|A young "Smokey" on the Republic lot, circa 1938.|
The first reference to Smokey comes from the obscure autobiography of Ira McTavish, a bit player whose impressive "49'er" beard frequently landed him background parts in studio westerns of the thirties. In between takes on Three Faces West (1940), McTavish recalls sitting with John Wayne on the back lot's famous saloon porch. "Tuckered out from a long day shooting, Duke took off his boots to air his barking dogs," recalls McTavish, "Now what Duke didn't know was that an ornery mama cat had drifted down from the hills and had set to birthing under the planks where he was dangling his feet. Suddenly he jumps up like his chaps is on fire and lets out a war whoop you could hear all the way over to Culver City. Smokey, which is what we came to call the mama cat on account of her being coal black, had sunk her fangs right into the Duke's ankle and weren't letting go for nothing."
|The Duke's ankle after his 1940 tussle with Smokey|
|Lowe: Not impressed.|