Friday was the 85th annual Ranger Bob day. Gone for nearly 17 years now, but not forgotten. One of the most beautiful parts of Bob’s legacy is that it stands the test of time. Those who knew him understand what I mean. Those who don’t, indulge me for a moment.
I’ve been told “Mentors are overrated, have heroes instead”. Bob wasn’t the kind of guy who sat you down to pontificate on problems or write detailed action plans. Yet, daily, I’m reminded of wisdom Bob instilled in me over the 12 short years I knew him. He probably wouldn’t have described his words as wise or even advice. Like any good hero, this was second nature. He had the uncanny ability to see someone was struggling. And then he’d sneak up you. Almost like an ambush of goodwill. Usually in the form of hard labor:
“Will, got a minute to help me mow?”
“Hey buddy, we need to move a tree up on the ridge.”
“Jump in the truck, I need a hand.”
If you were lucky enough for Bob to ask for help, you’ll acknowledge he didn’t need it. He was just setting himself up to help you. Eventually, while you were covered in sawdust, grease, or worse, he’d drop a knowledge bomb as if he was a magician pulling your card out of his sleeve. There it was, a clear and profound response to the problem you hadn’t even shared. His superpower.
One of my most memorable moments takes place in a cramped latrine. I’ll spare you the details of what needed unclogged, but Bob was called in because a handful of other people had failed to solve the problem. Meanwhile, I was struggling with a few younger guys on my team who weren’t teaching at the same quality I thought I was. Covered in filth, without a care for what his hands were touching, he cleared the clog and said, “sometimes you need to be strict with yourself and tolerant of everyone else while they work on getting there”.
I’ll never know if he understood how heroic he was to so many impressionable young adults. What I do know is I’ve never met anyone quite like him, I doubt I ever will again. And that’s OK. There can only be one Ranger Bob.
Happy Birthday RB