A few weeks ago, The Wall Street Journal had an article on folks - largely men - moving away from home to find work. The main focus of the article was Tim Ryan, a laid off New Hampshire construction worker, who's taken a seasonal job playing a wolfman at Clark's Trading Post, a "tourist attraction" in the White Mountains.
Clark's has steam train ride - and the wolfman's job is to jump out of the woods and scare the train riders.
While the job pays only half of what Mr. Ryan was making in construction - and he's two hours away from his kids, living in a moldy cabin without running water - he seems happy to have the work.
I will return to the job as wolfman, but first a note on Clark's.
In addition to the steam train ride, its roadside attractions include the sort of emporium that I suspect is something that, as a kid, I would have completely swooned over. Not that this souvenir and gift shop is all low-end. One picture on the site showed Vera Bradley bags. However, it does mention candy, fudge, moccasins, jewelry, and one of the pictures showed kids looking at those hokey "Wanted Dead or Alive" posters. So I'm guessing that, in addition to offering yet another venue in which women can find yet another Vera Bradley something-or-other in a pattern they haven't seen before but really like, there's plenty of stuff - trinkets, penny candy - that kids crave and can afford to spend their vacation money on. As long as such places exist, and kids continue to covet such stuff, I will remain optimistic about our youth and our future as a nation.
Clark's also has an Americana Museum (a kind of a mini-Smithsonian), a black bear act, and a Segway ride that lets folks try out a Segway.
I am so completely in favor of keeping wannabe Segway-ers off the public sidewalks.
There's a new service in Boston that's taking tourists on guided tours via Segway. The problem is that the tourists are too busy ogling the State House to watch where they're going. I've almost been mowed down twice.
Better off that Segway novices stay off the beaten path. Get thee to Clark's!
For someone who's lived in New England for her entire life (so far), I'm surprised that I've never heard of Clark's, but it does sound like a completely wonderful place for a vacationing family to spend a few bucks.
Now, back to the wolfman job.
In the course of munging around looking for background, I came across the job description. Having read and written dozens of job descriptions over the years, my coonskin hat is off to the folks at Clark's for what has to be one of the most clearly written, expectation setting, no BS job descriptions I've ever seen.
It starts off with a bit about how the Wolfman's "main job is to intercept the train as it goes up the tracks with the guests aboard." This involves riding up in a "roadster", "firing blanks in the air and yelling at the guests."
That "yelling at the guests" sounds like fun! I was a Durgin-Park waitress back in the day. (Durgin is a well known Boston tourist spot.) Having a lippy waitress was part what people came to Durgin for, but we couldn't really yell at the customers. Of course, there were some older gals who did so regularly, including one who, pissed off at a lousy tip - all change: cheap even by 1970's standards - decided she'd had enough. From the restaurant's unscreened second floor window, Nina rained the change down on the head of the departing customers. All the while screaming at them to let them know just where they could put it.
But there's more to be said about the wolfman job:
There will be days when it is very hot, rainy or cold, but if the train runs, so does the Wolfman. Good safety habits, for example walking the tracks to maintain a clear right of way at all times, are of utmost importance and are a significant part of the job as well as keeping the car functioning and maintaining the props.
Back at the Trading Post, the Wolfman also poses for pictures with kids.
The hours/days (40-48 hours, 5-6 days), the pay ($12/hour), the driver's license requirement. The successful applicant needs "great people skills and a sense of humor," and "be in reasonably good physical condition." Knowledge of firearms and vehicle maintenance is a nice to have; some light maintenance work required. Oh, and:
Must be willing to grow a beard and remain somewhat "unkempt" during the season.
The job came free when the old Wolfman retired, and Clark's had quite a few applicants looking to be the replacement. They ended up hiring two - Tim Ryan and a fellow named John Smith.
Now, it is of course more than a little depressing to read about a man having to take a job well away from his kids, for well under what he was used to making. And there were plenty of other guys mentioned in the WSJ article who are doing the same thing - just none with this colorful a job.
On the other hand, there's something completely admirable about Mr. Ryan taking this job.
Not to mention something totally delightful - exhilarating, even - about the survival of the Clark's sort of tourist attraction.
(Not to mention that someone at Clark sure knows how to write a job description!)