30 years as a national park ranger, Jim Burnett has a lot of great stories to tell about "misadventure" in our national parks.
Burnett rangered for the National Park Service in some of the most beautiful country America has to offer. From the Grand Canyon to Abe Lincoln's boyhood home, Burnett faced hungry bears, poisonous snakes, and perhaps the most challenging of all, city folks turned loose in the wilderness.
"Rangers for years have been sitting around saying you know somebody really ought to write a book and I'd always been interested in writing so when I retired I said, you know, I'm just going to give that a try," says Burnett. The result is "Hey Ranger, True Tales of Humor and Misadventure from America's National Parks". He says, "That's kind of a universal greeting that rangers all over the world hear and it can have a world of different meanings depending on the way it's said. A lot of time it can be just 'hey ranger, how you doing?' Sometimes it could be, 'over here, help' and sometimes it can be, 'oh hi ranger, didn't expect to see you here.'"
In addition to humorous stories of smart people doing dumb things, Burnett has a lot of good advice in "Hey Ranger". Advice like, Burnett says, don't get too close to animals when taking photos. "I've said, "A picture is worth a thousand words is true but not worth a thousand stitches."
Burnett also warns against feeding animals. In fact, Chapter 11 is titled "Don't Feed the Skunks". "When you are out of oreos and the skunks' not full, you can have a very melancholy situation," says Burnett.
And of course, like any good book about the wilderness, there are snake stories, and snake advice about not picking a snake up, especially by its tail. "Because that leaves the business end of the snake free to do what snakes do and that also can put you in a very melancholy situation," he says.
For the most part, Burnett's book stays away from those "melancholy situations" and sticks to humor and advice. "I suggest that people take stock and I'm not talking about the 401k plan, but stock about their abilities and skills and what they're interests are before they set out on an outdoor adventure," he adds. Good advice for adventure... instead of misadventure.
Jim Burnett will be at Lindale's new book store "The Big Bin", August 6th. His book can also be found at "Barnes and Noble" booksellers in Tyler, the "East Texas Book Exchange" in Athens, and the Walmarts in Canton and Athens.