Retired Federal Park Ranger Greg Bersche has recently published a book that provides a stunning view of the Osage hills.
The hills of the Osage lie within an area of transition between the eastern deciduous forest of the Ozarks and the tallgrass prairie of the western high plains. Known as the Cross Timbers, the area has largely been shaped by fire.
The history of the area has been documented by Native Americans, rouge outlaws, Civil War soldiers and early pioneers. Bercshe adds his own experiences and photos to the rich history of the Osage hills in A Walk Through the Hills of the Osage.
Bersche was born in Bartlesville and attended Oklahoma State University. He graduated in 1983 with a degree in Wildlife Ecology. He worked as a Federal Park Ranger in Montana and throughout Oklahoma for 35 years and served as the director of the Royal Ambassadors (RA) Program from 2003 to 2020 at Lakeview Southern Baptist Church in Skiatook.
His previous book, Christ in Wilderness, is an instructional manual for teaching your boys primitive outdoor skills as a Christian ministry.
What made you want to be a park ranger?
My father passed on to my younger brother and I an appreciation for the outdoors through countless hunting and fishing trips along with vacations to our national parks. In grade school, I noticed an ad in the back of an Outdoor Life magazine. This correspondence course romanticized careers as a ranger or forester working in the great outdoors. This direction appealed to me and from that moment on I knew I wanted to be a Park Ranger.
What did you love most about the job?
I loved working with and protecting the natural resources the most. Habitat management work, such as prescribed burning and planting food plots, was the most enjoyable to me. I also liked to lead children on interpretive walks, teaching them about the ecology of Osage County.
What were the biggest challenges?
The greatest challenges included working with certain members of the public when dealing with enforcement issues. At the lake, many of the visitors one deals with are intoxicated and defiant. Most people however are great and enjoyable to visit with. Also challenging was working under the constraints and inefficiencies of the federal government.
What is the Royal Ambassadors Program?
The Royal Ambassadors program (RA’s) is a youth program, grades one through six, associated with the Baptist Church. It is now over 100 years old and centers around 2 Corinthians 5:20 where we are all called to be ambassadors for Christ. One component of this program is outdoor skills and education. At Lakeview Southern Baptist Church in Skiatook, the RA chapter has focused on this component and developed it to be a sort of “Christian Boy Scouts.” I was blessed to have directed this chapter since its inception in 2003 and passed the torch to a new director in 2020.
What made you decide to write this book?
I wrote this book for two reasons. One was to encourage an appreciation for Osage County with its rich history and unique natural ecosystem. The second was to pass down to my children and six grand children my journey and what life was like growing up in the Osage over half a century ago.
What do you hope readers gain from the book?
I wanted to reveal to both residents and visitors to Osage County many of the wonders in nature found here. Many residents have moved here from other parts of the country and may not know they have 250 year old Post Oak trees growing in their front yard, or that wolves and elk once roamed the Osage hills. But more importantly, I wanted to reveal to the reader how God is mirrored through his creation and how a walk without Him is meaningless.
What do you love about Skiatook?
I love Skiatook because of its location on the east edge of Osage County, lying in a transition zone between yesterday and today. A few miles to the east, one finds all the amenities that come with a metropolitan lifestyle. But just a few miles to the west lies the rugged hills of the Osage that time has largely left unchanged.
What’s next for you?
My greatest pleasure will continue to be spending time with my wife and family. My grandchildren are still very young and sharing with them all the wonders of the Osage and the creator is something I will continue to cherish.