A few days ago I was cleaning out my desk and came across a copy of the ElDo Sun dated May 26, 2016. The reason I saved it is because in it was an article about Smokey the Bear. That triggered a memory of a situation I experienced many years ago in New Mexico.
I was a land surveror for the Buraeu of Land Management headquartered in Demark, CO. I was assigned to make a property boundary survey in the Gila (pronounced Heela) wilderness area near Silver City, NM. The subject parcel was located in a very isolated part of the area and was accessible only by a rocky road taking nearly 2 1⁄2 hours to travel. My crew and I managed to get room and board from an employee of the State of New Mexico living and working at an old camp near the end of the road. The employee’s name was George Hightower. I think he was hired to “control” the population of bears and mountain lions. I forget his wife’s name but she was a really neat lady and she fixed all of the meals for the whole crew for the duration of the survey. George was a very likeable guy and a great story teller. He claimed to be the person who found and rescued the original Smokey the Bear near Ruidoso, NM, at the fire mentioned in your newspaper article. I have no reason to doubt his claim. He was very knowledgeable about hunting and trapping and I would sit up nearly every night listening to his stories about his hunting experiences. He had a ton of them.
One of his stories was about his dogs having a bear treed but the bear panicked and was trying to escape by backing down the tree. George was afraid the bear might kill one or more of his dogs if if made it to the ground; so he stood under the bear and pushed on its rump to get it back up the tree. I don’t remember why he didn’t just shoot the bear because I think that was a part of his job, but as I remember, he left the bear in the tree and left with his dogs.
My favorite story though was about George finding and “adopting” a small orphaned mountain lion cub (kitten) and raised it as a pet. The cub grew up and George would take it with him, chained inside the bed of his pickup while driving through the streets in Silver City. Naturally, that would attract a lot of attention, especially by the dogs running loose in town. One day a dog was chasing the truck, barking at the lion. All of a sudden the lion reached down and scooped up the dog into the truck bed and killed it. As it turned out, the dog belonged to the mayor of Silver City. George never would tell me what his punishment was but I suspect in was considerably light because George and his wife were highly respected by the people in Silver City.
My memory leaves a lot to be desired for names, dates and places about anything that long ago but that’s my story, and I’m stickin’ to it. What a really neat experience.
This information is all true to the best of my memory.