Wednesday, February 04, 2004

Several years I worked with the US Forest Service as part of a research project. A technician there was a totally kick-ass woman. She spoke her mind, no matter who it might offend or embarrass and I respected her for it even though I often disagreed with her. Yet I never had any difficuly getting along with her. Unfortunately, it did cause problems with her supervisor.

The Forest Service in addition to all the outdoorsy, foresty stuff they do also provides educational programs for kids. Smokey the Bear was commandeered by the state's forestry division, so the USFS folks got Woodsy "Give a hoot, don't pollute" Owl. Kick-ass woman was the only one short enough to fit in the costume, so she had the misfortune of donning it. Woodsy came home with several cases of lice, which required disinfestation, and led to no physical contact with the kids. Little kids, being little kids, love to hug bug, fuzzy cartoon characters. Woodsy also, in Disneyesque form, was not allowed to speak - only to hoot. This led to some unfortunate circumstances. Like one time when a kid hugged her so hard she could barely breathe and had to squeak out several hoots until her partner noticed and peeled the kid off. Or another time when they were doing an outdoor educational in the sweltering, humid Southern summer and Woodsy nearly went into a heat stroke induced coma.

She and I got a horrible, blistering case of poison ivy working at a field plot. Not fun. One time during an overnight trip, we stopped for dinner at a Japanese restaurant and a roach jumped out of a crack in her sushi platter. Yummy.

Otherwise, our research was tame and often boring.

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