This posting is a very long one but one I think if your a Smokey Bear history buff you will like. Along with it is yet another activity for you to use and share, its a connect the dot/coloring sheet.
The following is a document I recently received along with a lot of other historical information. There are so many stories about the first few days after Smokey was found, who actually found him clinging to the burned tree, and how he eventually made his way to Dr. Smith and then eventually to his home in DC. By no means do I want to diminish any of the "stories" that are around or the claims by anyone who remembers having a part in finding and caring for the little bear cub that became Smokey. But I do want to share this letter written by Don Bell, Ray Bells son and brother to Judy Bell both of which whose names are much more associated with Smokey. But Don Bell as a 15 year old was very much involved and was also the recipient of all the stories his dad passed along.
So please enjoy this bit of history and I for one am placing a lot of creditability in it factualness.
I have taken care to type exactly as written the 10 page document, which follows.
I've been meaning to write this item for years, but kept putting it off for one reason or another. You may ask, "What prompted you to write the story now after all these years?"
For over 50 years I have been listening to various and a sundry people tell their story about how they were involved with Smokey Bear one way or another. Just recently one of my family's friends, G. W. Chapman, has been the center of the Smokey Bear story that caught my
attention and thought it was about time I put down in writing the story of how a tiny bear cub weighing four pounds that was saved from a forest fire became a living symbol representing the famous forest fire prevention paper symbol, "Smokey the Bear".
A month ago I had a dentist appointment with a dentist here in Las Cruces and as I was waiting for my appointment I picked up a June 2005 Smithsonian magazine and was flipping through the pages. As I flipped, I spotted a picture of a fellow standing in a forest and thought it looked a lot like a fellow I knew by the name of G. W. Chapman. I looked again and sure enough
it was a picture of G. W. and the article surrounding the picture was an article telling the story about how G. W. Chapman was the fellow who was a fire fighter on the forest fire near the small community of Capitan, New Mexico and was responsible for rescuing the cub bear out of a burnt tree in the forest fire camp that went on to become Smokey Bear.
I saw the story but couldn't believe what I was reading, because I knew the story was not
the story I have lived with for over fifty years. A question popped in my mind, "How in the world did G. W. manage to get this questionable story in the prestigious Smithsonian Magazine?"
The next thing I hear within a month or so was the Smithsonian Magazine had sponsored G. W. to a trip to Washington D.C. to attend a 100 year celebration of the U.S. Forest Service where gave talks on how he saved Smokey Bear cub and was signing autographs there. Next was I received the word there was a U.S. Forest meeting in Ruidoso where G.W. was lecturing about how he saved the cub. Within a week of that meeting there was an article in our local newspaper, "Las Cruces Sun-News" sent from G.W.'s hometown newspaper in Alamogordo telling the same story about how G.W. saved the cub bear that became Smokey Bear.
I decided to write this story to perhaps bring to light and clear up some of the past stories told and written. I'm doing this is as how I remembered it as a 15-year-old in May 1950 ago some 55 years ago. I'm the only one left in my family that had direct contact with the cub who is still alive to tell the story as my father; mother and my sister have passed away.
There have been numerous children's books and pamphlets written with the title "The True Story of Smokey Bear" by various and asundry authors. In 1994 there was a full sized "book:' written about Smokey Bear by William Clifford Lawter Jr. published by Lindsay Smith Publishers, which bears the name of" Smokey Bear 20252 A Biography"
All of these books had to be approved and blessed by the U.S Forest service before they could be published because they have the copyright to any and all things connected to Smokey Bear. They own Smokey Bear and anything connected to the name in total. You cannot publish any book or any other writing on the subject without their approval. You cannot sell and items commercially having Smokey Bear's name on it without their approval. You cannot have a commercial building with Smokey Bear's name, or part of the name, on it without the U.S. Forest Service's approval.
Bill Lawter's book was well done; however one must keep in mind that the U.S. Forest Service and my dad edited it. Like I said, the story is as I remember it and there are numerous portions that do not agree with Bill Lawter's book or dad's final story. In my opinion, dad being a type of person who wanted to present a story on Smokey Bear that made all agencies and
persons of power look good and was a presentable story to children. He felt the future of saving the nation's forests were children and to bend the story here and there was well worth the
modification (he would never admit he modified the story. He and I had several discussions on
the subject.). The major modification he made was that the planning of making the bear cub into
the living symbol of Smokey the Bear was culminated in the fire camp before he flew the cub to Santa Fe.
I would like to present to you the story, as I remember it, and let you make up your own mind
what the true story is.
The making of a cub bear into Smokey The Bear as I remember it
By Donald R. Bell
Dad walked into our house carrying a shoebox and when he opened the box we were looking at a male bear cub weighing approximately four pounds. The cub looked a bit sick and had its feet bound in white gauze bandages and the hair on its belly was a bit singed.
It was not unusual for dad to bring home animals of various ages for his family to care for. He had brought home baby deer (fauns), other cub bear, beaver and other wild animals for the family to care for until the animals could be re-located in the wild or at a local zoo. These animals had been abandoned in the wild and would have died if he had not taken them in or they
were animals people had caught in the wild with traps and were using them as pets or commercially. One example was one bear cub was tied to a gasoline pump in the northern community of New Mexico to bring in more business. The keeping of a wild game animal is against the law in New Mexico unless approved by the New Mexico State Game Warden.
My mother, Ruth, dad, Ray L. Bell, and sister, Judy, had recently moved from Capitan, New Mexico to Santa Fe.
Dad was employed by the New Mexico State Game Department. And had recently been promoted from District Game Warden in Capitan to Chief of Law Enforcement for the entire
State of New Mexico. Dad was also the pilot of the only airplane for the Department. The plane
was a Piper Cub Tandem built by Piper aircraft Company.
On May 4, 1950 a forest fire was started by a lighting struck in the Capitan Mountains 15
miles east of the Small community of Capitan. Due to high winds the fire quickly spread and fire
fighter from the area and federal and state agencies were called in to fight the fire.
One of the state agencies was the New Mexico State Game Department, which called in several District Game Wardens. Because The NMSGD was called in and The Game Department
had the only experienced small plane pilot and dad being that pilot, dad was sent to Capitan to
assist with the fire May 7 when the fire reached its peak. He would fly over the fire and report to
the ground crews fighting the fire how the fire was moving and how fast it was traveling.
On May 9th dad had been flying the fire off and on for two days when he had landed and was visiting with the ground crews in the fire camp. He was approached by Speed Simons, one of the District Game Wardens acting as a fire fighting crew chiefs, who told dad there was a
soldiers in camp who had taken a bear cub out a burned sapling tree and had it in his possession
in the camp. Soldiers from Ft. Bliss had been volunteered to fight the fire by the commander of Ft. Bliss.
Dad started walking through the fire camp looking for the soldier with the bear. Soon he came upon a young, 19-year-old Soldier setting on his sleeping bag, leaning against a tree with
the head of a cub, Black Bear sticking out of the front of his fatigue shirt.
Dad swatted down in front of the soldier and said, "Hello son. I see you have a bear there in your shirt. What are you planning to do with it?
The soldier replied in obviously an accent from Tennessee or Kentucky, "Howdy, Yessir-ee I got me a bear. I been feeding him with Baby Ruth candy bars and some can milk. I'm goin' to send this here bear back to my mom in Tennessee. She ain't never seen no bear before."
Dad replied, "I see the bear Looks kind a sick and it's feet are a little burned what do think about me taking that bear to a doctor and get him fixed up?"
Much conversation continued before he was able to talk the bear away from the soldier. It took dad 45 minutes to complete the transaction. Dad didn't want just use the law on the soldier who had saved the cub from death, to take the bear away from him?
Dad said he found some bacon grease in the cook shack and smeared it on the cub's feet and the night before he flew home to Santa Fe; he spent the night at Mr. Guck's home. Mr. Guck was the National Forest's officer stationed in Capitan at the time? When dad showed up at the Guck's house Mrs. Guck felt sorry for the cub, found an empty shoebox in the house and a clean white rag to place in the box for the cub to sleep in. Dad had been carrying the cub around in an
old towel he had scrounged in fire camp. The cub had to be kept in the garage that night because it was crying and keeping everyone awake.
The next morning dad filled his gas tanks with gas, made sure the string around the shoebox holding the cub was tight, loaded the cub into the airplane and took off from the cow pasture he had landed in.
When he arrived at the small airfield on the out skirts of Santa Fe and walked into the small building acting as a terminal building he was carrying the shoe box under his arm and his clothing bag under the other. The Ettingers' were the operators of the airfield and Mrs. Ettinger loved to take pictures with her newly purchased 8 mm movie camera. She photographed the cub and dad for several minutes and when she was done called Dr. Smith's office, the local
veterinarian, to tell him dad was on his way into Santa Fe with a cub bear that needed attention.
She then called the Santa Fe New Mexican, the local newspaper, and gave them the story of bear cub having been saved from a forest fire had been flown into town by a Game Warden by the name of Ray Bell. The next day a small article appeared the fifth page of the paper and the cub was named "Hot Foot Teddy".
Like I said earlier, the cub wasn't feeling too well when we got him. Dad explained that, as far as he knew, hadn't eaten any real food for several days so if we didn't solve the problem quickly, the cub would die. Mother had experience with other infant animals and decided what to do.
My sister was four years old at the time and she was still walking around with a baby bottle stuck in her mouth; so mother confiscated one of Judy's bottles filled it with a mixture of pabulum, honey and canned milk into a slurry consistent and poured it into the bottle. She had to gradually cut the end of the rubber nipple of the bottle larger and larger so the pabulum mixture
would flow out of the bottle then stuck it in the cub's mouth? I held the cub with one hand and pried the cub's mouth open while mother squirted some of the mixture in the bottle into the
bear's mouth. The cub batted his eyes and immediately started sucking the pabulum concoction down. We had to jerk the nipple out of his mouth once in a while to keep him from choking and when we did he gave us a battle.
Mother knew from experience of raising baby animals you could not feed them cows milk because it cause the babies to have the scowers (diarrhea) and they will die of dehydration.
You can use goats milk and it's OK, just don't use Cow’s milk.
Judy was not pleased we used her favorite bottle to feed the bear. For that matter she wasn't pleased with the bear to be near her. She thought the bear was cute, but only at a distance.
She had seen how the bear had bitten dad and me when were handling it. The interesting thing was that the bear never bit mother.
The cub recovered quickly from the burns on its feet. It's a good thing because he would chew any bandage off his feet as soon as we put them on. It was impossible to keep any kind of a
covering on his feet. I would hold the bear while mother put the ointment on his feet and that was a chore because he didn't like to be held still. I ended up with scars on my hands when he jerked
his head out of my grasp and bite me with his needle like teeth. I became more proficient at holding him still as time went by.
In the evenings we would bring the bear in from the back porch where we kept him in a wire cage and Jet (the dog) would play with the bear. Jet was a two-month-old, black Cocker Spaniel male puppy we had in the house when cub showed up.
They would race around the house with Jet in hot pursuit of the bear. The bear was faster and could traverse up and over the furniture quicker (much more agile). The bear would climb up
in a wooden kitchen chair, lie down and dangle his paw down to where the dog was standing on the floor with his hind legs on the floor and his front feet up on the leg of the chair. The bear
would then slap at Jet with his paw. The bear would then jump down from the chair stand up on his hind legs and when Jet ran at the bear he would grab Jet in a bear hug and fall over on the floor. They would wrestle around for a few seconds then the bear would roll Jet over on his back, pin him down and began to chew on Jet's ears. It was at this point we would have to pull them apart because Jet would start screaming in pain. Once we separated the two, jet would shake his
head and they would go at it again. This time Jet was really mad and went after the bear in earnest; however the bear, being so much faster, would totally allude Jet which made Jet even more frustrated and he would start barking trying to get at the bear who was laying on the seat of the couch looking down at the stupid dog barking at him. I'll swear the bear was grinning when this happened.
A few weeks went by and dad showed up a house with another cub bear. This bear was a female (I guess I forgot to clarify that the cub we had was a male. I just inferred it, huh?). We named the female Ruby and she was about the same size as the bear we had been keeping.
Ruby's personality was a lot different than the other bear. She loved to be cuddled and held. If you wearing a short sleeved shirt, she would suck on the skin on your arm while being held. She was a little older than the other bear and in excellent physical condition so dad was able to take her to the zoo within a few days. Dad had found Ruby in one of his trips to Taos, New Mexico tied to a gas pump on the side of the road to Taos with a piece of lariat rope around her neck. He
sopped ad confiscated the cub (he wasn't as kind to the service station owner as he was to the soldier), put her in the back seat of his sedan and came home.
The few days we had Ruby and the other bear the two did not get along together. The bear we had first fought Ruby tooth and nail. He hated her; so we had to have two cages to keep them apart. Ruby tried to get along but the other bear wouldn't have it.
A few days after Ruby left, a friend of mother and dad's by the name of Harold Walters called and asked if he could take pictures of the "The Bear". Harold worked for the ew Mexico State Oil Commission and moonlighted as a professional photographer. Dad said there was no problem about pictures and Harold came to the house with his huge camera and other paraphernalia to take pictures of the bear.
Harold set his camera up in the small living room while I went out on the porch and got the bear. I held the bear while mother brushed him down with an old hairbrush. We set the bear down on the floor near a wall and Harold took a picture or two them mother thought it would be nice if pictures would be taken of the bear and Judy; so mother combed Judy's hair, dressed her in a colorful shirt (the pictures were black and white) a pair of jeans and boots. Mother then thought of placing a small shag rug on the floor for Judy and the bear to be on. She thought it would look like grass. Judy was not enthusiastic over the idea, but after some coxing, four-year old Judy agreed to taking a picture with the bear. The bear wasn't going to cooperate taking the
picture with Judy until mother thought of smearing a bit of honey on Judy's chin. It worked, but it scared Judy to have the bear licking on her face. She put up with it long enough for Harold to take a picture. Dad got the idea to slip a "Smokey the Bear" poster behind Judy and the bear during the picture taking procedure. He had the poster in the closet leftover from a meeting with the U.S. Forest Service a month or so before.
Harold took several pictures that evening, packed up his stuff and went home to develop the pictures. Around eleven that night Harold called dad and told him the pictures came out very well and would it be OK to take them to the Santa Fe New Mexican paper for a human-interest story. Dad said he didn't see there would be a problem with that so go ahead and take the
pictures to the paper. We were a bit excited because we thought Pictures of Judy and the bear might be in the paper on the 5th page.
The next morning when we woke up and saw the newspaper that had been delivered to our house we were in for the shock of our lives. On the front page of the New Mexican, taking up half the front page was a picture of Judy and the bear with the caption underneath of,
"Smokey the Bear has been found".
The phone started ringing and then we found out a reporter at the New Mexican had written the article attached the pictures of the bear cub and Judy and sent it to all the newspapers throughout the United States by UP! the previous night and the article and pictures were on their
front pages, some had the picture covering the complete front page with only the caption of "Smokey the Bear has been found."
Mother pulled me aside and told me she was very concerned about the article in the newspaper. She was very worried that dad might be in serious trouble for this article going out without dad's boss, Elliot S. Barker, the New Mexico State Game Warden not knowing about the
article beforehand. "Dad may get fired over this," she said.
We had had the cub approximately a month or less when this bomb was dropped in the Bell's house.
The cub bear we had been taken care of at our house was no longer, The Bear. He had a full name and it was "Smokey the Bear".
I hope you enjoyed the story and will find the acticity sheet useful.