Bill Smart Archives
Mt. Whitney Packers
of the 1940s - 1950s
photos courtesy of Paul Lamos from the archives of his stepfather,
and former MWPT packer, - Bill Smart.
L/R: ?, Mary Lamos, George Lamos, ? |
L/R: Bill Smart and ? |
(Another photo: 2, 3)
Packers looking at something at Whitney Portals (it appears) |
Bill Smart on the summit of Mt. Whitney
Trail crossing in the snow
L/R: ? and Bill Smart
Sierra Club "High Trip" Packers
the thought of being on another Sierra Club "High Trip"
brought excitement to most packers. It could be "the best
of times and the worst of times" as Charles Dickens might
say. Those early days of High Sierra packing often saw upwards
of 200 people on the High Trip. There could be as many as 12
strings of mules, not to mention riding horses for some of the
Clubbers. With a horse and five mules per packer, the trips were
taking anywhere from 90 to 120 head of stock into the mountains.
Without a night herder it would have been impossible to locate
all of that stock in the morning.
left to right (rear log): Smokey Bye, Charlie Gilmore, Bill Smart, Bruce Morgan, Jack Hyneman, Ivan Hason,
unknown, unknown, Ted Ott.
(front, sitting on the log) Pete Garner, Bud Steele.
the Life of a Packer"[pdf]
by Norman B. ("Ike") Livermore Jr.
Club "High Trip" Packers
Another View of the same bunch of packers.
like this made all of the unexpected wrecks, falling loads, loose
saddle rigging, thrown shoes and sometimes long early morning
wrangles all worth it. It could be Benson Lake in northern Yosemite
National Park or Moraine Lake on the Chagoopa Plateau in Sequoia
National Park. The lake almost didn't matter. It was the "Spirit
of the Sierra" which gripped each packer every summer and
seemed to make life all worthwhile!
left to right (standing): Charlie Gilmore, Bud Steele, Mert Stewart,
Tom Jefferson, unknown, Pete Garner,
Ike Livermore, Ed Thistlewait,
(seated): Ivan Hanson, Bill Smart, Dick Troeger, unknown.
taking a break in the Sierra Club commissary
Sierra Club commissary truly was (other than his mule) his best
friend on a High Trip. Of course, it didn't hurt to have a beautiful
young lady on commissary detail to become temporarily (for the
duration of the trip) enamored with you. Not only could her smile
and affection make all of those early morning wrangles and trail
dust seem pleasant; but, you could be assured of a hearty lunch
when other packers might be eating peanut butter sandwiches,
beef sticks and crackers. Becoming a "friend of the commissary
crew" was of utmost importance!
2, 3, 4
to R: unknown, unknown, unknown (woman) Tommy Jefferson, Pete
Sierra Guitar Pickin'
relaxing in the High Sierra entertaining himself, the packers
and the Sierra Clubbers. This is the way packing was meant to
be; well, at least part of the time anyway. If you couldn't play
a guitar, at least you could whistle or sing your favorite tunes
as you wiled away the hours in the saddle between camp moves
or pushing cash. And who could complain about your voice, your
horse? You certainly wouldn't hear any complaints from those
is a tribute written by Sara Jefferson which appeared in the
April 1993 issue of "The Album." Thanks to Rich
McCutchan for loaning me the issue.
you hear the name Thomas Jefferson you see the Declaration of
Independence or the third president. When I hear the name Thomas
Jefferson I see a big, handsome Paiute, Shoshone, and Mono Indian,
a large grey hat, and handmade cowboy boots. I see a man that
has gone through a lot in his time. The man I see is my Dad Thomas
He was born in 1927, in Lone Pine on the old Spainhower Ranch.
He grew up being a cowboy, riding, roping, and storytelling.
I would like to share the stories and adventures with you because
these stories have helped make a piece of Inyo County history.
When my dad started cowboying, cowboys had a hard life. Riding
8 to 10 days straight on a cattle drive from Lone Pine to Crowley
Lake, forcing 2000 head of Hereford (white faced) cattle ahead
of them. Riding in the Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter got to
be very hard work. He has worked with the local ranchers Fred
Reynolds, A.A. Briely, Sandy Kemp, and the Spainhower Ranch.
Through these people my dad developed a knowledge of the Owens
Valley that has served him and Inyo County well.
In the summer, my dad would pack in the mountains. My dad has
packed in many famous people in the mountains, the director of
"Ben Hur" for instance, William Wyler; the world renowned
photographers Ansel Adams, and Cedric Wright; Robert Cutter,
whose family owns the Cutter laboratories, and the maker of Cutter
products. He has also packed Robert Middleton, the actor; Eddie
Anderson, who was Jack Benny' s sidekick; William Colby, the
founder of the Sierra Club; Norman Livermore, who was governor
Reagan's Resource Department manager; and the former President
of the United States, Ronald Reagan. Through these people, my
dad has touched not only Inyo County history but he helped Inyo
touch California, U.S., and World history. Besides cowboying
and showing famous people the majestic backcountry of the High
Sierra, he wrangled for the movies. What he did mainly was to
supply the horses, and to make sure all the horses and cattle
wouldn't run off. He also did special effects in the movie "Rawhide."
He's worked on movies
such as "Jungle Raiders", "Tarzan", "Desert
Mysteries", "The Untamed Breed", "Kim",
"Rawhide", "The Violent Men", "The Great
Race", and many other low budget, unknown movies.
One of the western stories my dad likes to tell is about when
he was bringing a string of frisky, bronc mules down Horseshoe
Meadow road while the "King Of The Khyber Rifles" was
filming soldiers going over the supposed Khyber pass. They told
him to wait because he was in their way, but he wasn't about
to wait for a stupid movie with a bunch of frisky mules. It is
kind of impossible! So the director had to stop everything and
as he was coming slowly down the steep slope, all the people
scared the mules, the mules pulled back, breaking the ropes holding
them together. Actor, directors, and movie people were scrambling
for their lives. At that very moment the bellowing voice of Russel
Spainhower cried: "for God sakes people stand still."
This taught the directors a thing or two. My dad went onto his
business and that was that.
My dad has met many movie stars, Jack Elam (whom he played pool
with on the set of "Rawhide") also Randolph Scott,
Susan Hayward, Dean Stockwell, Dean Jagger (also in "Rawhide"),
and the ever famous Errol
Flynn who became a good friend. All of these movies brought stars,
hopefuls, and ideas, with these put together this made movie
history in Inyo County.
My dad has seen, met and talked to many famous and intelligent
people. But when he pulls out his guitar he I s the famous one.
I've even heard ladies call him the "best" guitar player
in the world! And even unbiased people love him.
My dad has often said: "I hired out to be tough and I think
I'm gonna fill the bill." Well with the history I have given
you, you see that my dad has done a lot of hard work in his life.
This hard work and toughness has contributed to the making of
Inyo County history. I hope now when you hear the name Thomas
Jefferson, next time, you see the great man I do.
by David R. Brower
from Medocino County, CA writes.
In 1970/71, I used to pack in from the old Sam Lewis site at
Haiwee Canyon to Dutch John Flat, with John Slaughter's bunch.
Those were some of the greatest experiences of my life! They
provided the basis for many hugely romantic memories - and one
of the most frightening: packing all the way in, including crossing
the South Fork, in utter and complete darkness! (NOT my idea!).
I have some vacation time in July, all to myself, for the first
time in 20 years - and what I want most of all to do, is go hang
out on the desert. I would very much like to walk in to our old
spot at D.J.F., but I've acquired some apprehension over the
years to attempting it alone.
Tracy Stillwater (May 2002)
Shoeing Look Easy
Jefferson shoeing at the Carroll Creek Pack Station. This was
obviously not a docile mule from the looks of it, otherwise the
mule's foot would not be tied up. Then again, this wasn't a bronc
mule ether or he would be using a shoeing machine. Shoeing, for
the packer, was a mix of art, ingenuity (especially in the backcountry)
and sheer guts. Just when you thing have the personality of a
particular mule figured out, he kicks you and the shoe off!
Packers of 1952"[pdf]
excerpt from the May 1952 "Sierra Club Bulletin"