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cartoon puppy


									Article and primary photos by
       Michael Morgan
AE Magazine November–December 2008                                                                                                  AE Magazine November–December 2008

                                                                                                                                                   his story begins

                                                                                                                                                   on a somewhat

                                                                                                                                                   sad note with

                                                                                                                                   the loss of Danny and Susan

                                                                                                                                   Martin’s beloved pet dog

                                                                                                                                   “Ranger”. But, as such stories

                                                                                                                                   often go, it has a very happy


                                                                                                                                          The Martins serve together as full-
                                                                                                                                      time Park Rangers at the Philpott Lake,
                                                                                                                                      Army Corps of Engineers Recreational
                                     FACING: Susan and Danny Martin pose with Bob-
                                                                                              Area near Bassett, Virginia. One day as they were driving along a narrow coun-
                                     ber overlooking a portion of Philpott Lake where they    try road in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains near their home, Susan
                                     serve as Park Rangers. TOP: The entrance hall to the     spotted out of the corner of her eye a small, somewhat emaciated light-tan
                                     Corps Visitor’s Center at Philpott. BOTTOM: Beautiful    colored, mixed breed puppy, peering out at them from the center of a pile of
                                     Philpott Lake located in Southwest Virginia near Bas-    old automobile tires which had been thoughtlessly discarded alongside the
                                     sett has 100 miles of rugged and wild shoreline. It is
                                     situated in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
                                                                                              road. Stopping to investigate, they concluded that the puppy, just like the

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AE Magazine November–December 2008                                                                                                                                                                                                            AE Magazine November–December 2008

      abandoned tires, had been tossed aside by a thoughtless and         Corps had been experiencing great success with this program                                                                                                             ne of the greatest floods on record
      uncaring person.                                                    throughout all its water recreational areas all over the United
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  in the Smith River Valley in South-
          The small animal had been doing the best it could to            States, and Philpott Lake was no exception.
      survive on its own. Skittish at first, the puppy refused to come         So, as the Martins sat that evening pondering what name                                                                                                            western Virginia near Martinsville
      when coaxed by the Martins. However, after a great deal of per-     to give their newly adopted family pet, Danny said to Susan,                                                                                              occurred in October 1937. This flood caused ex-
      suasion he timidly gave in to their kindness. Checking with the     “You know, he does sort of look like (the cartoon) Bobber so                                                                                              tensive damage to industrial, commercial, and
      few homes nearby to attempt to determine if the puppy had           why don’t we just give him that name?” Susan concurred and                                                                                                residential establishments along the Smith Riv-
      come from there, the Martins eventually found it had indeed         said, “We could train him to wear a life jacket of his own, and                                                                                           er. The “Philpott Project” first appeared in 1934
      been abandoned. Adopting the puppy as their own was an              use him in our classes to help teach kids the importance of
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    as part of a “308” Report in a House of Repre-
      easy decision for them to make.                                     water-safety.” Thus began the transformation of a once aban-
          Following a trip to the local veterinarian office for a quick   doned puppy, into a real-life version of the popular Corps of                                                                                             sentative document. This report, a comprehen-
      check-up, and a couple of weeks getting acclimated within           Engineers’ cartoon figure Bobber.                                                                                                                         sive plan for the development of the Roanoke
      the Martin’s household, a comment was made that they had                 Getting a real-life Bobber into the organization as an “of-                                                                                          River and its’ tributaries, was initially deemed
      yet to give the puppy a name. Given their positions as Corps        ficial” representative involved both Martins having to develop                                                                                            economically unjustifiable. Over the next twelve
      of Engineers Park Rangers, much of their typical workdays in-       formal guidelines and standard operating policies for his use.                                                                                            years, there were six proposed alternate devel-
      volved educating hundreds of adults and children concerning         That included gaining approval by their local area manager,
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    opment plans.
      water safety and the natural environment within the park. They      and then finally by the Wilmington District of the Corps of
      were thus familiar with one aspect of the Corps’ water-safety       Engineers located in Wilmington, NC. There were no objec-                                                                                                     A conference was held in early 1946 be-
      program that had been designed for children…titled “Bobber-         tions at any level, and in fact all who learned about the Martin’s                                                                                        tween representatives of the Federal Power
      the Water Safety Dog”.                                              initiative were extremely supportive.                                                                                                                     Commission; the Norfolk, Virginia District of the
          Using a cartoon character created by the Corps as its cen-           “Bobber” Martin is now just a few months shy of being a                                                                                              Army Corps of Engineers, including the District
      terpiece and logo, an educational water-safety program had          year old. His first official day at work as a Corps representative         Online “Google” map of the Philpott Lake
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Engineer; and the North Atlantic Division. It was
      been designed for children, complete with its own children-         was last Memorial Day when he quickly attracted the atten-                 region, available at
                                                                                                                                                                                                  decided then to prepare a definite report covering the present site. After further
      oriented website (, coloring books, pin-on          tion of all with whom he came in contact—in campgrounds
      buttons, trading cards and other free merchandise designed          and other park areas, wearing his new, bright yellow life jacket                                                        study and cost comparisons, it was proven that a concrete gravity dam with a pow-
      to attract the attention of young children—and indirectly           complete with sewn-on Corps of Engineers patches.                                                                                                 erhouse at the toe of the dam was the best solution. The
      the attention of their parents. Fitting the cartoon version of           As children ran up to greet the excited, tail-wagging dog,                                                                                   riverbed itself was excavated by a team of contractors
      Bobber with his own colorful life jacket, cartoon drawings          parents followed close behind. While all petted and spoke                                                                                         building the dam. Construction required 110,000 cubic
      and other informative materials focused on the importance of        kindly to Bobber, the Martins passed out “Bobber” coloring                                                                                        yards of excavation, 26,000 lineal feet of drilling, 320,000
      wearing properly approved personal floatation devices (PFDs)        books, trading cards with a “Bobber” photo, and other water–
                                                                                                                                                                                                                            cubic yards of concrete, 265,000 barrels of cement, and
      while boating or during other water-oriented activities. The        safety related information.
                                                                               The missions and tasks performed at all Corps of Engineers                                                                                   610,000 tons of crushed stone and sand for concrete ag-
                                                                          Recreational Areas by Rangers such as Danny and Susan Martin                                                                                      gregate. The cost of the Project was about $6,500,000.
                                                                          often go unrecognized. In the case of Susan, she came to the                                                                                      Philpott Reservoir has a total storage capacity of 250,000
                                                                                                             Corps of Engineers as a full-time                                                                              acre-feet. The lake has a surface area of 3.9 to 4.5 square
                                                                                                             Park Ranger in 2002 following                                                                                  miles with approximately 100 miles of shoreline.
                                                                                                             years of volunteer work at local

                                                                                                                      Continued on page 32

                                                                                                                                                        TOP: Aerial view of the Philpott Lake
                                                                                                                                                        dam and surrounding area. The loca-
                                                                                                              Ranger Danny Martin and Bobber
                                                                                                                                                        tion of the Corps of Engineers Visitors
                                                                                                              pose with new friends in a Philpott
                                                                                                                                                        Center is highlighted.(Photo from
                                                                                                              Lake campground last summer. To
                                                                                                                                                        Commonwealth of Virginia DNR)
                                                                                                              help children learn all about wa-
                                                                                                                                                        RIGHT: The Philpott Lake Visitors
                                                                                                              ter safety , they are given coloring
                                                                                                                                                        Center receives thousands of annual
                                                                                                              books and other free items focused
                                                                                                                                                        visitors from all over the world. In
                                                                                                              on Bobber the cartoon dog. Being
                                                                                                                                                        fact, Corps of Engineers recreation-
                                                                                                              able to meet the real-life version
                                                                                                                                                        al areas have more visitors annu-
                                                                                                              is a special treat for them, and
                                                                                                                                                        ally than any other federal agency.
                                                                                                              their parents. (Photo courtesy
                                                                                                              of Philpott Lake Visitors Center)

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AE Magazine November–December 2008                                                                                                               AE Magazine November–December 2008

      recreational areas. Growing up in Blacksburg, Virginia, she holds   ings in ten years at this popular boating and fishing lake with
      a Bachelor’s Degree from Radford University and initially began     over 100-miles of shoreline.
      work in areas of criminal justice, helping to rehabilitate youth         Danny and Susan Martin have been married for two years
      offenders and substance abusers. Calling herself a “Girl Scout”     now, and if ever two people were destined to be together it’s
      for life, she had a desire to work outside with “natural” things    them. Both are certified as Commonwealth of Virginia Master
      as much as she could, and did so by volunteering to work in         Naturalists, in addition to being professional Park Rangers for
      that regard in addition to her full-time job. When a full-time      the Army Corps of Engineers.
      vacancy for a Park Ranger opened at Philpott, she jumped at              In that regard they devote a significant share of their per-
      the opportunity.                                                    sonal time working with the Virginia Museum of Natural History
           As for Danny Martin, he was raised in Bassett, Virginia and    in Martinsville, Virginia Tech and other Virginia colleges and
      Philpott Lake was right in his backyard so to speak. Graduating     universities, local schools and churches, and the Department of
      from Virginia Tech with a degree in Mechanical Engineering, he      Game and Inland Fisheries.
      later obtained a Masters Degree in Secondary Education. He               In reference to the loss of their first family dog, Ranger, and
      too was deeply interested in working within the natural envi-       then finding Bobber, Susan said, “When Ranger died I grieved
      ronment. Part time work at Philpott soon evolved into full-time     for weeks and weeks. It was so surprising how much that dog
      work after the DuPont facility where he worked in Martinsville      had an impact in my life. But I believe we were given a gift…an-
      closed.                                                             other dog to love…who would return that love to us. When we
           Water safety is just one of many focus areas in which the      first laid eyes on Bobber, hiding under that pile of tires, love’s
      Martins are involved on a daily basis. Susan, for example,          full circle was completely fulfilled—the loss of Ranger opened a
      instructs visitors about local wildlife and gives interpretive      passage for Bobber to enter”. AE
      presentations pertaining to local history. Danny does the same,
      and also created a new educational program for visitors re-
      lated to fossil fuels and hydroelectric power, as they pertain to        The author is the Editor of Army Engineer magazine. His home
      the environment. Both he and Susan agreed that what they do         is but a short drive from Philpott Lake, and he spends many relax-
      overall is to concentrate more on “thought and understanding”       ing hours annually fishing, kayaking and exploring as much as he
      by visitors, and less on just presenting facts. Their efforts, as   can about the beauty of living in Southwest Virginia…in part due
      well as the efforts of other Park Rangers, have been extremely      to the dedicated efforts of Park Rangers working with the Army
      successful at Philpott Lake, since there have been no drown-        Corps of Engineers.

       TOP: Ranger Susan Martin greets Bobber as he is helped
       to exit the vehicle in which he travels. His friendly and
       willing attitude makes him a wonderful real-life rep-
       resentative of the Corps-sponsored “Bobber Dog” pro-
       gram, often portrayed in Corps Visitor’s Centers with
       the stuffed toy dog in the photo to the right. Bobber is
       shown above in his new bed, a few days after he was
       found abandoned. FACING PAGE: The VERY lucky dog.

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