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. 😀

Old Diary

Peter and Peggy in the Land Beyond Walmart

I’m chuckling!

no walmartSo many RV bloggers spend so much time talking about their stops at Walmart, and their overnights at ‘Wallyworld’,  and going to visit Uncle Wally that it’s nice to know we’ll be 40+ miles from the NEAREST Walmart!

I don’t mind — we never visited Walmart very much before going mobile.  We HAVE done so since — big parking lots are a definite attraction when you’re 50+ feet long and looking to pull off the highway.  But I have always preferred dealing with smaller businesses, mom & pop shops when possible. I’m eager to find out what the small businesses here are like, getting to know some shop owners, and trying to fit in a little.

Florence really is ‘big, small town America.’   I say big because we do have a Fred Meyer and a Safeway.  We have a True Value too.  There’s a natural food co-op of some sort — we haven’t been there yet.  And at least 6 gas stations and 2 car washes.  But there are no Kohls, or Walmarts, Targets, or JCPenneys.  Moving from Milwaukee (population 594,000) to Florence (population 8484) is going to be interesting.  Three years after getting married we lived in Swanton OH, population at the time about 3200 and we hated it.  We spent all our time driving the 20+ miles to Toledo because Swanton never had what we wanted/needed.  I don’t expect that will happen nearly as often here.

To be truthful, we are actually going to be closer to Dunes City, OR than to Florence.  Our Volunteer Coordinator lied to us.  He always said that there were two positions, one located out of Lakeside and domiciled in Eel Creek Campground, and ours — located out of “Florence”  — an no mention of what campground — in fact he said several times that the difference between the two was that while the other position was domiciled in a campground that our site here would be next to the Forest Service Warehouse and we would be on a site all by ourselves — and that was part of what attracted us to this location.  We enjoyed our time Camp Hosting — but we wanted to be away from campers if we could.

I’m sure the slight misrepresentations will be worked out.  I’m a little concerned that the Verizon signal is as weak as it seems to be up there in our new more-permanent home but we’ll be here long enough that we could easily afford to buy cable and/or internet service via the universal interface on our site.  We’ll sort all of that out as soon as we get the job sorted.

We didn’t get much done yesterday.  After looking forward for months to the Trip, to our daughter’s visit, to seeing Peg’s brother – the silence after dropping Kathryn at the airport was deafening.   And we were both emotionally exhausted.  To say we did little yesterday would be exaggerating.  About all we did was to stop off at the grocery for some Sour Cream, and stop on the way back into the park at the ‘warehouse’ to take another look at our future home.

Our Site in Siuslaw National Forest
The Highway, US 101, runs about 300 feet beyond the hill in the background.  And this little warehouse serves as a tool and vehicle storage for the park service, and for law enforcement (they keep their quads there).  The clearing is about 5 acres of land and we’ll be the only people living there.  Our Site in Siuslaw National Forest The Clearing gets some reasonable amount of sunlight during the day.  These were taking early in the morning, on our way from the airport and I don’t think the sun had gotten very far above the mountains to the East.

As you can see we have a large propane tank, there are water, electric, telephone, and dump hookups.  We also have a shed to store things in, and …. I don’t know what to call it… a sort of porch?  or something.  Not sure what that ‘deck’s’ purpose is but it will give us a place to sit up off the wood chips.  And a picnic table.  to enjoy the warm summer evenings. 🙂Our Site in Siuslaw National Forest

Seriously though,  I think it will be quite comfortable at least for 6 months — after that we’ll figure out if we’re staying here or what we’re doing.  We have no plans beyond our six months because we may just hang around here longer.

I think I mentioned that the Volunteer Coordinator who hired us had done this job for a year and a half.  The Camp Host (Cammie) who helped us get settled in has been here for 3 years (in Driftwood II campground). The Forest Service is very different than, say, the Oregon Park System which changes personnel typically at 3 months, and some of the Corps of Engineers locations that want a straight 6 month commitment.

Our site is actually closest to Dunes City.  That’s a tiny burg (population of 1200 people) and it’s about 10 miles South of Florence.  Which means that trips to the grocery, or hardware, will be much more thought out than they were in Cudahy.  Dunes City also has a median home population 50% higher than Oregon in general so they aren’t peons living here.  It might be ‘rural’ by nature, but it may not be ‘rural’ by culture.

Peg and Kathryn were both struck by the easy-going judgment free attitude they saw in the area.  No one was looked strangely at, no matter what they were wearing, no matter what their hair looked like, etc.  We have not seen much racial diversity — I have to say that.  Some First Nation peoples, and obvious Asian tourist, but a lot of the population looks to be caucasian. There IS ethnic diversity.  Scandanavians, Brits, Irish, Southern Mediterranean, Slavic, Poles, Aussies and Hispanics.  The median age here is 57, ten years older than Oregon in general.

Florence will be the LEAST diverse area we have ever lived in.


City-Data.com details on Florence OR

That’s ok, but it will seem strange after living in Milwaukee with a huge Black and Hispanic population.  My roots are Polish, Peg’s are Irish/German and Milwaukee has a strong population of all three — in fact in 1900 some 75% of all business done in Milwaukee was done in GERMAN.    I guess I’m kind of surprised that there is as LITTLE racial diversity as there turns out to be.

Well, that’s it for me for this morning. Thanks for stopping by and I’ll talk with you tomorrow.