Least Publicized Job of Wilderness Rangers
by Kathleen Meyer
April 2012
Leave it to brazen, delightful author Nevada Barr, bless her blue-sky heart, to step up and tug beach-poop-patrol into the sunlight as part of her new novel The Rope, set in Glen Canyon National Recreational Area. The tip arrived from a friend, and I trotted down to our rural library to scratch my name onto the waiting list, already numbering twenty-two. Only a month earlier I’d been asking when we would be seeing the next in Barr’s long line of outback psycho crime dramas.
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Photo by Nevada’s husband
Donald Paxton

Her protagonist Park Ranger Anna Pigeon, while untwisting mysterious doings, must endure—necessarily to Barr’s genre—bizarre, torturous, near-death captures, attacks, rescues, and escapes. Yet ingenuity in the face of hair-raising jams is her forte and it’s been played out in national parks from the Dry Tortugas to Isle Royale, from Yosemite to Big Bend. In the Pigeon series, The Rope falls as the prequel to Anna’s career as a ranger. It’s the story of her first foray into the West, where, just off the bus from NYC, she signs on as a seasonal employee working the red rock environs of Lake Powell (a “reservoir” actually—I can’t help myself! lakes are made by Mother Nature—backed up by Glen Canyon Dam, notable in literature as the subject of Ed Abby’s The Monkey Wrench Gang). Anna’s boss and housemate is one Jenny Gorman, better known as the Fecal Queen for one ghastly event in an otherwise heroic stint of cleaning human turds from beaches, where the reservoir’s crowds of camping/partying boaters and jet skiers ply the sand much as cats do a litter box.

Anna, buoyed by her inherent strong spirit and unflagging determination, rapidly becomes a welcome addition to the crap brigade. If not yet the mistress of physical prowess that Barr’s readers have come to expect, Anna gets a boost from her current state of mind—fleeing a recent tragedy—which has rendered her better suited to shoveling shit than much of anything else. Within the arc of the narrative, however, poop-scooping is a small embellishment on the wild ride that will lure Anna toward badge-and-gun-toting rangerhood.
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As I turned the final page, curiosity consumed me: Might Barr’s readers wonder whether the shit patrol is one of the author’s deeply-researched details or something she invented for gripping fiction? Well, as the longtime Shit Lady, I’m here to tell you it’s the former, surely coupled with a lot of firsthand experience from when Nevada herself was a ranger. Backcountry human waste management is a huge problem in high-use areas and regions with fragile ecosystems. Wouldn’t you know—I related heavily to the Jenny Gorman character.

But hey, the particulars of Jenny and Anna’s beach duties were shocking even to me: I suddenly realized how unaccustomed I am to reading anything
written about the subject in someone else’s voice. Gloves, tongs, brimming five-gallon buckets. Although we like to joke as much as possible with that grand old English word scitian—finding it in your campsite is no laughing matter. Many reports of poop-removal-by-salad-tongs reach me via wilderness rangers. And if that’s the icky-est part of the larger story, the saddest is that when we humans don’t take care of business, so to speak, the upshot is rules and regulations. This morning, in talking to Steve Horman, Chief of Facility Management at Glen Canyon NRA, I learned that in 1996, their whole approach to human waste changed with a lovely new plan. It relieved rangers of the hands-on chores by placing the responsibility directly in the laps of poopers, where it belongs. Click here: http://www.nps.gov/glca/parknews/advisories.htm and then scroll down to “Lake Powell Pure – Now and Forever.” All of which offers us a lot to think about and strive for with our remaining unregulated hinterlands: Get it together on our own steam, or lose the wild quality of our wild lands; plus, dig into our pockets to dish out taxes for more enforcement?

Be in the know. Teach others. Thank you, Nevada Barr!
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Least Publicized Job of Wilderness Rangers
by Kathleen Meyer
April 2012
Leave it to brazen, delightful author Nevada Barr, bless her blue-sky heart, to step up and tug beach-poop-patrol into the sunlight as part of her new novel The Rope, set in Glen Canyon National Recreational Area. The tip arrived from a friend, and I trotted down to our rural library to scratch my name onto the waiting list, already numbering twenty-two. Only a month earlier I’d been asking when we would be seeing the next in Barr’s long line of outback psycho crime dramas.
Stacks Image 359

Photo by Nevada’s husband
Donald Paxton

Her protagonist Park Ranger Anna Pigeon, while untwisting mysterious doings, must endure—necessarily to Barr’s genre—bizarre, torturous, near-death captures, attacks, rescues, and escapes. Yet ingenuity in the face of hair-raising jams is her forte and it’s been played out in national parks from the Dry Tortugas to Isle Royale, from Yosemite to Big Bend. In the Pigeon series, The Rope falls as the prequel to Anna’s career as a ranger. It’s the story of her first foray into the West, where, just off the bus from NYC, she signs on as a seasonal employee working the red rock environs of Lake Powell (a “reservoir” actually—I can’t help myself! lakes are made by Mother Nature—backed up by Glen Canyon Dam, notable in literature as the subject of Ed Abby’s The Monkey Wrench Gang). Anna’s boss and housemate is one Jenny Gorman, better known as the Fecal Queen for one ghastly event in an otherwise heroic stint of cleaning human turds from beaches, where the reservoir’s crowds of camping/partying boaters and jet skiers ply the sand much as cats do a litter box.

Anna, buoyed by her inherent strong spirit and unflagging determination, rapidly becomes a welcome addition to the crap brigade. If not yet the mistress of physical prowess that Barr’s readers have come to expect, Anna gets a boost from her current state of mind—fleeing a recent tragedy—which has rendered her better suited to shoveling shit than much of anything else. Within the arc of the narrative, however, poop-scooping is a small embellishment on the wild ride that will lure Anna toward badge-and-gun-toting rangerhood.
Stacks Image 365
As I turned the final page, curiosity consumed me: Might Barr’s readers wonder whether the shit patrol is one of the author’s deeply-researched details or something she invented for gripping fiction? Well, as the longtime Shit Lady, I’m here to tell you it’s the former, surely coupled with a lot of firsthand experience from when Nevada herself was a ranger. Backcountry human waste management is a huge problem in high-use areas and regions with fragile eco-systems. Wouldn’t you know—I related heavily to the Jenny Gorman character.

But hey, the particulars of Jenny and Anna’s beach duties were shocking even to me: I suddenly realized how unaccustomed I am to reading anything
written about the subject in someone else’s voice. Gloves, tongs, brimming five-gallon buckets. Although we like to joke as much as possible with that grand old English word scitian—finding it in your campsite is no laughing matter. Many reports of poop-removal-by-salad-tongs reach me via wilderness rangers. And if that’s the icky-est part of the larger story, the saddest is that when we humans don’t take care of business, so to speak, the upshot is rules and regulations. This morning, in talking to Steve Horman, Chief of Facility Management at Glen Canyon NRA, I learned that in 1996, their whole approach to human waste changed with a lovely new plan. It relieved rangers of the hands-on chores by placing the responsibility directly in the laps of poopers, where it belongs. Click here: http://www.nps.gov/glca/parknews/advisories.htm and then scroll down to “Lake Powell Pure – Now and Forever.” All of which offers us a lot to think about and strive for with our remaining unregulated hinterlands: Get it together on our own steam, or lose the wild quality of our wild lands; plus, dig into our pockets to dish out taxes for more enforcement?

Be in the know. Teach others. Thank you, Nevada Barr!
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© 2011 by Author Kathleen Meyer  •  All Rights Reserved 
Web site design by
RapidRiver.us

© 2011 by Author Kathleen Meyer  •  All Rights Reserved 
Web site design by
RapidRiver.us