Oh, Ranger!
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Preface to the Centennial Edition

IT is a privilege for me to add my blessing to this timely new edition of Oh, Ranger! in the centennial year of the creation of Yellowstone, the trail-blazer National Park. The book has long been a trove of national parks lore and an important bit of Americana as well. It has been out of print for too many years. The authors magnificently recall another era of National Park Service history, a period when many of our finest traditions were being established. As such the book provides a foundation for understanding the colorful development of the park ranger. Today, young men and women of diverse backgrounds and education are responding to new problems—bringing a knowledge of the American environment to inner city children; making the resources of the parks meaningful for an urban society; preserving historical and cultural places; as well as continuing to protect the wild and natural areas of the National Park System.

Horace Albright was unusually qualified to tell this story. Born and reared in the eastern shadows of the Sierra Nevada, he has been a true man of the mountains. He rode and camped with forest rangers even before our sister bureau, the Forest Service, was authorized in 1905. It was fortuitous that he was in the right spot, as assistant to Stephen T. Mather, who was to be the first national parks director, during the precarious years 1915 - 1916 when these two men helped translate the dream of a national parks bureau into a reality. Steve Mather's irrepressible young man Friday helped lobby the National Park Service legislation through Congress, maneuvering its early transmission to the White House for signature by President Woodrow Wilson. Having planned to stay on with the Park Service only a year before going back to California, Albright thought his job was done. It wasn't.

During Mather's unfortunate illness and absence from his newly-named directorship, Albright carried on with the meager funds initially appropriated for the new bureau. When Steve Mather regained health after many uncertain months, the new organization was settling down into a well functioning unit.

Then, beginning in 1919, came the years in Yellowstone, where Albright served as a pioneering civilian superintendent, helping to convert the Mather image of the national park ranger into flesh and blood reality. With the cavalry post, Fort Yellowstone, as his base, the bold young upstart from California via Washington, D. C. molded soldiers, scouts, hunters and cowboys into a new kind of mountain man—a friendly, worldly-wise fellow in forest green uniform and stiff-brimmed stetson. This new Yellowstone park ranger was on call day and night to welcome visitors to the wilderness wonderland, fight forest fires, drive out poachers, deal with unruly bears or tell city dwellers where to fish or hike or snap pictures.

Evening after evening Albright mingled with visitors around the campfires, answering questions, explaining the wonders of nature and the problems of preserving this heritage for our children's children. Invariably in forest green uniform, he was accepted as just another ranger, which was the way he liked it. During the Albright years, 1919 to 1929, Yellowstone was an important proving ground for national park rangers, yielding a crop of graduates who became superintendents and chief rangers of other parks.

Fellow Californian Frank Taylor, who calls himself "Horace Albright's ghost," fell under the Mather-Albright national parks spell, while serving as Washington correspondent first for the New York Globe, then for the Scripps-Howard Newspapers. As the youngest war correspondent in World War I, he had previously covered the A.E.F. and postwar revolutions in Germany, Austria-Hungary and Russia for the United Press. When the great open spaces beckoned him back to the West in the mid-twenties, he made the national parks his special beat as a free-lance magazine and book writer. Sharing Horace Albright's enthusiasm for wilderness preservation, he was "the Albright ghost" behind conservation articles in The Saturday Evening Post, Collier's Weekly and other magazines, as well as collaborator in Oh, Ranger!

As the National Park System expanded over the years from thirteen parks and eighteen monuments in 1916 to the 285 parks, seashores, monuments, historic sites and other recreation areas which make up today's system, the ranger image had to keep pace. In 1920, the park rangers were hosts to roughly a million visitors. In this centennial year of 1972, the total will grow to more than 200,000,000. The park ranger has had to become a specialist in handling people, and people's problems, as well as protecting forests, historic buildings and wildlife. The park ranger is still the holiday seeker's friendly servant.

I am proud of our national park rangers. I like the word "ranger," which connotes character, integrity, courage and dependability. The ranger has earned the respect of the park visitor. Through the pages of this book, we can recall the image of the early days of the Park Service. It gives me pleasure to add this Preface to the revived Oh, Ranger!, the book that preserves that image.

Director, The National Park Service
March 1, 1972


Oh, Ranger!
©1928, 1929, 1934, 1972, Horace M. Albright and Frank J. Taylor
albright-taylor/preface.htm — 06-Sep-2004