Johnny Cash accidentally started a forest fire that destroyed over 500 acres and killed 49 of a refuge's 53 endangered condors.
Johnny Cash, the Man in Black, the quintessential country singer of the second half of the last century, does not “care about your damn yellow buzzards,” in his words. When Cash was 5, he started working in the cotton fields, which served as inspiration for a few of his songs, as well as his family’s troubles during and following the Great Depression.
As a young boy, Cash’s brother Jack died, and many of his early memories were of gospel music and the radio. These, and his mother’s guitar teachings, make up much of what inspired his music. In 1965, Johnny’s truck caught fire due to an overheated wheel bearing, which triggered the forest fire in Los Padres National Forest in California.
When a judge asked him why he did it, he said “I didn’t do it, my truck did, and it’s dead, so you can’t question it.” When the damage was accounted for, Cash was pressed with all of it, especially the killing of the condors, but he was unrepentant in refusing blame, saying “I don’t care about your damn yellow buzzards.”
Cash was sued by the government for what would be $900,000 today, but settled for closer to $642,000 in today’s values. Eventually, Johnny Cash recanted his outlaw image, and later in his life converted to Christianity. He died back in 2003.