Friday was my "Project Day" at work. Usually I am tied to the visitor center desk but finally I got to go outside. Well, sort of.
My boss and I got the Painted Canyon Visitor Center all ready to go for summer. I lugged heavy boxes of brochures up out of the basement, cleaned up the bulletin boards outside while standing in a big snowdrift, and I installed a replacement display of a timeline of TR's life inside the building. Ranger Joe created the display last summer and it got a little bit of a sprucing-up for 2009.
I had been originally forbidden from working on fixing that particular display in digital format because my boss "didn't want it to become a 'Nathan project,'" meaning that I would take it over and reinvent it. At the time, I was disappointed but agreed that it was a legitimate concern, especially since I was already up to my shoulder in the park website's chest cavity. However, as time went on, the project never got done and got handed off to me as time was running out. I was allowed to fix the background color to something that would provide more contrast. I did that just fine, but then the door was cracked open and I thrust myself in. "What about this text box that isn't quite right? That picture's skewed. This looks a little funny, too." In the end, the format of the original and all of its text remained intact. I had it printed and I installed the new display. Come check it out! Painted Canyon opens April 1.
That all ate up most of my morning, but then the real fun began in the afternoon when my semicentennial cleaning began. I was conscripted to help clean out the secret interpretation storage room, whose location shall remain secret. Inside were decades' worth of junk that people kept. It was exactly like my parents' basement, where my dad is now repurposing all that old junk. I fully understand the mentality behind keeping that old stuff: you were using it one day just fine, then you got something new the next day but knew your old thing still worked, so why not keep it just in case?
The trouble is that after several decades of "just in case" junk stockpiled, one starts to run out of room when the rainy day to use that old stuff never came. In the secret storage room, the centerpiece was a pair of giant snake terrariums (terraria?) that had not been used for many years. Current NPS policy discourages keeping live animals, I've been told, and even our catfish in the visitor center now will someday soon be returned to his native habitat. S/he hides all day long anyway. There was a big pile of dividers for filing papers, boxes of paper plates, cups, and napkins, and boxes of a book no one ever buys. My personal favorite was a box of mailing tubes because they had postmarks. The tube from 1973 was in the lead until I found March, 1960. The tubes went away permanently.
My third project, which is ongoing, is to clean out the A/V equipment room. As the secret room suggested might be the case, the A/V room was full of old junk, most of which I do not understand because it was old when I was a kid. There was an impressive stockpile of close to 100 projector bulbs. There was a Realistic weather radio with a fake walnut-grain plastic casing that was exactly like the old alarm clock radio my parents had... in the 1980s! There are some old treasures mixed in with the useless old junk. My task was to put stuff that went with the same equipment together, but it turns out that I don't know what plugs go with the film projector, the slide projector, and the carousel projector. The gem so far has been an 8MM film from 1946 that has survived this long despite the note on it, "last half no good." That must be some first half, or else some clinical pack-rattery.
You might wonder how I came up with the word "semicentennial." I thought, "I need a dictionary where I can tell it what I want to say and it will tell me the word, like some sort of reverse dictionary - wait, does that exist?" It does. I could have used this in college.
I went into Dickinson last night to get groceries after waiting all week for the city to recover from its snowstorm. There was a ridiculous amount of snow on the ground there, compared to the zero snow on the ground in Medora. It was piled so high in the streets that four lanes had become two. That there is no snow in Medora but still big drifts on our loop road has the locals beginning to bitch to me both in person and on the phone that our road isn't open. It's not my fault you drove all the way down here without calling to see if the road was open. I even made a whole webpage for it: ROAD CLOSURES.
Amber drove through Fargo today and said the water was basically up to the I-94 bridge, a sight to see. I'll let her tell the story on her blog.