Posted by: Kirsten | Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Monkey becomes Junior Ranger at Scotts Bluff

My daughter and I sent ahead for information about several parks we planned to visit last week in the Nebraska panhandle area, including Agate Fossil Beds Nat’l Monument, Fort Laramie Nat’l Historic Site, Scotts Bluff Nat’l Monument, and a few Nebraska State Parks. 

When we got our big brown envelope from Scotts Bluff, we were given two Junior Ranger booklets to peruse.  One for 3-to-7-year-olds, and a second one for 6-to-12-year-olds.  Since my daughter is seven, we looked them both over for age appropriateness.  The book aimed at younger kids was definitely not much of a challenge for her, so we focused on the other booklet when we arrived at the park on Thursday the 29th.  However, I had her look over the easier booklet just as an orientation to the subject matter covered at the park and upon realizing there were two books available to use, she instantly came up with a novel idea — Pablo the Monkey, her travel buddy puppet/stuffed animal, could do the easier one and she’d do the harder one.

I told her that was fine, but not to expect that the rangers would award Pablo a separate certificate and Junior Ranger badge, but that we would ask and see what they said.  I didn’t have the heart to tell her flat out “No” because her enthusiasm for completing the activities skyrocketed once she had the idea that Pablo was going to learn something too and that she could help him with spelling and the like.

It was a hot day, so rather than stick with our original plan to take the shuttle bus to the top and hike back down to the Visitor Center in the full sun (no shade on the trail in the late morning hours), we instead drove our little rental car to the top, hiked the North and South summit trails, and returned to the Visitor Center with a mostly-completed Junior Ranger booklet.

We had missed the answers to a few questions when we saw the park video the first time, so we snuck back in at just the right time to catch the three answers she needed to complete the assignment (“Pork”, “Bread”, and “Cholera” — which nicely summarizes the Oregon Trail experience in three words, by the way).  Pablo, on the other hand (that was a puppet joke, in case you missed it), was done a while ago and was just enjoying the view of the ground while tucked under my daughter’s armpit.

My daughter stayed in the gift shop area while I walked over to the information desk — near a huge, evil-looking good-for-nothing bison head that was just waiting to leap off the wall and scare the buffalo chips out of us when we least expected it — and asked ever-so-kindly if they’d consider doing the Junior Ranger ceremony for my daughter’s stuffed animal friend. 

Not only did they comply, they also awarded him a certificate and his very own Junior Ranger badge — which must surely be a first for the National Park Service.  And if not, at least for Scotts Bluff National Monument. We held the ceremonies (both for Pablo and my daughter) outside the front door so the bison couldn’t stare at us and disrupt the proceedings, which was also a nice accommodation of the ranger on duty.  Thanks, Ranger Jeremy!

So, congratulations to Pablo the Monkey, we’re very proud of you.

Parke Diem!
— Jon


  1. Do we know the name of the little girl? We know the monkey is Pablo, but I’m working on a story and can’t find the girl’s name.

  2. I sent you an e-mail Rick. Please let me know if it didn’t reach you for some reason

  3. I’ve sworn in many a Junior Ranger through the years, but never a monkey….or any other kind of critter, for that matter! What a great story, Jon. Whimsy and compassion can go a long way in this world; so glad the rangers at Scott’s Bluff had a healthy share of both. And I can’t think of a more deserving monkey than Pablo….or a more deserving girl than [your daughter]!

  4. I was looking for information about Junior Ranger badges and came across this post. I really enjoyed reading it. I homeschool our only daughter (who is 8) and we’ve enjoyed earning 3 badges… so far!

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