I have been working for Tennessee State Parks as a seasonal interpretive ranger for the past three summers. My friend Josh introduced me to the job during my gap year between undergraduate and graduate school. I applied because I loved the idea of working a summer with my best friend. As I got into the flow of the things, though, I discovered that I really enjoy crafting and delivering historical programs. It’s the perfect mix of educating and entertaining.
As a seasonal at Fort Loudoun State Historic Park, my job focused on their living history programs. Since Fort Loudon was built by the British in 1756 at the height of the French and Indian War, that meant wearing a lot of wool and learning old trades. In addition to marching and musketry, I also learned how to blacksmith and bake bread in a brick oven. I love these types of programs for two reasons. Not only does the audience get a show and tangible product, but the programmer can talk about anything while doing it: society, culture, religion, migration, and labor history. For me, though, those skills are fascinating enough on their own. We see a blacksmith in a movie make a sword in a few moments so that it builds drama. The first time I tried making a single nail, it took me over 12 minutes. Connecting that popular scene with the realities of the work gave me a healthy respect for those who did it, not to mention a great fun fact to introduce myself with at the next dinner party!