It’s been a few years since I’ve seen my folks. Since that time, they’ve sold their house and left Tennessee as “full-timers” in an RV.
To make ends meet, they’ve started doing volunteer work. They’d be the folks you’d meet at the visitor’s center, which is primarily what they do at the Imperial National Wildlife Reserve. In exchange for a few days of work, they have a place to plug in the mighty rig.
What’s been interesting to hear on the phone, and then finally see in person, is how much they’ve been learning, because every three months they’re on to a new assignment. They just finished three months giving tours of the Spanish missions in the San Antonio area, they’re now working on a birding festival in the Sonoran desert, and they’ll head to Charleston, South Carolina to lend a hand at Fort Sumter, where the Civil War got underway.
My old man puts up the flag every morning and is reorganizing the research library based on Library of Congress numbers. I don’t think of him as much of a people person, and so was amazed to find a group of hikers, listening to him…no, rushing over to hear what he had to say. He basically outlined the geology of the area, admitting large gaps of knowledge, some much larger than others… and they stood there, dazed by his authority and grateful for his wisdom.
My mother has learned a bit of four-wheeling. While out identifying plants and doing some light birding, we found ourselves on a search and rescue, as she, radio in hand, went nearly-backcountry to check on a dehydrated hiker. The day after? Mom was calling in the Border Patrol after stopping a group of illegal immigrants. And finally, if that were not enough, she came up with a lecture on bird nests to give to school kids and baked, not one, but two trays of Texas Sheet Cake to share with the other volunteers and researchers!