Old Diary

Through Another’s Eyes


Except for the first two years of my working career I never worked for a company with more than 100 employees.  Getting a chance to listen to Forest Service employees on the subject of The Shutdown, getting along with other employees, etc.. has been …. what shall I say… ‘interesting.’

USFSThe first thing I have noticed, and this slight diversion is not about the Forest Service personnel, it’s about other volunteers is that every we meet for the first time as way too much gossip to share about how they think the job should be done, how they feel about  their Forest Service bosses.  Even by volunteer standards where rather than being on site for 3 or 4 months they might be here for 2 or 3 years I don’t think that’s cool.  Yes, they have to work for their keep, but they are all living rent free with utilities in places others could only dream of living and we have seen nothing on the part of ANY of the Forest Service personnel that has justified ANY of the gossip we have been told.  We have seen people with poor skills try to work with a female boss who herself has been on the job for 30 years (and I’d think in that time she learned something about how to do her job:  manage the volunteers).  What I have seen is people with poor communication skills trying to catch up to newer ways of doing business — and like most of us who resist change — “they ain’t happy ’bout it.”

But back to the Forest Service.  We have only been here for 1 week dealing F.S. employees.  If I am brutally honest I have to say that every single employee has impressed me with professionalism, their attitude about safety, and their attitude towards volunteers.  Quite obviously all the employees would grade equally on the ability-to-do-their-job-scale. That is never the case.   People are unique and they differ from one another.

I personally never thought about federal employees in the workplace — but it turns out that the Forest Service is pretty much a union shop.  All the fol-de-rol about our Congress agreeing to pay back pay for the shutdown turns out to be a bunch of huey. There is, after all, a union contract, and the employer has to abide by the terms of employment contract — even when the employer is Uncle Sam.   So, Congress — quit patting yourselves on the back for being magnanimous — you only did what you had to do, and cost us $24 billion (give or take) in the process in lost man hours, lost income, etc.

I’m also getting to appreciate details about the inner workings of campgrounds and things like public water systems.  I’m sure I’ll share stuff about all of this as time goes on but my big takeaway at the moment is that there’s a lot of effort that goes into making sure the water supply in a place like a national forest is safe for the public.  Among other little bits of our job we check daily on the pump here for the well that supplies the three campgrounds and several day use areas down the hill from where we are domiciled.  The ‘plumbing’ here is old — the forest has been managed for public use for a long time and pipes break from time to time. There’s a 25,000 gallon tank further up the hill from us that would wipe out an entire campground if a leak developed and didn’t get fixed.  And some things can’t be maintained without being monitored by humans who can not only tell IF there’s a leak but who can go out at an moment’s notice and FIND the leak.

Law-EnforcementThere are crazies here as well as great people.  One old lady has been going around defacing all the signs in the forest that limit what she can do with her dogs — and she has several.  I’ve been impressed at the professional way in which they have been dealing with unprofessional, and illegal behavior by the public.  I’m sure I’ll see more of that as  local Law Enforcement use our compound as a staging area.  We’ve already met one of the local officers and he’s a far cry from some of the fat, out of shape cops I’ve seen in Milwaukee Police cruisers.  No offense meant — it’s just a fact.  Their job is made more difficult because being federal property and federal offenses proving serial offenses in multiple jurisdictions is difficult (as I understand it).

I love people — at least in limited quantities — and we are getting our chance to meet a wide variety of them.  We’ll make up our own minds about them all: whether to believe what they say, whether to discount some of it, whether what they say is simply sour-grapes, or whether they are right on.  While Peg worked in a building with hundreds of employees and saw her share of gossip and back biting I have always steered clear of it.

I may have to do more steering here…

In the meantime, I really like the people I have to work with.  The ones I have to rub shoulders with… well maybe not so much, but then I don’t have to deal with them every day…. heck, even the ones I do have to deal with regularly aren’t all that regular compared to working in an office.

I wanted to share this before I went back to my usual blogging. Here’s a US map with the percentage of land in each state managed by the U.S. Forest Service.  I would never have guessed at the numbers I’m seeing.  They have a huge job, a public welfare job, a resources management job, and a recreation job.  Tasked with such magnitude it’s not surprising that they have rules and regulations.  But so far the ones I have seen have been for the health and safety of the public.

How much of YOUR state is under USFS administration?

How much of YOUR state is under USFS administration?

Thanks for stopping by!

We are in our 5th consecutive day of fog, two more to come — at least. 😀

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2 thoughts on “Through Another’s Eyes

  1. Mrs. P says:

    I, like you…avoid drama. If someone is really persistent about talking dirt about others then I have been known to be pretty blunt and say something like, “Why are you telling me this? If you’ve got a beef with so and so, shouldn’t you be talking to them to get this worked out?” And, I’d probably do it in front of others…to set the example of not poisoning the well.

    I did know that there was a lot of federal land…just not the amounts you listed. I hadn’t really thought about all the workings behind the scenes that make camping a fun activity. It’s good to know that you’ll be out there making that area safe for the campers. 🙂

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    • I can see it will be a bit tricky to both be ‘eyes and ears’ for Belva and Bob but also to hold a line on griping and whining. Belva is not the easiest person to appreciate. She has a hard job, and it’s clear that there are a lot of men who do not like reporting to a woman. And yet in just a few days I have seen some extra-ordinary examples of caring and managerial leadership that men who are too huffy to watch for will never notice.

      I wish I could share one story in particular, but never knowing who might be reading that wouldn’t be right. Suffice it to say I fear that as with many women in power, she gets judged wrongly (not just harshly) because she’s trying to do the right thing.

      It will be important for us to develop some rapport with the other hosts and caretakers. There are hosts & caretakers in some of these campgrounds and the all seem to cover for one another, but we are sort of backups to them — they’re the first line defense, we’re second-line, and Bob and Belva rely on us and the other caretaker in the Southern Section to keep them posted on what needs doing/fixing/being/knowing. Finding a way to do that without being a snitch isn’t easy, and I have to tell you the gossip mill works quickly. You can let something slip in South Jetty and by the time you’ve done the 40-50 mile drive to Coos Bay the gossip is there ahead of you and all along the way.

      I knew there were a lot of federal lands — but I never had any idea how much of some of these states are managed JUST BY THE FOREST SERVICE. That’s not even including Bureau of Land Management or Corps of Engineers or others. Yikes.

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