The key switch on Rangers is connected to a long rod that runs down the steering column, when you turn the key the rod slides the Ignition switch into it's various positions, ACC, OFF, RUN, and START.
Ignition switch is just above brake pedal on the side of the steering column, that's where all the wiring is.
Start circuit has a safety switch, on an automatic it is the NSS(neutral safety switch), it is located on the transmission, the shift linkage on drivers side.
When Gear selector is in Park the NSS should be closed and will pass on the 12volts from ignition switch to the starter relay which will engage starter motor.
If NSS is open then 12volts is not passed on
Ignition switch-----------NSS-----------starter relay-------starter motor
Column shifters on Ford trucks can get loose so while they go into Park they don't close the NSS all the way so you get a no start, try shifting to Neutral to see if that is the problem, NSS allows starting in Park and Neutral.
If it starts in neutral then you will need to tighten column shifter, google: loose ford column shifter
It is not a Ranger specific issue, it is a Ford issue and a common problem for all models with column shifter
NSS also operates Reverse lights, so if they are not working then could be NSS is bad, and since that fuse is blowing.......................
NSS is also now called the transmission range sensor or TRS
Example of one here: http://www.ebay.com/itm/Ford-4R44E-4...-/200889888668
Your 1997 Ranger 2.3l should have 4R44E transmission