I was touring Oregon Caves National Monument recently when I witnessed an interesting scene between a ranger and a guest – one which makes me wonder about the parameters of ranger authority.
Near the end of the tour is an optional side trip from the Ghost Room, up a swaying set of 92 steps, to the small but famous Paradise Lost formation of flowstones, which rise tier on tier toward the cave dome. A teen-age girl, apparently worried by the stairs, said she did not want to make the climb.
“You have to,” her mother said.
“No she does not,” the ranger said.
“I’m her mother, and I say she does,” the woman said.
“No she does not,” the ranger said, standing between the girl and her mother.
The ranger and the mother eyed each other for a moment, and then the mother headed up the steps without her daughter, who stayed below in the company of the ranger.
The incident raises interesting questions. Should a ranger countermand the authority of a parent? I think most of us would say “yes” if the parent were asking her child to do something illegal or patently dangerous. But the stair was not an out-and-out danger, just a fear that the parent may have wanted her child to face and master.
On the other hand, I think many of us can also sympathize with the ranger. The trip to Paradise Lost is clearly called optional, and the stairs can be intimidating. Certainly the ranger did not want to have to rescue the child, frozen by fear halfway up the steps.
I’d like to read what the readers think – if not about this incident specifically, then about the position of rangers in general when it comes to parents and children. Maybe some others of you have witnessed similar incidents where the commands of one authority have come into conflict with the other.