Friday, May 30, 2014

US Hwy 70: Smokey Bear Lived Here!

So I'm driving through Lincoln County, NM, when I see this. You betcha I stopped to take a look!

What I expected to be a caution about preventing forest fires alters my consciousness when I read the plaque. Smokey Bear was a real bear? I thought he was just the creation of some ad agency!

I ponder this life changing bit of information as I drive into the small town of Capitan, NM, and am confronted with a barrage of signage. You betcha I stopped to check it all out!

It turns out that I was only partially ill-informed. Forest fire prevention became a priority during WWII, but the typical scare-tactic posters of the time weren't getting the message across to kids. So, the character of Smokey Bear was created to do the job. When the little bear was found in the burned forest, some clever chap had the idea to draft him as the real-life Smokey Bear. So, the fictional character came first, the real bear second!

The park has a remarkable museum of forest fire related topics, such as prevention, types of fires, fire-fighting strategies, etc. There's also, of course, a vast array of Smokey Bear memorabilia. Fictional or real, Smokey Bear has been known and loved world-wide for over 70 years.

Smokey Bear has long since died and is buried on the grounds of the park. You betcha I wandered out to pay my respects! Sadly, I was a little disappointed by the modest monument for such a star!

In my mind, there's a darker side of the story. How was the real Smokey Bear compensated for all his work aimed at preventing forest fires? He was locked in a zoo for his entire adult life. Perhaps a future Smokey Bear will modify his tag-line to read: "Only you can prevent wild animal incarceration!"

Click here to see exactly where I am posting this from on Google Maps.

1 comment:

Mom said...

I love the way you cut to the mustard with tales! Thanks for the smile and the moral reminder that no good deed goes un-punished in some way...