Putting out fires

junior forest rangerI was asked recently how long I’ve been “putting out fires.” For quite a while, it turns out.

When I was little I became an official Junior Forest Ranger, one of hundreds of thousands of children recruited by Smokey the Bear. (I know, I know, his correct name is Smokey Bear but I grew up when it was popular to add “the” and taking it back out of his name just makes it sound wrong to me.)

My little Golden children’s book had a drawing of tiny Smokey clinging to a charred tree, his feet burned, his mother missing and never to be found. My heart was heavy with the sadness of it. I needed no encouragement to become one of Smokey’s rangers.

So when the Forest Service’s package arrived in the mail, I was beside myself with excitement. Official badge, pamphlet, card signed by Smokey himself, even a plastic spoon! As she pinned on my badge, my mother asked if I was ready to shoulder my responsibility.

I was. As she and I made the rounds in our small upstate New York town, I reminded the postmistress, the pharmacist, the shoe store owner.

“I am a Jewish Forest Ranger! Only YOU can prevent forest fires!” I declared with zest.

They all beamed at me, some of them even laughing with delight. The minister of our Methodist church seemed the most delighted of all. I was very pleased with the impact I was having. Who knew forest rangering could be so easy and make people so happy?

I like to think of it as my first foray into putting out fires. Thank you, Smokey.

Photo source: Disneyland Records Blog

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