The Smiling Fox: Ranger Station Tour (part 2)

It's spring and I will probably go back to writing outside, so today I thought I’d give a little tour of the ranger station. In the winter months, I’ve done a lot of writing at this wonderful wooden table, the surface textured with the marks hand-chiseling. Five chairs and a bench, all lovingly padded with tied-on cushions. The wooden floor is peeling up, ready for renewal, which seems to be on its way.

I look up at the stone fireplace in the center of the building to see a painting of a kindly, elderly ranger, who is clearly the author of a book, kneeling which children holding magnifying glasses. The title on the book is “The Naturalist” by Rex Burress. I suppose there is a list of rangers who cared for this room somewhere. I don’t know if this is Rex himself, or if Rex was another ranger. 

A poem hangs on the wall near the office door, attributed to Louis O’Dell, Ranger from1966 to 1979. Clearly written as tribute to Miller, it begins, “I am the spirit of a land alive.” Mayor Libby Schaff was once a junior ranger here, and loved giving out park information. 

Around the edges of the room are display cabinets once used to display jewels, now full of rocks, stuffed animals, pictures of bugs, and park history. There’s an interactive exhibit where children can put their hands into dark holes like a raccoon. 

Between the smiling fox and the scowling owl, there’s a piano in the corner with a song on it I wrote, and a song by Joaquin Miller and his daughter, Juanita, who absolutely adored him. “Oakland” makes references to Greece, for some reason, and envisions the city as a maned lion, ready to leap. 

There is a diorama of a chaparral ecosystem, featuring a stuffed Bushtit (snicker) family tilting sideways in their cocoon-like nest, neglected and dusty behind the glass. And a Coke machine, which really mars the vibe but people need their Coke I guess? 

I will be hosting drop-in and draw days in the next few months, stay tuned for info!


  1. Sorry. Can't leave without the mental image of a Bushtit on Coke.


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