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A Ranger’s Life by T.W. Strait

T. W. Strait was employed by the Missouri State Park Board each summer from 1958 through 1962. He was a college summer day worker for the first year, but became the Campground Supervisor for the next four summers. Most of what you will read comes from many personal experiences and a bit of creative license. He saw so many things happen through young eyes that have stuck with him for these many years. Tom met his wife while working at the park and has had a fondness for all memories connected with that work experience. He made many friendships while employed there and for that reason felt it important to share those experiences with you. When Tom started working for the Park System at Lake Ozark State Park, he arrived as a 210 pound, overweight, spoon fed son of an IBM Branch Manager who got the job for him during the Christmas break of 1957, Tom’s junior year in high school. Mowing his dad’s yard and watching TV was his only summer interests during previous summers. This summer was be different. Upon arriving at the park, Tom was quartered in the back room of the main park office with a bunk and with only a refrigerator and a hot plate for appliances. There was no hot water heater, so any showers were taken in very cold well water in the basement, or by catching a ride to the campground six miles away for a hot shower. With no vehicle, Tom depended on the other students with cars, two, to go to town to shop for groceries and other necessities. This was a major difference in his past lifestyle. Tom’s duties that first year were to help clean all of the restrooms at the campground, swimming beach and picnic shelter. After doing that, he helped haul garbage from each of the above locations and then hauled wood back to the campers. Once done with those projects, he and the other boys cut grass and whipped weeds for the rest of each day. Once a week he and his co-harts got to run the road, picking up litter thrown out by thoughtless visitors. That was a 6 mile run in very hot and humid weather. Every once in a while he got the privilege of helping pump out the outhouse toilets in the campground and that was an enlightening experience. Needless to say, by summer’s end, Tom had lost 35 pounds and had really gained some never before enjoyed muscle tone, as well as had received a very good education of what life was really all about. The next 4 years as Supervisor, he assigned duties to the then 6 extra students and he also collected camp fees. During those 5 years, he gained a real appreciation for life and the feelings of others that has carried with him throughout his later career as a Marketing Manager. After graduating from Indiana University School of Business in 1963, he married his park sweetheart and went to work for a major oil company for the next 4 years. He attained the title of Senior Sales Representative before leaving to go back to Missouri to work with a smaller independent oil company as Sales Manager. Here he stayed for the next 40+ years helping build the company to a multimillion dollar concern. He is currently semi-retired, working three days a week for that company and working the other two days with his son in a company they started in 1997 called T & S Distributors, L.L.C. that sells, installs, and services automotive equipment. Tom credits his park experience for much of his business success. It was there he gained firsthand experience dealing with about every conceivable type of situation imaginable. The wife beating, attempted suicide, accidents, lassoing the wounded deer, the lost camper, the 3 German shepherds, the lost teeth, the couple in the tent, the Clydesdales, and forest fires were all things in which Tom personally had to become involved. None of the characters named in this book are real or reflect on anyone he worked with in the park. The comradery, however, did prevail there throughout his tenure. Tom’s dealings with all park and Park Board personnel were handled in a very positive and educational manner and he is most grateful to the Board and Mr. Joe Jaeger its Director at the time, for giving him the chance of a lifetime and the job. Tom also dedicates this book to his first Superintendent, Mr. Ned Brown, who died in a truck accident very much like the one his character JJ in the book experienced. Tom hopes you enjoy these stories as much as he enjoyed experiencing or creating them.

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