LOCAL AUTHOR CORNER – Bear Attack in the Smokies:  Memoirs of a National Park Ranger

By Jerry Grubb

Memoirs of a former career National Park Ranger, and how he began a career with the National Park Service. This body of work describes many incidents that occurred in his 26 years as a National Park Ranger and how a government bureaucracy impacted this Ranger’s life in a job he loved.

This work covers how the National Park Service evolved during his career and focusing on how the park service management dealt with law enforcement issues and including the shooting deaths of three of his close colleagues that were dedicated National Park Rangers. It gives an inside perspective of how a difficult bureaucracy works and identifying mismanagement and rogue law enforcement and management officials in the National Park Service.

Also included in this work is the tragic death of a local schoolteacher killed by a black bear in the Smoky Mountains, where false and misleading information was given to the public, and reveals insights and truths about the investigation, and how and why it was covered up. It identifies the mismanagement of the National Park Service functions in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, including information and negligence regarding the 2016 Wildfires that killed 14 people.

This body of work lays out the facts as they happened. Some are sad, some humorous, and some remarkably interesting. This book will leave you with a new understanding of how the Park Service has steered away from their original mission and how they operate today.


“Don’t worry about the mule going blind, just load the wagon.”
–Park Ranger Mike Farley, circa 1978

The following stories and events are my personal memories. They are true and factual and represent what is was like for me to be a National Park Ranger.

A Park Ranger’s job is unique and allows for extraordinary and very diverse duties. The envy of a Park Ranger has been the catalyst that draws people to the Park Service. The visions of a Ranger riding a horse, hiking the mountains, being in the wild outdoors is diminished by the reality that the National Parks attract a lot of people and with the people comes a lot of crime. To handle the escalating crime, the Park Ranger’s primary role is being a cop, and most Rangers see the National Parks through the windshield of a patrol car. Law enforcement is the primary job of a Park Ranger. At any given time, a Ranger may be arresting a serious felon or investigating a motor vehicle fatality or writing a speeding ticket. But within moments he may have to change roles to fight a raging wildfire, perform technical rescues, provide emergency medical response, or deal with wildlife situations. National Park Rangers now face more personal dangers due to the soaring criminal elements prevalent in the National Parks. I was a Ranger for 26 years and loved every day of it. It was dangerously exciting, and making a difference in people’s lives was fulfilling and rewarding. I would not have wanted it any other way.

My story was inspired by a couple of life events that identified a hidden message or a divine intervention that occurred as my life’s journey came full circle, and the dreams I had were identified 60 years later. I hope my story gives those who read it, a ray of hope for achieving their own impossible dreams.

Most Park Rangers transfer around to many different parks during their careers. I was not motivated to pick up the family and move every couple of years. I enjoyed working at both Gulf Islands National Seashore and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I had no desire to become a Park Manager, which would mean sitting in an office rather than being in the field. To be a manager, one has to keep on the move. I also did not possess the education requirements sought by the National Park Service to become a Park Manager. Having the college education didn’t outweigh the common sense that is required of a National Park Ranger, as I experienced in my years of service. College could not teach nor replace experience and training of a National Park Ranger.

I worked at the Gulf Islands National Seashore for about 13 years and transferred to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park for another 13 years. I had many law enforcement details to other Park areas, from the Grand Canyon, to the historical forts in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Civil War Battlefields, Everglades National Park, Alaska, Independence, and other places. I also experienced many wildland forest fire details throughout the country.

My story shares a different perspective of what National Park Rangers really do. It identifies how a complicit government agency manifested the intrigue and vagueness that puts the visitors and Park Rangers unknowingly in jeopardy, and wastes valuable money and resources for the personal relevance of the top bureaucrats.

This story will, I hope, lead to the closure I am looking for and complete the journey I embarked on long ago to become a National Park Ranger. I hope this will bring closure to you, the reader, as well, since it includes facts previously omitted from all official reports of this story.

Coastal Angler & The Angler Magazine