BLM’ll Make a Man Out of You

One of my goals this summer (as it usually is every summer) was to “get in better shape”. The plan was to be as active as possible in my free time, exploring the numerous mountain ranges around me. This way I would have fun “getting in shape”, and get to know the surrounding area at the same time. I have successfully hiked several of the mountains and locations on my list, but little did I know that I would be training during work hours as well.

During one field day, Hank and I set out with our supervisor and Outdoor Recreation Planner, Rick, to complete some much needed trail maintenance on our Four Bear Trail. Seeing as all of our field office’s UTVs were occupied for the day, we took a wheelbarrow from the yard and loaded it up with our (HEAVY!) equipment and took turns pushing it down the trail.

Fumbling awkwardly down the trail with heavy equipment, we soon gave up and redistributed our materials. Hank and I decided to carry the U-channel posts Mulan style while Rick pushed the wheelbarrow.

Ask me how many times I sang Mulan’s “I’ll make a man out of you” that day

In addition to building strength, I have learned how to use many new and interesting tools like a post pounder, an auger, a Pulaski, a rock bar, a chop saw, and countless others. I have also been to the hardware stores in town more times than I can remember.

Trying out our new gas-powered post pounder

Drilling holes with an auger is actually pretty fun


What has been memorable about learning to use these tools, though, is the patience, understanding, and willingness of my coworkers to teach me how to use them. What I also love, is that they encourage me to try new tools, and help me when I falter. This may not seem like a big deal for some. However, in my field office I am the only female on the recreation crew. This experience has been both frustrating and rewarding. Frustrating because I swear half the time we are on two separate wavelengths. The guys are always doing things the opposite way I would have done them. The result has been many misunderstandings, lots of learning from each other and finished results that we can all be proud of!

Here are a few cool projects we worked on throughout the month of August:

One of the livestock tanks we installed after the June fire melted the old ones. This project required a lot of team work, equipment and coordination to dig ditches, build a dam in a nearby creek, level the ground, set the tire, mix and pour the concrete, hook up and install the hardware to fill the tank with water, and attach a wildlife ramp for small critters that may fall into the tank.

A newly stained cabin on Carter Mountain. Not picture are the hundreds of angry horseflies found embedded in its walls. This project was easy to complete, but what was challenging was coordinating a two hour drive up the mountain on a newly opened “road” with all of our equipment needed for that day.

Newly installed trail marker on our Four Bear Trail. This project looks fairly simply, but required cutting, prepping and assembling the sign at our warehouse, hauling it two miles up the trail, and installing it with a nearly 50 lb. post pounder.

This experience has also been very rewarding because my coworkers continuously push me to grow in new ways, and empower me by treating me as an equal. With that being said, there are times where I am frustrated because I am not physically equal. I have always been strong “for a girl”. But there are times when my muscles tire far before any of theirs. And there are times I need help lifting the post pounder because its really heavy and I’m not tall enough to place it on top of the post. At first I was embarrassed in these situations because I didn’t want them to think less of me. But I am not a quitter by any means, and I would just keep trying. Soon I would surprise myself in what I was truly capable of.

I fully believe women can do anything men can do. But I have accepted that she may need to work harder in order to do it. This job has taught me that I am always up for that challenge if I have a strong support system. Thanks guys!

Melissa Higley

Recreation Intern

Bureau of Land Management ~ Cody Field Office

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