Ulterior Motives

It was nearing dark on a sultry summer evening during my fourth season as a National Park service ranger on an island out in Lake Erie when a good friend and I decided to take a break from our usual five mile trek to catch some rest before continuing our daily regimen. We had been struggling to lose weight and improve our health and wellbeing since early spring that year.  There was a tiny state park, not more than a few picnic tables, jutting out into the harbor, and that is where we stopped to rest. 

As we sat at one of the picnic tables, talking over the events of the day and watching the gathering darkness descend upon the waters of Lake Erie, two young women who appeared to be in their early twenties approached and sat down opposite us. I was immediately suspicious. Why would two young women approach two old white haired off duty park rangers in a lonely picnic area at nightfall? We were the only people in the park at that time of night, and there were many other picnic tables available. The island where we served for several years as National Park Service rangers was infamous for the bad behavior that typified so many visitors during the summer months. I assumed the worst; either the young women were prostitutes or they were underage and hoped to persuade us to buy alcohol for them. There was no way the situation could possibly be innocent.

As they engaged us in conversation, I grew more and more uneasy, especially as the sky over the park transitioned to ink black, with a  few stars feebly shining through the murk of midsummer.  In response to their questions, we shared some of the daily challenges and rewards of serving as rangers on such a beautiful island, one with such historical significance. Our part of the conversation included safety issues, silly questions sometimes asked by visitors, the significance of the monument  and the six officers interred beneath it, casualties of the Battle of Lake Erie in 1813. They talked about their schools and the classes they were taking, pretty standard stuff for persons of that age.

Nothing the least bit improper or suggestive arose in the conversation. Still, having been trained to regard anything that seems wrong to be wrong, I was unable to accept the situation at face value. I was on guard. Something just had to be wrong here.

My unease continued unabated. The situation was surreal. I could think of no good reason why they would sit uninvited at our picnic table or why they would have any interest at all in the stories we had to relate.

The evening grew ever darker. The hour was late. I wanted to offer some excuse to leave this uncomfortable situation. We could say that we were needed back at the ROC (Ranger Operations Center) or that we needed to head back because we had early duty in the morning, which we probably did. 

Finally, one of them said, somewhat tentatively, “We have a question we would like to ask you.”

I thought to myself, “Oh boy. Here it comes. This can’t possibly be anything good.”

Then one of the pair inquired, “We would like to know if you have accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. We’re here from Campus Crusade.”


August 2022 Issue

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Lorin Swinehart
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