My life in Yellowstone was conceived on a winter day in Ada, Ohio, in 1993.  I know the day was a Thursday because I attended chapel that day with my friend Rob Milliner.  I was a freshman in college at Ohio Northern University, studying philosophy, and sitting in chapel with Rob.  The chaplain, Rev. Hal Hartley, introduced a man from A Christian Ministry in the National Parks (ACMNP) to give a pitch as to why college students should spend a summer in the national parks working and ministering.  Rev. Hartley, an ACMNP alumnus himself, further encouraged us and announced that the ACMNP representative, whose name was Chris, would be talking to people outside the cafeteria after chapel.
    Although Rob and I thought the idea intriguing and Rob suggested that we speak with the man, I had little intention of pursuing anything ambitious.  I had been raised in Ohio, had rarely left the state, had barely worked a job in my life, and I had only a passing interest in spending time in nature.  Certainly, the idea of roughing it appealed to me about as much as a cold shower in the middle of January.  I liked to walk in the woods, but I was scared of animals.  Luckily, Ohio has very few scary animals, and so I was content with the nature of the Buckeye State.  Inspite of this, the idea was intriguing.  Ministry was something I felt confident I could do being the son of a United Methodist minister with a love for the stage.  I dearly wanted a way to share my Christian faith.  This sounded like a wonderful way.  However, as I said, intriguing as it was, the intrigue did not even last until the end of the service as I had already forgotten that Chris was here.
    Rob and I raced to lunch.  At Ohio Northern, if one fails to leave chapel in a bolt, one fails to have a timely lunch.  The immediate thought on my mind was filling my stomach.  Who can begin to dream of natural wonders one has never imagined when the glories of an all-you-can-eat buffet lays before you?  For instance, today as I share the spectacle of Yellowstone, a robotic rover prepares to photograph and "discover" the Martian surface.  As enticing as that may be, Yellowstone remains that all-you-can-eat buffet in my life.  Amazingly, a literal buffet once held the place Yellowstone now does, the difference being my life is enormously richer now than then.
    Without Rob, a person who has never seen Yellowstone, I never would have taken the steps toward Wonderland.  That is not to say that Rob is the cause of this autobiography, but it is to say that my free choice to visit the ACMNP table was a result of my free choice to follow Rob.  If Rob had decided to return directly to the residence halls, I would have followed.  Rob, however, went to the table.
    At this table, Chris stood talking to interested students.  He had with him pictures.  I gazed in awe at his pictures of Glacier National Park.  As I saw the mountains and lakes, the vast wilderness of his photos, I kept saying, "What if I spent an entire summer here?"  The thought, strange as it may seem considering my attitude toward nature, did nothing short of thrill me.  Nature had won.  Before I knew it, I found myself doing what was for me unthinkable--filling out an application for A Christian Ministry in the National Parks.  Being someone who rarely signed up for anything and who was (and is) enormously shy, I could not explain why I filled out that application.  Maybe, I thought the national parks would be a lot like a more beautiful church camp.  Maybe, I really did not believe that there was much chance that I would be accepted.  I do not know.  All I can remember thinking of were the pictures and seeing myself in them.
    Naturally, I did not think ACMNP would pan out.  First, I needed the permission of my parents.  Then, I needed to be accepted.  Then, I needed to be hired by the place of employment that ACMNP found for me.  Finally, I needed transportation.  Nevertheless, I was excited and firmly believed that if God meant for it to happen, it would.  If it did not happen, that would be okay, too.
    Well, obviously, it worked out.  So many things worked out.  First off, my parents were completely supportive.  This did not surprise me, although I believe I had the nagging thought in my mind that my dad would whine that it would cost far too much to get me to Yellowstone.  He did not.  They wanted me out of the house and with a job and were very happy that I had found one.  They promised to get me to where I needed to be.  Soon after, I received a letter from ACMNP accepting me for Grant Village, Yellowstone National Park.  This shocked me.  I could not believe that I had been accepted to work in the most famous of national parks.  I felt enormously lucky.  Then, Hamilton Sores hired me to work in food service.  I did not like the sound of food service, but at least I was set to work.  Finally, I had the excellent fortune that ACMNP's required regional orientation was in a town twenty minutes from Ada.  This was most fortunate in that I had no car.  Some people, for instance, made eight hour drives to be at this orientation.  If I had to make such a drive, I think I would have had to decline.
    The wheels set in motion by that Thursday in Ada, Ohio, arrived at the East Entrance of Yellowstone, Wednesday, June 9, 1993.  My mom, sister Gloria, and brother Alex, joined me as we ventured across the country to arrive at the gates of Wonderland (not in the least aware that such was Yellowstone's nickname).  Already, we had been wooed by the mighty Mississippi and the most powerful thunderstorm I had ever driven through.  We were impressed with the little bumpy hills of Iowa, the vastness of South Dakota and her Black Hills with Mount Rushmore among them, the beautiful desolation of Eastern Wyoming and Devils Tower miles in the distance, the majesty of the Bighorns and snow in June, and the unmistakable beauty of the Shoshone National Forest.  Indeed, Yellowstone undoubtedly began in Shoshone.  Already charmed, I was about to be irreversibly seduced.
    Our car entered the gates, and this drama began.

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