The Ranger Hat. The Brush-Cutter. The Lily Pad. The Smokey The Bear. The Boss of the Plains.
This simple hat comes with many names, but no matter how many nicknames this hat is plagued by there is one thing for certain; it has twice as many symbols attached to it.
This hat is worn by a very diverse and unusual group of men and women. They have committed their life to protecting our wilderness and natural resources. They wear their hat with great pride for it is an honor to suit up in the Park Service colors and Iconic hat each day.
This hat is much more than a head ornament. It is much more than protection from the beating sun, whipping wind, torrential rainfall. It does more than protect them from falling objects, or even thrown objects. It’s more than a half-gallon bucket to carry water in. It’s more than a fan to wave at campfires, or an object to shoo flies and swat mosquitoes with. It’s more than just a pillow to cushion their head in the backcountry.
This hat is honor. It is integrity to uphold the laws they enforce. It’s stewardship when you know you’ve helped light a spark in someone to become an advocate for nature. It’s a privilege when you see the parks start to blossom with life. It’s compassion to the hiker who thought he could jump over the rattle snake to avoid its bite. It’s patience when you’ve given the same directions to the 14th car of tourist in one shift. It’s educating the young mother whose son is attempting to crush the wildlife with boulders. It’s empathy to the families who live to tell a rangers story after he’s given his life for this service.
When a ranger puts on his Stetson he is transformed. He walks taller, and it’s not just because the hat is almost half a foot tall. His head is held higher. His walk is more confident. His smile is brighter. His eyes more gleaming. His voice is more commanding. This transformation takes place within the man wearing the Stetson, not the from the Stetson alone.
A ranger receives a number of Stetsons in his career. They become weathered, and worn. Beaten and battered. A true sign of an american hero. But a Rangers first Stetson will always hold a special meaning and will no doubt be hung upon a wall as a reminder of his journey. A reminder of the first days, the excitement, the newness of it all. And no doubt it will be a reminder of all the experiences that have shaped that Ranger into who he is today.
Have yourself a safe memorial day friends and remember those who have and are currently serving this beautiful place.