The first week of any job can be a difficult, especially for an intern. Thankfully my first week at Stones River went smoothly … except for one or two challenges. The internship program at Stones River is enjoyably different from my previous experiences. For example, day one started at 7:00am. Rather than report to the Visitors’ Center, I stood sleepy-eyed at the Natural Resources office, going over the the safety procedures of cutting down a tree. For the next eight hours I watched as the team brought down a tree that was at risk of falling during the next big storm. I helped whenever I could, which consisted mostly of dragging limbs to a tractor. Now you may be wondering what a public historian is doing working with natural resources – and trust me, I was wondering the same thing during that long afternoon as the unrelenting sun afforded me little hope of shade. But oddly enough, that day turned out to be strangely rewarding and was possibly the most enjoyable day of the week.
While previous internships have focused mainly on interpretation, Stones River promises the opportunity to learn about every aspect of the park. Although interpretation is where I plan to take my career, the knowledge of each and every division within the park service is necessary. A park cannot survive on one aspect alone, an important fact that many interpreters often forget. Ongoing maintenance of natural resources is vital to the operation of any park. Although the emphasis may be placed on the historical context of the site, keeping the landscape looking as it did in the past is the responsibility of the Natural Resources team.
Many believe that the only jobs available at national parks are for historians. This is anything but true. For example, you will find employees at Stones River who hold Master’s Degrees in topics like Biology and Historical Preservation. At other parks I have found individuals who studied theater performance and library studies. My point is that you don’t have to be a historian – or even interested in history – to work with the National Park Service.
The remainder of my first week at Stones River was spent touring the battlefield and talking with visitors about the importance of the site and what it meant for soldiers and civilians during the 1860’s. The park has recently been busy with living history programs which include cavalry, infantry and artillery demonstrations. These presentations are enjoyable for both visitors and employees, many of whom are
able to participate in the events. These days were filled with excitement for everyone, even those not dressed as soldiers. My colleagues and I watched with giddy anticipation each time a cannon or musket was loaded. The loud booms and pops that followed served as a small portal through which we could almost hear the deafening roar of the battle that took place here 150 years ago.
As the week comes to a close, I must say that I am incredibly excited to further dive into the history here at my fingertips by learning about and exploring Stones River battlefield. And as I always say, there’s never a dull moment with the National Park Service.