By: Maureen Hanlon
October already! For the Ottertail crew, this means hot chocolate, long johns, and an end to the camping season. One thing I really enjoy about staying in cabins and roadside motels is the chance for after-work bonding with the two other women on my crew, Emily Stursma and Emily “Ninja” Braker. (That’s right, Ninja! I mean, we can’t have two Emilies on the crew.) If nights with the whole crew are all serious strategizing at Dungeons and Dragons and hitting the sack early in our separate tents, then nights with just us ladies are all giggling over the day’s foibles and staying up later than necessary noshing on popcorn and chocolate.
Being a crew of half woman and half men is actually pretty unusual for the corps. We have a playful crew dynamic that’s rooted in respect and genuine fondness for one another. One evening, after much good-natured bartering (I might have had to watch Monday Night Football for this), I got Emily and Ninja to put in a few words about being women living the corps life.
Maureen (M): So we’re women in the Corps, but we’re also just people in the Corps. What’s been the best thing so far about the experience?
Ninja (N): The best thing? Oh! I have the best thing. You crush the garlic, and then you peel it!
M: (Laughs) I taught you that on spike!
N: I’m not changing my answer! That’s so useful.
Emily (E): I’ve got a work one. I’d have to say working in Tewaukon National Wildlife Refuge in the spring. We got to cut trees and fight fire, so cool! I didn’t even want to look at the time on those days.
M: And what’s been hardest?
E: Probably living in Fergus [Falls]. It’s just so small! It’s hard to make friends outside of work…which means that I only hang out with you bums!
N: It’s been physically challenging, for sure. I knew it would be, but sometimes I get home, and I think I’m going to walk somewhere…and then there I am on the couch! I do get up eventually, but then I’m in bed at 7 p.m.
M: Well, you made it to 8 p.m. tonight! What words of encouragement do you have for other young women considering the Corps?
E: You meet lots of cool people, and you get so much experience. That’s all the encouragement you need, really.
N: I’d say, don’t worry too much about “feminine” things, they fall by the wayside so quickly! Like, don’t worry about how to keep up your makeup, or pee in the woods, because you’ll have forgotten those concerns in a few days here.
E: True indeed. And be who you are; you’ll be accepted for that. We’re all different, and we all love each other. (Laughs) Did I say that?
M: Well you two, there’s only one month left. What are you going to do with yourselves?
E: Everyone always asks me that, it’s driving me crazy! Hopefully something in natural resources back home in Iowa for a year, and then back to school for a master’s degree.
N: Um, I’m finishing up my bachelors in Natural Resource Interpretation. I’ve applied at [The University of Wisconsin] Steven’s Point and Milwaukee. So we’ll see.
M: Aggh, I’m going to miss you guys! Alright, thanks for your time. Back to the football game, I guess.