ASTORIA, Ore. — Park ranger Randy Francom may not remember every visitor he meets at the Fort Clatsop replica, but many visitors certainly remember him.
Francom is known around Lewis and Clark National Historical Park as “Ranger Randy.” He has become a staple of the park’s hands-on summer exhibits. He is part of a team of interpretive park rangers who dress in Lewis and Clark style costumes and bring the history to life, reported the Daily Astorian (http://bit.ly/2cCpEcF).
“He is one of our hard-working rangers down there that I can always count on,” Jill Harding, the park’s visitor services chief, said. “He knows his stuff. He is great with visitors and he is a great example of a park ranger.”
Francom recently finished his ninth summer working at the park. He comes to Astoria in June from his home in Lacey, Washington, and stays on the North Coast until Labor Day.
The most enjoyable part of working as an interpretive park ranger is having in-depth conversations with visitors, he said. A visitor will often ask one question, which leads to another question, which leads to Francom launching into a story about Lewis and Clark.
“I love the visitors who linger and want to engage you in extended conversation,” Francom said. “I sit down in the fort and they will sit with me and we will talk at length. Next thing I know other people have gathered around and I have a crowd.”
Francom sees his role as enhancing understanding of what Lewis and Clark accomplished in helping build the country. He emphasizes the Corps of Discovery’s courage, determination, perseverance, teamwork, organization and leadership.
“When visitors leave, they have a deeper appreciation,” he said.
Francom, who studied sociology and history at Brigham Young University, has always been fascinated with the history of the American West. Working as a park ranger always seemed like a fun second career for Francom, who retired in 2003 from the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services.
His first job as an interpretive ranger came in 2004 with Mount St. Helens. For three seasons, he was tasked with explaining the geology of the park. Even when talking about science, Francom would mix in history.
“I would weave in what happened with the eruption with its effect on the people who were nearby it,” he said. “I certainly had history as a part of it.”
He joined Lewis and Clark National Historical Park in 2008. Most days, he is in costume at the fort giving demonstrations. He shows visitors the types of guns, furs and food Lewis and Clark had at the time.
“One of the things I love about the park is we have hands-on exhibits,” he said. “It brings it more alive for people.”
Francom is back at his home in Lacey, enjoying the offseason with his family. He plans to return next summer for his 10th year as “Ranger Randy.”
“My plan is to come back here as long as I can,” he said. “It’s a great place to spend a summer.”
Information from: The Daily Astorian, http://www.dailyastorian.com