I see a lot of white folks on the mountain and a lot of Latino/as too, but not so many African Americans. (Of course, I know the color of a person’s skin doesn’t tell me everything—maybe doesn’t tell me anything—about that person, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t notice skin tone.) So I noticed the slightly-older-than-middle-age African American man talking to the (on her day off) camp host when I pulled into the campground to start my patrol.
I went about my business as they talked. I emptied trash cans and made sure the restrooms were clean and had plenty of toilet paper. By the time I’d finished spiffing up the restrooms, the man had moved on, but I saw him (and his lady companion) as I rolled through the campground in the company truck. They’d pulled their pickup into site #7 and were unloading camping gear from the back.
I pulled the company truck to the side of the campground street, got out, said hello. I asked them if they’d put their payment in the iron ranger up front or if I needed to collect money from them. The man said they’d put their payment for two nights into the iron ranger. I then made sure they knew about the fire ban, made sure they knew they were not allowed to have a campfire or a charcoal barbecue. He said the camp host he’d talked to earlier had told him about the fire restrictions. Then I told him he was allowed to use a camp stove, but he needed a fire permit to do so legally. He said he did have a camp stove, but he didn’t have a permit. I told him no problem and said I’d get one for him.
Back at the truck, I looked through my bag of campground paperwork and couldn’t find a fire permit. Damn! I must have used the last one. I told the man I’d be right back, then went to bother the camp host on her day off.
She had some fire permits, but they were a little different from the ones I’d been using. I was supposed to sign this new one, and write in USFS (United States Forest Service) in the appropriate space. No problem.
When I swung back around to site #7, the man had his driver’s license out for me. I didn’t really need to see it, but I looked at it just to be polite. I gave the man the fire permit and pointed out the blanks he needed to fill in (name, address, signature) in order to make the permit valid. I said I hoped they’d enjoy their stay.
The man gave me a hearty thanks, but he didn’t just say, thank you. He said, Thank you for being here for us! Then he said, God bless you! But he didn’t just stop there. He said, God bless you and all of your family!
I often don’t know what to say when people throw a God bless you! my way (especially if I haven’t just sneezed), as God blessing me isn’t really part of my belief system. But this man was being so kind and so sincere…I was really touched. I said Thank you to him, and I really truly meant it. After a summer of freaks and jerks and idiots and assholes and weirdos, I so appreciated the kind words from this stranger.