THAT’S MY JOB: Interpretive park rangers Hannah and Daniel Kellogg
The first time Meadowlakes residents Hannah and Daniel Kellogg worked together, they were single, scraping deer hides at George Ranch Historical Park in Richmond, Texas. It was smelly, dirty work, but four years later, they can laugh about it as a married couple, still working as park rangers, just at different parks.
Hannah is an interpretive ranger at the Sauer-Beckman Living History Farm at Lyndon B. Johnson State Park and Historic Site near Stonewall. After years as an interpretive ranger at Blanco State Park, Daniel is now part of the Parks Operations Trainee program at Inks Lake State Park near Burnet.
The title “interpretive ranger” can be misleading, both agreed.
“People ask me if I can speak another language, but I can’t,” Hannah said. “It’s not interpreting a language like you’d usually think.”
Hannah “interprets” history and lifestyle, while Daniel illustrates nature and science through activities.
“Basically, we translate science for the public so they can understand it,” Daniel said. “We take nature, which is such an overwhelming subject — especially when you talk to our wildlife specialist, who often talks in such complicated terms — and we ask, ‘How do I make it so anyone can understand it?’”
Rather than tell, interpretive rangers show so visitors can experience their surroundings firsthand. For example, while at Blanco State Park, Daniel held an invasive plants workday. Visitors learned about the negative impact of invasive plants on the local ecosystem while removing them from the river. He also hosted painting in nature activities.
One of Daniel’s most popular programs at Blanco State Park was a kayaking class.
“We sold that out every time,” he said.
Park interpreters strive to include activities for a wide gamut of the population, from children through older adults.
“It’s not always about hiking, or something like that, when you come to a park,” Daniel said. “The parks are for everyone, and we want to make them welcoming for people who come out, maybe, just to read.”
As a historical specialist, Hannah teaches the history of Sauer-Beckman Farm and the German influence on the Hill Country for visitors. She might not know about a wild bird spotted in a nearby oak, but ask about the chickens scratching around the farmyard and she’ll have some answers.
Recently, she and the other rangers butchered and rendered two hogs. They will cook the meat in old-fashioned recipes for their lunches. While they can’t serve the food to visitors, the cooking spreads good smells and comfort. You can also watch them cook in the turn-of-the-20th-century kitchen, where they churn butter, make cheese, and bake biscuits in a wood stove.
“What I love about Sauer-Beckman is you don’t just come out and look at something or hear about how things were,” Hannah said. “A child who comes out here can actually collect eggs. We actually get to do things here.”
Along with programs, interpreters also typically serve as volunteer and park host coordinator, social media manager, and outreach contact. In smaller parks, such as Blanco State Park, the job can include working with maintenance staff or assisting with guest check-in.
“We wear many hats,” Daniel said.
Hannah and Daniel come to their similar careers in different ways. He grew up in western Tennessee; she was the daughter of missionaries in the Philippines.
Hannah credits her mother, who hailed from Virginia and was at one time a U.S. Parks and Wildlife ranger, with instilling in her a love and appreciation for history and nature.
Growing up in the Philippines, her mom made sure almost everything was a history lesson, including celebrating Texas’ San Jacinto Day with food, costumes, and watching John Wayne’s movie about the Alamo. Hannah’s dad was from Texas.
Hannah recalled her mom making brownies in the shape of Texas with soft chocolate hidden in the center. As Hannah and her siblings bit into the brownies, her mom explained that, like the baked delights, Texas also has a dark, oozing liquid at its center: oil.
“I grew up thinking history was all about dressing up, telling stories, and eating,” Hannah said with a laugh.
She and Daniel both earned degrees in history from different colleges and eventually master’s degrees in their respective subjects. Hannah’s journey took her to Mount Vernon, Texas, before she landed at the George Ranch Historical Park near Houston, which is operated by the Fort Bend History Association and The George Foundation.
Daniel was at the Atlanta (Georgia) History Center before coming to Texas and meeting Hannah. He followed her to the Hill Country when she got the job at the living history farm. After a while, he was hired at Blanco State Park.
At his Inks Lake State Park job, Daniel is developing management and operation skills with the goal of becoming an assistant park superintendent and, later, a park superintendent, which will eventually lead the couple to yet another location.
“This time, I’ll follow you since you followed me here,” Hannah told him.