imageShe spotted it…
That shiny, gold badge.
Wings of the st. croix snaketail stretched out across it.
Only here can that dragonfly be found.

She looks up at the Park Ranger with a questioning gaze,
“Of course you can have it, but you must earn it first.”
She looks back at her parents,
Six year old little fingers grasping tight on the badge.
Her mother looks up at the Park Ranger, “What must she do?”.

I slid over a book about the river’s history on logging.
“Listen and learn”, I replied with a smile.
She leans in on the pictures as the Park Ranger tells her about the dangerous adventures of being a river rat on the St Croix River.
Cutting logs and fighting the log jams as they rolled down the winding path of water.

I handed her a game to match up slang terms to their pictures.
“Mud” for coffee and “flapjacks” for pancakes.
Her excitement elevated when I handed her a wooden disk to draw on.
“Logging companies had unique stamps that would get branded to their wood so that sorting the logs at the bottom of the river would be easier” the Park Ranger explains.

Now, you have to answer two questions based on all the knowledge I have taught you today” says the Park Ranger, “Then, when you answered correctly, you must taking an oath to protect parks, continue to learn about parks, and share your ranger story with friends and family. After that, you have earned your Jr Ranger badge.”

It felt amazing to watch this thrilled child take her first steps into the protection of her land.
And here I am, making it possible for her future to include greater involvement with the National Park Service through volunteerism.
We are all here, a part of something greater, at the St Croix National Scenic Riverway.