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Email from Mike Smith Spring 2012, Park Ranger 1979-82 Grand Canyon

I wanted to pass on my pleasure in reading the book. Nancy’s stories took me back to my time as a Ranger-Paramedic on the South Rim 1979-82. I think without Nancy’s collection of stories and first-hand accounts, much of what I experienced would be left to campfire tales. As she mentioned in closing “A Moment”, I experienced so many special moments. A Christmas Eve plowing through fresh snow in a patrol unit near Yaki Point and having a beer after a stressful night shift with other rangers. What Nancy wrote about her District Ranger commenting on her harrowing trip to Flagstaff was all too real. At one point as an assistant night shift supervisor, I deployed mace to break up a fight while my only other ranger was backing me up. The next day I ended up before the Superintendent who felt the action was unnecessary use of force. He mentioned that he could have me fired. About that time I realized like many rangers, then and now, feel much on their own in National Parks. Even though NPS has come a long way since those days, the LE/SAR Rangers continue to do outstanding work in a system that could be better. Unfortunately some gave the ultimate sacrifice to protect our National Parks then, now and in the future. Nancy’s book documented much of my experience, so eloquently and Vishnu put it in print to last an eternity.


Washington Trails Magazine Backcountry Bookshelf March 2005

reviewed along with Nature Noir: A Park Ranger’s Patrol in the Sierra by Jordan Fisher Smith (Houghton Mifflin,$24.00)

All in a Day’s Work

Review by Karl Forsgaard

            Anybody with a passion for the outdoors should enjoy these two memoirs of veteran park rangers. As one of the authors, Jordan Smith, writes, a park ranger’s job is to “protect the land from the people, the people from the land, the people from each other, and the people from themselves.” Indeed, both books feature vivid tales of people behaving badly. They convey the daily stresses of ranger life, and the many kinds of emergencies to which they must respond. Due to the abundance of crimes and crises, both books are fast-paced. Most of the incidents involve vehicles, boats and aircraft—but hikers will appreciate these eye-opening stories as much as anyone.

            While the two books have much in common, the authors’ writing styles are quite different, and Smith takes a more critical view of his governmental employer and its policies. He also delves more deeply into the rich history and natural character of the park and river he patrolled, and the lives of the people he met. Nature Noir is Jordan Fisher Smith’s first book, and though he speaks of the “delusion” of being a writer, he’s wonderfully talented. He recounts 14 years as a California State Parks ranger in the Auburn State Recreation Area, on the American River northeast of Sacramento. In the 1960s, Congress approved a dam that would flood the river canyon resource he was assigned to protect. With the dam imminent, the land was considered temporary, an attitude with far-reaching effects, including under-equipped and understaffed land managers in a career dead-end, with out-of-control visitors to contend with. There were dirt-poor gold miners camped on the riverbanks, thrill-seekers and bridge jumpers, armed and inebriated violent fighters, tree poachers and other vandals. Smith says it “resembled peculiar 1970s westerns in which the bad guys all looked like armed rock and roll musicians.” In his early days there, before cynicism took over, he tried to make a real park out of the hopeless dam site, and began seizing every gun and lethal weapon he could find. It felt like “a grand social science experiment … How do people behave in a condemned landscape?” Yet he maintained his affection for wild those nature, and he portrays the land and its inhabitants with artistry. The epilogue informs us the dam has not yet been built, so there is new hope for these 48 miles of canyon land.

Park Ranger consists of 19 short stories from Nancy Muleady-Mecham’s two decades in Sequoia-Kings Canyon, Everglades, Death Valley, Pearl Harbor, Great Smoky Mountains and Grand Canyon National Parks. With a Ph.D. in biology, she worked as both a ranger naturalist and as a protection ranger. This book emphasizes her protection ranger duty, in which she was called on to act as a paramedic, a registered nurse, a federal law enforcement officer, a structural fire brigade officer, and search-and-rescue specialist. We learn that when a ranger responds to a law enforcement incident, a fire, an emergency medical incident and a search incident in one 24-hour period, it’s known as a Grand Slam. Her own Grand Slam takes place in Death Valley, as a series of unrelated emergencies conspire to prevent her from making it to court in time for the arraignment of a suspect. Muleady-Mecham has a drier style than Smith, and due to her medical training she sometimes uses more acronyms than a NOVA meeting. (That’s Non-Highway and Off-Road Vehicle Activities, for you non-wonks out there). Nonetheless, her stories are exciting and carry the reader along for a fascinating ride.

BOOKNOTES High Country News October 3, 2005

Ever dream of a career as a park ranger? Nancy Muleady-Mecham goes beyond campfires and nifty uniforms to show us the gritty reality of rangerdom. A few hair-raising anecdotes from her 20-plus years of rangering include performing a field amputation, saving a 17-year-old heart attack victim, and dealing with a lost man, a shooting, a burning car and a head injury in the space of a single day. Maybe being an accountant isn’t so bad.

Newsletter of the U.S. Park Rangers Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police July 2005           


We don’t get to do many book reviews in the Protection Ranger, but “Park Ranger” by Sister Muleady-Mecham is as much a treat to review as it was to read.

The author, who is a skilled paramedic and nurse, as well as a skilled firefighter, writes in an accessible but sophisticated style which makes reading a pleasure. She recounts many of the more interesting, and dangerous, incidents she has handled in her career in such parks as Sequoia/Kings, Death Valley and the Grand Canyon. The emphasis of these takes is one saving lives and working together with other rangers and cooperating agencies. Although you can tell there’s plenty of bragging opportunities, she modestly passes them by.

            As you might guess, there are many Lodge members involved in the rescues and LE incidents and it is fun to read about FOP members going about their business. The first member, Ranger George [Nancy uses first names only throughout] is none other than Lodge co-founder and two-time Lodge President George Durkee and his wife Paige. This incident took Place in the high Sierra near George’s backcountry cabin.

            There’s a part of the book I would like to quote to you: “One of the best things about being a Protection Ranger is the job variety. Most National Park areas are remote and short staffed. As a result, a fully functional Protection Ranger is responsible for just about any emergency that may occur. We are Federal Law Enforcement Officers. We have the training and authority to enforce laws and make arrests as well as serve warrants. Law enforcement incidents can range from minor [shop lifting] to severe including driving under the influence and murder. Visitors to many national parks are surprised to see a handful of the familiar rangers wearing body armor and carrying guns, but rangers are the only police for miles.

For that same reason, Protection Rangers are the structural Fire Department. We receive training and continuing education. Should a fire occur, we pull off our green and gray uniforms, lock up our pistols, and don firefighter pants, boots and jackets.”

This, and what follows, pretty well sums up the multi-faceted work rangers are charged with doing in many parks. As we know, it’s demanding, dangerous, and the add-ons to our LE work are not compensated. Still rangers are always answering the alarm bell and will continue to do so.


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THE EIGHTEEN ELEVEN  Professional Journal of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association

May 2005 Book Review by J.M. De Santis (DEA)


    Adrenaline junkies, this is a book for you. This compilation of short vignettes is an informative group of experiences of the author during her service career within many of America’s National Parks. The author, retired Unites States National Park Service Ranger Nancy Eileen Muleady-Mecham, PhD. is also an Adjunct Professor of Biology at Northern Arizona University, a Naturalist, a Registered Nurse and a Certified Emergency Nurse.

    As detailed in this book through her recounting of notable events experienced, she skillfully illustrated that training is very important to be a successful Park Ranger. This book details how the author put all of her training to use at one point or another during her tenure as a NPS Ranger. The one thing that becomes immediately apparent is that being a Park Ranger is nothing even close to being routine. Depending on the season, the location, staffing levels and the fate of the gods, a park ranger must be able to do many things. Situations can occur requiring the ranger to also be a fireman, a tour guide, a search and rescue team member, an EMT, a naturalist and/or just a friend: sometimes more than one thing at once. Multi-tasking is definitely the word of the day.

    This book is extremely enjoyable and I found myself compelled to keep turning the page to find out if the events would end successfully.



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RANGER The Journal of the Association of National Park Rangers Spring 2005 Vol 21. No 2

By Kevin C. Moses

Big South Fork

     In a career field that’s in itself punctuated with intense calls to action, Nancy Eileen Muleady-Mecham has had a wilder ride than most. Like many rangers, she’s worked in several busy parks, served on some demanding special assignments and answered more than her fair share of hairier-than-most calls. But unlike most rangers, Muleady-Mecham answered these calls not only in the capacity of a law enforcement officer, firefighter and emer­gency medical technician, but also as a paramedic.

    That right there separates her from most NPS rangers, and it’s a distinction that not only must be acknowledged, but to me, demands the highest respect. Most of us have responded to calls to help ill and injured persons, some severely, and we understand the pressures that are inherent to such calls. But when NPS ranger/paramedics respond, they are truly in the hot seat, shouldering a burden of responsibility tenfold what the average ranger does.

Think about that for a second. Paramedics who work for many ambulance services need only be competent

—no, they need only be excellent—in one arena: pre-hospital care. And police officers, troopers and deputies need only be excellent in one as well: law enforcement. Both of these disciplines require split-second decisions, finesse in a wide variety of skills and an enormous degree of judgment-making ability.

    Ranger/paramedics must be excellent at both. Those few who volunteer to carry the requirements of this dual role are bold and courageous souls and they go to work  every day with the unshakable knowledge that when the alert tone goes off, they will be called upon to act.

    Muleady-Mecham did exactly this, and she did so with poise, compassion and a command of subject material that her patients needed to see in her eyes. From Sequoia-Kings Canyon to Death Valley to Grand Canyon to Everglades, Muleady-Mecham has worked her pre-hospital magic on victims of falls, stabbings, pregnancy complications, heart attacks, gunshot wounds, car crashes, boat crashes and plane crashes.

    With all that she’s seen and done over her career, it’s only right that she write a book about it to provide an inside look into what NPS rangers do while the rest of America vacations. In her aptly-titled memoir, Park Ranger: True Stories from a Ranger’s Career in America’s National Parks, Muleady-Mecham chronicles with refreshing honesty some   of the more hair-raising experiences.

She’s fought fully involved structure fires, arrested felons who were fortunately too drunk to access their arsenal of firearms in the front seat, saved a dear friend’s life, amputated a man’s foot while a surgeon  looked on, swam the cold, fast rapids of the Colorado, responded to a an “officer down” call for a friend, dangled 100 feet below a fast-moving helicopter on a 17-minute shorthaul mission, and held the sincere honor of raising our nation’s colors over the sunken USS Arizona.

The lay public will be nothing short of stunned, fellow Park Service folks in non-ranger fields will be enlightened, and even veteran rangers will read her stories with an attitude of respect. The real honest ones might ask themselves, “Would I have known to do that?”

Additionally, many readers will be part way through one of her chapters only to realize, maybe with a crooked grin, that they know and have worked with some of the other players Muleady-Mecham speaks of throughout the book. We all know the NPS is a small world, and recognizing a name or two only serves to drive that point home a little further.

Park Ranger is a terrific read and an exciting one too. Muleady-Mecham takes us with her, writing with a style that keeps readers on the edge of their seats while at the same time celebrates the grand majesty of the Iandscapes in which the events unfold.

Referring to one incident where the pucker factor was particularly high, Muleady-Mecham states simply, ‘‘The world responded.’’ Many of us know that type of call and no one could have described it better She repeatedly captures with flawless accuracy the deep satisfaction most park rangers know as a result of doing their jobs well, and really, in writing this book, she’s written a tribute to all of us who wear an arrowhead on our left shoulder.

    Beyond even that I have to add a personal note that Muleady-Mecham was also diligent to render in one difficult-to-read chap­ter a precious honor to special group of people, many of whom are friends of mine. Unlike every other story in her book, Muleady-Mecham was not there when this one occurred. She did not have to include it in her book, but she chose to anyway. She wrote it for Tony and Julius, who valiantly drew fire away from Joe. She wrote it for Glenn, Layman, Al and Keith, who risked their own lives, scooping Joe’s lifeless body off the parkway. She wrote it for Florie and her Iittle ones, who miss their Joe every day.

And she wrote it for Joe, who died on Father’s Day wearing a badge over his heart that read ‘‘National Park Ranger.”


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'Lightning-fast thinker writes must-read


Sun Staff Reporter

06/07/2004 Arizona Daily Sun

National Park Ranger Nancy Muleady-Mecham saved a fellow ranger and friend from death by telling a white lie. Muleady-Mecham, who has lived and worked in the Grand Canyon, Death Valley and Sequoia national parks, recently released a book in time for park tourism season called "Park Ranger: True Stories from a Ranger's Career in America's National Parks." The book is a collection of stories that's a must-read for park visitors, some who might find themselves in life-threatening situations and relying on the resourcefulness of a park ranger.

In one story, Muleady-Mecham details how she helped fellow ranger Nancy Haggerman, who now lives in Flagstaff and works as a registered nurse at Flagstaff Medical Center. Muleady-Mecham also works at FMC, but is doing a summer stint at Sequoia. Haggerman said that she owes her life to Muleady-Mecham, who managed to drive 40 miles of curvy dirt roads in 40 minutes to an area of Death Valley known as Wildrose. The drive included a 5,000-foot elevation climb from Stovepipe Wells, located at sea level. Haggerman had suffered internal bleeding from a condition known as a "ruptured ectopic pregnancy" during the February 1989 incident. Muleady-Mecham had to drive her 70 miles to an area of the park called Furnace Creek, and she had to keep Haggerman's spirits up. "She lied to me about my blood pressure," said Haggerman, who was a trained medic at the time. "If  she gave me the real number, I probably would have given up. I just didn't know how critical it was." Her systolic blood pressure had dropped to around 80. And by the time Haggerman arrived at surgery in Las Vegas, five hours had passed and she lost five of six liters of her blood. "She should not be alive," Muleady-Mecham said matter-of-factly, but surgeons at the hospital credited the response and work of the ranger in saving her.

As area national parks head into their busy summer seasons, Muleady-Mecham said rangers such as herself are left to respond to numerous emergencies and problems -- and they have to be ready for anything to happen, usually at once.  "Because I have developed skills, I respond to just about anything," she said. "I also have a nickname: It's 'Lightning Rod.' There tends to be a lot of excitement when I'm on duty." While working as a ranger in the Everglades in Florida, Muleady-Mecham responded to a boat accident. A passenger that was bow-riding mangled his leg so bad that she had to amputate it with a pair of trauma scissors.  And, at Death Valley, Muleady-Mecham had a "grand slam," which is when a ranger responds to a fire, a medical emergency and a search and rescue within a 24-hour period. Only her grand slam happened during the course of one hour.

Muleady-Mecham said millions of people visit national parks in the West each year, but a few hundred or so find themselves in emergency situations that are compounded by the fact that most of the parks, such as the Grand Canyon, are in isolated areas.  "People are just not prepared. They underestimate the environment of National Parks. People wait too long to ask for assistance because they don't want to mess up their vacation," she said. "But it's very difficult at the bottom of the Grand Canyon to get help. There's no cell phones and limited radio."

Haggerman said that park visitors need rangers such as Muleady-Mecham around because they know how to handle whatever situation arises. "She's real calm. She's definitely a woman of action," Haggerman said. "And she's probably one of the smartest people I've met."

And, she's a storyteller. She said this evolved out of telling the stories of her adventures to friends and family. "My family said put them in a book," she said.  This led to "Park Ranger," and Muleady-Mecham said she hopes people will read it and gain some insight on what happens at national parks. "It fits into where America is right now," she said. "We have popular medical shows, police shows and reality TV, and this is all of those things rolled into one. And it's a woman telling it for once."

Copyright 2004 Arizona Daily Sun

Email from Nancy September 2004

A few weeks ago I took care of a 7 year old boy who fell out of a 3 story hotel room by leaning against the window screen (about 30 feet).

By some miracle he survived and was not seriously hurt and we transported him to the ER.

His parents were very neat and later called to say he was OK. Today, I received a phone call from the patient's Dad,

and he asked if I could sign some of my books for his family. As it turns out, his Dad is a Blackhawk helicopter pilot and "was in the area".

So, I went to the helibase and here comes this Blackhawk. It lands, the pilot, Chris (the patient's Dad)

runs out and has me signs some of my books he bought who knows where, then he gives me a hug,

thanks me again for taking such good care of his son, gets back in and flies away. Now that is a fan!!