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Jan. 11, 1989: Embers from the Yellowstone fires have cooled. But questions continue to burn. A hush falls over the courtroom as the "Yellowstone Three" - Secretary of the Interior Donald Hodel; National Park Service Director William Penn Mott; and Yellowstone Superintendent Robert Barbee file in with their legal defenders, Yogi Bear and Boo Boo. Prosecutor Smokey the Bear, who has come out of hibernation for this trial, nods as he passes the five grizzly and four black-bear jury. Judge Sugar Bear presides.

JUDGE SB: Hey everybody, we've got a really cool case here today - the Forest People vs. Donald Hodel et al. The defendants have been charged, hmmm, with negligence and malfeasance in the handling of the Yellowstone fires. How do the defendants, hmmm, plead?YOGI: Not guilty your judgeship, eh Boo Boo?

JUDGE SB: Is the prosecution, hmmm, ready?

SMOKEY: We call Bambi, who's forest home was destroyed by a forest fire, as an expert witness.

BAMBI: I still remember the smell of smoke in the air and Dad coming to tell us man's campfires had caught the forest on fire. By the time we finally crossed the river the entire forest ablaze.

YOGI: A moment of indulgence your honorship, I submit every parent who's ever been dragged by their 4-year-old to see "Bambi," knows the movie has a happy ending and that everyone lives happily ever after.

BAMBI: Actually that was the idea of the Disney publicity machine. It's not common knowledge, but by the time the movie was released, Thumper had developed a serious carotene addiction. When he needed a fix he couldn't keep his foot still. He'd go through several 49-cent bags a day until they found him OD'd in the produce section one morning. I started wearing dark glasses and hanging out at Laker games. Next came the booze and does. My wife, Faline, ran off with some young buck to start a new life in Glacier National Park. I really started hitting the bottle hard. I'd wake up many a morning to find I'd spent the night curled up under a tree. Only about a year ago I decided I needed to get my life back together so I checked into the Betty Boop Center.

SMOKEY: An American tragedy. How many other deer will be sleeping under trees because of the Yellowstone fires? We next call Beaver Cleaver . . . Beaver, will you please tell the court your experiences in Yellowstone in early September.

BEAVER: Gee wiz, we were shooting for the "New Leave it to Beaver" when we had to evacuate because of the fire. Golly, like I told you, it cost us $50,000 because we had to re-shoot the scenes at Yosemite.

YOGI: But isn't it true, Beaver, that your new show is a bomb and that creepy Eddie Haskel embezzled the 50 grand?

SMOKEY: Objection. This is hearsay; defense counsel is badgering the Beaver.

JUDGE SB: Sustained. We'll have no more outbursts, hmmm, like that bearister.

SMOKEY: The prosecution calls Teddy Ruxpin . . . Teddy, in your opinion, could the Yellowstone disaster have been averted had the Park Service earlier reversed its policy of allowing fires inside the park to burn unchecked?

TR: Oh yes. When several of these big, hot fires were allowed to burn freely, the flames became too big and hot for the big, brave and strong firemen to fight.

YOGI: If I may, your bearship, I'd like to cross-examine this witness. . . . Haven't parents complained, Teddy, that you're overpriced and prone to breakdowns?

TR: Errrrrrrrrrr . . . errrrr . . . errr . . . er.

JUDGE SB: Let the record show, hmmm, the witness broke down under cross-examination. Bearliff, please mark-down the witness 40 percent and put him on the clearance table.

SMOKEY: Prosecution rests. I think when this is over I'll take a three month nap.

YOGI: The defense calls Chicago Bear Jim McMahon. Isn't it true that no one could have foreseen that summer drought conditions in Yellowstone would result in these catastrophic fires?

MCMAHON: I dunno. I just wanna say that I'll be wearing a "HODEL" head band to show my support for the secretary of Interior and that Iranian dude, Et Al, at our next game.

SMOKEY: Some suggest this headband stuff is a knee-jerk reaction by you to the fact the "Boz" has replaced you as the NFL's No. 1 Bad Boy.

MCMAHON: Hey, there ain't nothing wrong with my knees, Yoda.

YOGI: That's Yogi. The defense next calls Cheer Bear . . . Will you please give us your assessment of the Yellowstone fires?

CHEER BEAR: Speaking for all the Care Bears, who bring cheer into lives everywhere, we're cheered knowing the Yellowstone fires will be ultimately be good for the forest and its creatures.

YOGI: Thanks for that cheery thought Cheer Bear. The defense calls the Three Bears . . . Weren't you residing in the forest at the time the fires broke out?

PAPA BEAR: Yes, Momma Bear, Baby Bear and I had just returned from an afternoon of licking honey and ants when we found our tree broken into. Someone slept in our beds and ate all our Sugar Crisp. We think it was that bag lady . . . Goldilocks. We've had trouble with her before, you know. Why, it wouldn't surprise me to find she was responsible for the fires.

Boo Boo whispers in Yogi's ear and hands him something.

YOGI: A moment, your beardom. New evidence has just been brought to our attention. Bullwinkle Moose and Woodsy Owl are outside this courtroom ready to testify they saw the Bad News Bears sneaking a smoke of something out behind a propane tank the day the fires started. And Mr. Ranger says he found this (Yogi hands Judge Sugar Bear something) near where one of the fires originated.

JUDGE SB: Looks, hmmm, like good stuff to me. Hmmmmmm. Think I'll retire to my chambers to investigate this matter more closely. Case, hmmmmmmm, dismissed. Bearliff, see if you can't round up more of that evidence.


** Robert Barbee and Ringo Starr recorded a song, "Let it Burn" that rose to No. 14 on the charts; William Penn Mott is now a spokesman for the Sierra Club and has written a book titled, "The Nurembear Trials;" and Donald Hodel is an occassional guest on "Late Night with David Letterman," where he does stupid former cabinet member tricks.

** The Bad News Bears - what was left of them after the explosion - were arrested for for possession of narcotics on I-70, near Salina. They are currently serving a three-year sentence at Point of the Mountain and making plans for a 25th reunion special on Fox Broadcasting.

** While smarter than the average bear, Yogi wasn't smarter than the IRS. He and Boo Boo are now serving 10-year sentences in federal prison for income tax evasion.

** Judge Sugar Bear was disbeared after an investigation revealed the reason he always seemed so mellow was because he was doing heavy drugs; he recently joined the burgeoning Care Bear family as "Drug Abuse Bear."

** Bambi lost a protracted legal struggle with Ted Turner to prevent his story from being de-colorized. He is now collaborating with Sylvester Stallone on a film tentatively titled, "Bambo."