Right around 1997, my wife, Sally Jo Davis, and I, took a summertime drive throughout our beautiful, native Washington state. There’s such a wide variety of scenery to see in the Evergreen State: mountains, deserts, rain forests, huge lakes, wild rivers….
We decided to make a stop at one of our state’s pretty lakes located in the Cascade Mountains, Lake Kachess (pronounced Ka-cheese’), to visit my boyhood pal, Chris Baker. Chris was and is, a trapper, a woodsman, a fisherman, a carpenter, and just a great guy. He was running his small, family resort, Baker Camp, which was located right on the lake. It was not really a resort; it was a little group of rustic cabins situated by the Eastern Washington lake; the perfect getaway, and the alternative to a busy, noisy resort.
Sally Jo and Chris hadn’t previously met, so they were getting acquainted. We were all three sitting outside of Chris’ cabin in old wooden camp chairs, soaking up the sun, visiting, and feeding the cute chipmunks, which were everywhere. The chipmunks just loved peanuts, so they came out of the woodwork, so to speak, to crawl right up on our laps to take peanuts from us. They were very tame, and didn’t bite.
When I was nine years old, before I’d even met Chris and his older brother Karl, my future besties, my family enjoyed a short vacation at Baker Camp. My brother and I spent a good deal of our time watching and feeding the chipmunks back then. Being able to enjoy the little creatures was one of our favorite things about Baker Camp. We purchased a bag of peanuts from Chris’ Grandpa and Grandma Baker, to offer to the little guys. And, in 1997, I still enjoyed the antics of the chipmunks.
Well, suddenly, a green pickup truck pulled up in front of the cabin, stirring up a little cloud of dust. It came to a sudden halt; and I noticed the person sitting in the pickup bed was jostled, as the driver brought truck to a quick stop. But it wasn’t a person, per se. Lo and behold, it was “Smokey The Bear”, riding in the back of the truck! — Well, yeah, it was a guy outfitted in a huge, hairy Smokey The Bear suit, complete with his trademark campaign hat and blue jeans.
There were about a dozen children in attendance that day. They were running around the camp, having a ball. Some were throwing pine cones at each other. Some had joined us adults in feeding the chipmunks. But all of the kids stopped what they were up to and quickly gathered around Smokey. They weren’t at all afraid of the big bear. Instead, they seemed to be totally in awe of him.
Smokey said hello to the kids, and launched immediately into his little Smokey The Bear speech. Of course, he told the kids to be very careful with fire. He said, “We wouldn’t want to lose this beautiful forest which surrounds us. All of the animals – the bears, the fox, the mink, the martins, squirrels, chipmunks; the birds, the snakes and salamanders – they all need this forest. It’s really their home as much or more than it is ours. So we need to be very, very careful not set their home on fire. — So, kids, what did Smokey say? What do we all need to be careful with?” All of the children responded, in unison, “Fire!”. “That’s right kids! We need to be careful with fire. Because, only you can prevent forest fires.”
And with that, Smokey took off his big, furry head, revealing his perspiration-drenched, twenty-something, bearded persona, grabbed a can of beer from an old cooler which had also been riding in the truck bed, and said, “And now, Smokey’s gonna crack a cold one”.
Hey, Kids! Have you heard the “Smokey The Bear Song”? My favorite band on Earth, Canned Heat, did a great version of it, many years ago. They were, and are concerned about taking care of our planet. Here ya go!