12 things that will never be the same after this summer –

1. Fried egg sandwiches. I was taught to make them with ketchup on wheat bread and always hated it, but the unicyclist Cody showed me the light by using less healthy bread, grape jelly and mayonnaise. Delicious!

2. Healthy cooking. Our resident French chef and twerking expert, Kevin, has showed me some amazing recipes, including a kimchi salad that is healthy and scrumptious. He also made amazing vegetarian gravy, but let’s face it, I don’t want to mess around with gravy.

3. Sunsets. I’ve never seen ones as beautiful as I have here.

4. Bats. I know their smell now. Thanks to a guy in the office, I also know that if you coat a 2×4 in foil and let some light reflect off it in the dark, bats will fly into said piece of lumber and knock themselves out long enough for you to dispose of them however you see fit.

5. Cell phones. Never again will I take them for granted. You have to work so HARD here to get them to pick up anything and most of the time that sucks the battery dry. We currently have a system of duck taping them to the window of an outside door and it’s been working pretty well.

6. Cheese. I’m pretty sure every time I eat cheese I’ll think of all the times we just sat around and ate cheese. By itself.

7. “Crazy Kids” by Ke$sha and “We Can’t Stop” by Miley Cyrus.

8. Batman.

9. Secrets. In reality, there are none. I’m pretty sure almost every person I live around in the park knows everything about my summer and I know everything about theirs. (And if they don’t know, someone else does and would totally clue them in.) This includes but is not limited to sleeping, bathroom, and eating habits, along with previous relationships, family, “that one time at band camp” stories, accidental nudity in front of windows, and online shopping purchases.

10. Bugs. While I still don’t enjoy their presence, I’m much more tolerant now.

11. Ferrets.

Meet Penelope.

Meet Penelope.

12. Boys’ bathrooms. Seriously, the cabin we always hang out in is inhabited by three guys who I don’t consider to be hairy men, but the way their bathroom looks says otherwise.

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Narrative

I am 21 years old and I have the legs of a boy half my age who has spent the summer away at camp for the first time. I am itchy with chigger bites and my knees bear the scars from nights playing sand volleyball and days spent hiking. My feet are covered with a kaleidoscope of tan lines from various sandals and my pink toenail polish is all but worn off. As I lie in bed at night and stare blankly at my computer screen, a tiny gnat – one of many – lands on my bright screen. I am surrounded by the type of wood paneling that makes you think of dank flannel shirts and as I try not to think about the ghosts that surely inhabit these walls, I have never been happier.

But summer is ending. I can hear my new friends outside in the hallway saying cheerful goodnights to each other, but we all know this bacchanalian is about to end. Nobody wants to talk about it though, because frankly, we all might start crying, and the scary part is we’ve all become so close that it would totally be ok.

I have one week of work left and I am almost hoping my boss forgets and just lets me keep working. The only thing keeping me from begging for a full time job and dropping out of college completely is the fact that my mother left school after 3 years and I know I can’t disappoint her like that. But it would be so easy…and it would feel so right. And the whole point of college is to go out and get a job, right?

It isn’t just the woods and the animals and the smell of campfires accompanied by the joyous laughter of children. It isn’t just that I love my job. It isn’t the buffalo and it isn’t the deer who live so near to our dorm that we talk to them like they’re our community dogs. It’s the people here that have made this experience so amazing, so the only comforting thought I have about leaving is that perhaps, in years to come, the same people won’t be back here and therefore it won’t be as awesome and I won’t be missing out. It’s selfish, but I’m a girl and I’m feeling sentimental, so cut me a little slack.

You see, I have Fomo Syndrome – a term we coined at the dorms that stands for “fear of missing out.” I’ve always been like that; Fomo kept me from taking naps as a child because I thought I was going to miss out on something important and I hated going to bed early because I knew that was when all the juicy stuff happened. I don’t want to miss out on more of the phenomenal experiences I’ve had while working at Custer State Park. Hopefully in the future we all will still see each other; a few of us already have plans to visit and those of us with significant others in the park are all going to try and make it work. There are quite a few of us who are going to come back for the Buffalo Roundup in September, so as I look forward to that I can only bite my lip, carry on through this week, and soak in every last drop of goodness in the air.

Bats; they’re a problem.

Custer State Park has some really cool wildlife, but I’ve kind of had it with the bats.

Earlier in the summer, a group of us younger seasonal workers went on an evening swim at Legion Lake. I chose to sit on the beach and watch, and was rewarded with the sight of a couple hundred bats swooping and diving through the air above my friends’ heads. It was dark enough that no one was the wiser of what was happening, and I got to see these cool little creatures catch their dinner in midair.

Now, move forward in time to last week. We leave the doors on the dorm building open a lot if it gets stuffy or we’re all right outside. Last week, Dennis was laying in our lounge watching Netflix when a group of us walked through to go sit on the stoop outside. The door was open already and I saw what I thought was a giant moth flying around the tiny room.

“Hey is that a…”
“That’s a bat!” somebody chirped.

Sure enough, there was a freaked out bat doing circles in the lounge in a constant search for the door.

And the funny thing was, nobody really did anything. We all just filtered through the room and onto the porch. Once we were through, somebody turned around and said, “We should do something?

“What?”
“Should we shut the inside door?”
“Probably.”
“Think it can get out on its own?”
“I don’t know.”
“Maybe if it stays in there it will eat all those little gnats that get inside.”
“I don’t want it to get into my room.”
“Nah, it’ll be fine.”

And we all just kind of stood there and stared at the thing as it continued its search for the door. This went on for about 30 seconds before the creature lucked out and flew back out of the building and we continued with our evening.

But it’s not over. Yesterday was the first day back in my office after working entrance stations and when I walked down the stairs to “Down Under,” I was greeted with the smell of sewage. I asked Karla the secretary for some air spray moments later.

“It’s probably the bats,” she explained. Apparently, they had been trickling down from the attic into the main part of the office and one may or may not have somehow gotten into the basement.

The air freshener helped, but now it just smells like sewage covered in flowers and peaches, so I hope the bat is gone.

Fingers crossed he doesn’t fly over my head. Any second now…

Blue Bell for life!

On my second day of working at Blue Bell gate selling bike bands, the ladies, who I consider my friends, cornered me.

“So, you know I read your blog.” Barb said. She’s the matriarch of the gate and one of the funniest ladies I’ve ever met.

There are no words to describe the awesomeness.

There are no words to describe the awesomeness.


“Yes…” I trailed off, not knowing why she was standing so close to me with her hands on her hips in a stance that said don’t mess with Texas.

“Well, I’m just hoping you don’t plan on writing anything about us…you know…and some of the stuff we’ve said,” she menaced above me.

I giggled.

So, I can’t write about any of the insanely hilarious comments we made about bikers as they passed wearing nothing but pasties and ¼ of a shirt. I can’t write about the dogs on bikes in their little doggy goggles and little doggy Harley Davidson gear. I can’t write about getting locked in the Port-a-Potty. I can’t write about how badly we wanted a clean, good-looking guy to offer to give us a ride. I can’t write about the stories Melissa and I swapped and I definitely can’t write about…well, I’ll stop there.

I can, however, write about how much I respect and revere the gate attendants so much more than I ever did before. Technically speaking, it’s easy work, but I had no idea how mentally and physically exhausting it can be just to get people to drive in the right lane of traffic. Even with chairs and a fan, it’s really draining talking to people, answering the eternal question of “Where are the buffalo?” and selling entrance passes. Blue Bell is the gate at the west entrance of the Wildlife Loop, so if you came through in the last three days, you proabably saw me. I was usually the one dancing around waving neon green bands in the air.

And in case you were wondering, THE BUFFALO ARE SOMEWHERE ON THE WILDLIFE LOOP ROAD. Just keep driving until you see giant, hulking brown mammals.

Print this off. Bring it with you.

Print this off. Bring it with you.


What makes this park great is that everyone working supports each other during the rally (or at least that was my observation). One of the park administrators brought us brownies and the resort company gives us lunch if they aren’t busy. I even got some coffee delivered after begging for a while, and Barb and Sheila were constantly making sure nobody was nauseous at the gate because heat exhaustion is a real threat.
Must...have...water!

Must…have…water!


On my last day at the gate, the ladies even made me a makeshift goodbye card – I’m Blue Bell for life now!

Outsmarted by an inanimate object…again.

I walked into the office a few minutes ago after returning from a much-needed long holiday weekend. This morning had been a flurry of emails and “Oh yeah, I need to do that like, right now.” But after the noon hour and running a couple errands, things had calmed down.

That’s when the secretary spoke up.

“Oh Anna,” she said innocently, “I need your timesheet.”

The timesheet; the bringer of death and mathematics. The killer of souls and keeper of time. The timesheet.

Pay weeks are weird here, and so you have to remember your hours aren’t just counted on a normal 7-day, Monday through Friday work week. Instead, it usually ends up with a week and a third or two weeks and a couple days being on one timesheet while the rest filters over onto the next pay period, and then numbers and Satan get together and make you forget which days were on last week’s timesheet and…have I lost you yet?

I thought so.

For once though, that wasn’t even the problem. I had kept track of the work week and filled out my timesheet correctly, but the universe had found a way to screw it up again. The secretary’s mention of the dreaded timesheet made me remember that right before leaving for the weekend I had put it in one of my desk drawers. This wouldn’t be a problem normally, but my desk is old, wooden and magical. It oftentimes uses its magic to selectively lock some of the drawers and won’t let me into them until it feels like it.

Or at least that’s what I thought.

So, I went “Down Under” and proceeded to try and break into my desk. I pulled upwards, downwards, left and right until I was almost sweaty, but the drawer wouldn’t budge. Mind you, other drawers on my desk remained open with no problem. It was like the stupid piece of lumber and nails was giving me attitude because it knew I was helpless.

I gave up. One of the guys upstairs said he had a hammer and other supplies that I might be able to use to get into my magic desk, so he got them and we returned to see what damage I could inflict with tools I didn’t really know how to use (He had something called a kitty wrench? Or something? Such an odd name for a tool…). As we approached the big, hulking piece of wood, he said, “Did you open the middle drawer?”
“What?” I asked.
“The main middle drawer, like right where you sit?”
“Oh…no?” I answered confusedly. “Why would that matter?”

By that time I was already at my desk and had proceeded to open the empty middle drawer. I was in the middle of still being confused as to why that mattered when I tried the magical locked drawer and it opened with a sad thud, revealing my timesheet.

“Sometimes, if you shut that drawer in the locked position, it locks every other drawer in the desk,” he explained kindly.

I’ve never felt so stupid in my life. I’ve always considered myself slightly mechanically inclined – I’ve taken apart and reassembled too many strings of Christmas lights to count, I can put together desktop computers, I know the ins and outs of hot water heaters, I’ve installed my own headlights and windshield wiper blades, and for Pete’s sake, I’ve sat at desks before. But this stupid piece of colorless wood outsmarted me. I am humbled.