“No, you’re wrong. The biggest problem is that they’re all hippies.” Roscoe ate his Egg Thing at Mount Zen Cafe, listening to Samson and Moe argue. It was that strange time between the ski season and the camping season. The campground was empty because it was too cold for camping without electricity, but the snow duties had melted with the snow.
“Find a hippie that’s responsible,” Roscoe suggested. Both Moe and Samson laughed into their plates of food. Samson answered, “Responsible hippies don’t want to be camp hosts.” A couple of years ago, Roscoe lost Dean and MaryJane, the elderly couple who had been camp hosts for the Wildwood Campground. He hadn’t been able to find a couple to replace them and they had cycled through two or three single men in tents and broken down trailers every year.
Moe had his own axe to grind. “I don’t mind climbing Moose Hill, but there’s no point if the tank’s empty. Maybe we should’ve planned only one trip up this month, ‘cause there was nothin’ to haul down last week.” Moe had taken over Roscoe’s duties on Moose Hill. The climb up the mountain was difficult enough with a regular off-road vehicle, but Moe drove up the truck to siphon out the vault restrooms.
“That happens sometimes, but we still gotta check it.” Roscoe answered, but it wasn’t good enough for his ranger. “Why don’t we look and see how many camping sites were reserved and gauge how often we go up based on that?” Roscoe sighed. He had suggested the same thing to his own supervisor many years ago. “That doesn’t take into account the hikers that use ‘em.” He shuddered with the memory of his own experiment in different schedules. “Nothin’ worse than emptyin’ an overflowin’ toilet. I decided long time ago that it was worth the drive up there to avoid havin’ to clean up that mess.” He could almost smell the stench of it spoiling his breakfast.
Moe was unappeased and Roscoe had a flash of memory. Long ago, Jeff, his previous supervisor, had allowed him to create his own schedule for the toilets. After months of tweaking, he created what he considered the PERFECT schedule. Only after all that work did he notice how closely his schedule that he had worked so hard on matched the one that Jeff had created for him. He thought it was such a waste of time, but at the same time, he felt so grateful to Jeff for letting him decide on his own.
“Tell you what. It’s your job. You make the schedule you want. I’ll just trust ya to keep the toilets clean and emptied. If you wait too long, you gotta clean up the mess yerself, though. How’s that sound?” Roscoe saw Moe’s face light up. “Sure thing!” A wave of gratitude passed over Roscoe. Jeff had taught him far more than he had ever realized. He made a mental note to call the old guy.
He then focused on Samson. Not even Roscoe had an idea for the camp host problem. He had depended on Dean to monitor the campground and had never learned all of his tricks. He had allowed Samson the final decision for all the camp hosts. What should he do? “How are ya advertising for the job?”
The little guy squirmed in his seat. “Well, I tried that camp host site you talked about, but as far as I can tell, it’s just a spam site. The last guy answered a Craig’s List ad I put up.” Roscoe finished his eggs. “And why’d he leave?” Samson shook his head, blushing in shame. “He didn’t tell me. He just packed up and left in the middle of the night.” He looked confused. “I talked to him the morning before and he said something about being cold, but he didn’t say anything about leaving.”
Roscoe nodded. “Was it a cold night?” Samson shrunk away from him. “I don’t know.” Roscoe chuckled. “It’s mighty easy to sleep the night away in yer own house, huh?” Samson nervously laughed and Roscoe realized that he had been a little harsh on the guy. “You willing to be camp host for a bit? I could pick up your other duties if you do.”
The guy’s face changed. A flush of red lit up his forehead. He only got really flushed when he was really worried. He finally answered, “I’ve never camped before.” Roscoe and Moe looked at each other and laughed. Moe said, “Who ever heard of a ranger who’s never gone camping?” They continued to chuckle until they saw the embarrassment on Samson’s face.
“You hired me as a snow ranger.” He tried to defend himself, but Roscoe stopped him, “Don’t worry none. It’s just funny, that’s all. So, you don’t know anything ‘bout campin’, but you wanna learn?” Samson’s face turned funny. “I guess it’s not fair for me to ask these guys to do somethin’ I’ve never done myself. I’ll stay there, but only until I can hire a replacement.” A mischievous grin spread. “A good excuse to look at camping gear.”
Roscoe warned, “Just don’t get one o’ them propane tent heaters. They pretty much kill a family a year up here.” Samson nodded. “Don’t I know it. Part of the reason I don’t really want to camp up there. It’s cold. There’s no electricity at the camp host site and propane heaters would kill me.” He turned serious. “Honestly, Roscoe, it would be a lot easier for me to hire a camp host if the sites had electricity.”
Roscoe nodded. It had been the bane of his existence ever since Jeff had retired. The campers complained about it and he couldn’t keep a camp host because of it. Was there any money in that road budget that he could redirect for electricity? He couldn’t see that working because the road budget was so tight. “I know, Samson. I just haven’t been able to figure out how to get some power up there. We have the rights, but stringing the wire from the distribution poles is the expensive part.”
Moe chimed in, “You’re not really gonna make ‘im be camp host are ya?” He turned toward Samson. “Listen to me, as soon as that sun goes behind the mountain, it gets cold at night, even in the summer. You gonna freeze in your tent when your house is just a drive away?” A look of panic crossed over Samson’s face again. He looked at Roscoe, but it was Moe who spoke. “I think it’s time we used the iron ranger again. Just have ‘em pay at the booth and then Samson can empty it and make sure all the people campin’ paid like they should.”
Samson shook his head. “We need a camp host overnight, though. Remember when the pipes burst? That guy, what was his name? It doesn’t matter. He was able to turn off the water and keep the damage under control because he was there overnight.” Moe nodded. “And you ‘member WHY those pipes burst?” Samson began to answer, but Roscoe interrupted him, “Water freezes overnight sometimes. We all know that. We can’t buy you an RV, Samson, so Moe’s probably right. It’s too cold for anyone who’s tent campin’ to be camp host. You’re just gonna hafta find a camp host who’s gotta camper AND isn’t smokin’ dope all the time. Until then, we’ll use the iron ranger.”
The three of them finished their breakfasts, paid for their food and parted ways. He was amazed at how busy his life had become since Jeff had retired. “Haven’t seen Dora for days,” he thought to himself. And the stack of paintings in her little studio was starting to worry him.