Oak Grove Hotshots Blog

Crew Stories


I was a forester attached to the Oak Grove Hotshots in 1976 through 1978. Whenever the crew was short, I was just 5 minutes from the office so I got called out a lot. I spent two full months with the crew in 1977. Since I am in several pictures with the crew in 1976 and 1977 I thought I would send along a few of my best pictures from the Hog Fire on the Klamath. This was a 9 day assignment on the line and as I recall, we had one hot can meal on a ridge that whole assignment. Now they call this coyote tactics, then it was called “being hung out to dry”. C-Rations…I still can’t look at pork in a can, but I would fight over a the English Toffee in a B-2 unit. Still have my P38 on my key chain, just in case.

Steve Arney had modified his Dodge emblem to read DOG on the front of his pickup truck in 1976. The crew switched the first and the last letters and he didn’t notice until the end of the 1977 fire season. We did have fun.

I retired as the Stanislaus NF Forest Silviculturist. Still working on a Type 2 Incident Management Team as Plans Chief through City of Sonora FD. I had an assignment in September where I saw Bob Serrato who told me about the reunion possibility and your site.

Sorry, I can’t remember the other crew members names in these pictures. I am working our my logistics for attending the reunion. George Roby was my first Ranger when I got picked up.
John Schmechel

The two photos below are of Oak Grove Hot Shot Crew 1-4-2 laying a pipeline from a spring in upper Millard Canyon to Sunset Ridge to a place I believe called Sierra Saddle. It’s a couple miles, give or take, east of the Sunset Ridge Station. If I remember the story correctly, a group of equestrians, maybe a club, stopped there one day and thought it would be nice to have water there for their horses. They passed the hat and collected several hundred dollars and took the money down to the District Ranger at Oak Grove. That summer, 1959, we built the water system. It consisted of a water trough and drinking fountain. A bit of historical trivia.
Dick Willamson.

The Great Oak Grove Shaving Cream Massacre of 1968
A short work of non-fiction
Chuck Grennell

This tale takes place during a time that I was employed on the Oak Grove Hot Shot crew and working in the Angeles National Forest. As the reader of this work might imagine, when a bunch of eighteen-year-olds work and are housed together for a summer, there would be more than a few practical jokes played. This story is the account of one such event. It is specifically chosen (and slightly modified) for its “G” rating. Not everything that happened that summer can be revealed, even after the passage of forty four years.

This is chronicled with some speculation and conjecture that assumes information that is not in the possession of the author. The author would therefore not be in a position to testify, under oath, to all of the details that will be told here. This is, however, chiefly intended to be non-fiction.

The plot was hatched by those two well-known practical jokers Frank Hacker and Paul Evens. They were always known as “Hacker and Evens.” Most of the crew members were called by their last names; that part wasn’t unusual. The unusual part was that their names were perpetually intertwined, linked and paired. They were seldom referred to singly. When their names came up, it was pretty much always as a duo and pretty much always Frank’s name first and Paul’s name second.

I don’t know which one of the two came up with this plan; I’m fairly sure that they both put their minds to it with a will. In the final analysis, they seemed equally at the bottom of the attack.

The Great Oak Grove Shaving Cream Massacre occurred late one night, in the summer of 1968, after the mandatory lights-out time. As I recall that would have been after 10:00 Post Meridian. There were three different wings to the barracks that we all shared. Frank and Paul were together in a smaller wing. The rest of us were spread out in the two larger wings of the building. My associates and I were in the middle barracks wing and either asleep or trying to get there when this all happened.

Without warning the lights in our wing suddenly came on. There stood Hacker and Evens in their boxer shorts. They were each holding a can of Barbasol shaving cream in both hands. And they were both hollering: “Shaving cream fight!” They began running up and down the length of our barracks wing spraying shaving cream on everyone and everything. The reader will easily be able to imagine that they clearly had the advantage in this endeavor. This was partly due to the fact that none of the rest of us had been forewarned about this impending and unwarranted attack. It was sort of the shaving cream version of Pearl Harbor as far as the element of surprise goes. The degree of injury that was inflicted was, of course, considerably less.

The natural reaction of the group under attack was to jump out of bed and try to extract some amount of revenge. The advantage, in this instance, being on the side of the Hacker/Evens team, led to their ability to make good their escape without suffering any retribution at all Or so they thought.

They had apparently worked out most of the details with some degree of precision, including their getaway. They ran off into the night and hid somewhere outside that we never did discover. It turned out that they’d made one small miscalculation in this otherwise brilliant escapade. When they made their egress they had dropped their arsenal on the floor; I suppose that they thought that they might run faster with empty hands. They did run fast and there’s no denying that.

When the posse returned to the barracks, after having given up on finding the shaving cream terrorists, I happened to notice the abandoned cans of shaving cream on the floor of the barracks. An idea came to me that I felt a need to act on. I don’t know that I would have done this without the extreme provocation that had led up to all of this.

I grabbed up all four cans of shaving cream and completely emptied the remaining contents into each of Hacker/Evens’ bunks. I pulled the sheets and blankets back up to the top. I disposed of the empty cans in the bathroom waste basket, so as not to leave any obvious clues behind.

Much, much later that night I knew exactly when they had returned. The rest of the crew did, too. Everyone woke up to hear a very loud chorus of “Oh, no! Oh, crap! Not this!” and other spontaneous utterances that I’ll leave to the imagination of the reader, this story having a “G” rating.

I don’t know that Frank or Paul ever did know who accomplished this successful counterattack. I don’t recall that I ever took credit for it prior to the writing of this story. I am writing this now so that I can send it to Frank’s widow Mrs. Gisela Hacker. I had told her that I’d try to come up with something that I could remember about that summer that I’d spent with the Hacker and Evens duo. Frank passed away way too early. His kids were young and didn’t get normal lifetime to get to know their Dad. I hope that this story will let them know that he had a good (if somewhat unusual) sense of humor. I often think that is one of the most important senses that a person needs to develop. Frank had managed to develop this one early on in life.

Chuck Grennell January 19, 2012