Monday, May 10, 2010

Who knew? Smokey (the) Bear: The Story Behind the Story

I'm still kind of enjoying my recent NAGT-NESTA field trip to the eastern Sierra Nevada even though I am back home, so here is a picture of South Deadman Creek Dome, a very young plug dome in the Inyo Craters chain between Mammoth and Mono Lake. The dome is composed of obsidian and pumice, but a chemical analysis would probably indicate a composition of rhyolite, a lava with a very high silica content. Such eruptions are often very explosive. The eruption that formed this dome was very recent, possibly less than one thousand years ago. The picture (from a trip in 2008) is from the summit of Lookout Mountain, a resurgent dome within the Long Valley caldera.

In trying to find some more info on the Mono-Inyo Craters, I came across an excellent field guide to the geology of the Owens Valley/Mammoth Lakes region online from David Jessey at Cal Poly Pomona. Buried in the text of the second day's guide I found this little gem...I offer it with no further comment...

Smokey Bear Flat on right. Smokey Bear Flat was once the estate and residence of Smokey the Bear. Smokey, celebrity spokesperson for U.S. Forest Service, amassed a sizeable personal fortune from commercial endorsements and the sale of "Smokey the Bear" memorabilia. He acquired this large parcel of land and built a 27-room, 30,000 square foot palatial mansion. Life was good and Smokey became a legend among bears. Alas, his good fortune was not to last. Smokey was advancing in years and the Forest Service made a decision that a younger, more vigorous bear was needed as spokesperson. Smokey was let go. A bitter Smokey sued the Forest Service claiming creative control of the Smokey Bear likeness and "Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires" logo. Sadly, the courts ruled in favor of the Forest Service. Smokey grew increasingly despondent. Mammoth residents report that in his last days Smokey was often seen wandering aimlessly about the town muttering things like, "Only You Can Prevent Forest Gump". Faced with dwindling financial resources and declining health Smokey took his own life. His heirs squandered what remained of the Smokey fortune and in a cruel irony, a forest fire destroyed his mansion. All that survives of this tragic chapter in American history is Smokey Bear Flat.
UPDATE: Gaelyn points out that it is Smokey Bear, not Smokey the Bear. I've said it that way since I was five, but I bow to a higher authority on the matter!

Signed, Garry the Hayes


Gaelyn said...

Cute story of "Smokey Bear" with no the. And I've always wondered why the National Park Service wears the flat top hat when Smokey is the Forest Service icon.

Edie Howe said...

I'm reminded of "Winnie Ther Pooh", living under the name of Sanders in the 100 aker wood.

BTW, I've got a shot of the table mountain from Highway 41 today; I'd love it if you could provide geological information on it.

Feel free to use it on your blog. I suspect its story is similar to the table mountain on 108 from the Dardanelles, 60 miles away.


yosemite faith said...

i used to live near the table mt on 108 near copperopolis. lots of them around. love this story of smokey. always loved him.