By Pat Rand
G. Gordon Wimsatt, who was born on September 6th, 1915, came to the Sacramento Mountains with his parents, George and Johnnie Wimsatt, from Santa Rita, NM, in 1927.
A few years after his arrival, in the early 1930s, Gordon met George Hightower, who was part Apache. George worked for the State Game and Fish Department, and was also a hunter and trapper. He had killed a bear and gave some of the grease to Gordon, telling him the Indians predicted the weather by observing the changes in the grease, which they placed in scraped bladders of deer—thin enough to see through. Gordon started watching the grease, which had been put into a clear glass jar. At first, he considered it a joke, but the more he watched the changes in the grease and the changes in the weather that accompanied them, bear grease weather predicting became a hobby of his that lasted until his death more than 60 years later.
Over the years, friends gave him some of the fat whenever they killed a bear. After he had accumulated many samples of grease and was able to compare the different specimens, his weather predictions became more and more accurate. He could predict moisture close at hand and also temperature changes. In the beginning, he generally kept the information to himself, but one time he informed a friend that on the next day, February 17th, there would be significant moisture. The friend pointed to the clear skies and laughed at Gordon. Overnight and by noon the next day, more than 8” of snow fell.
On another occasion, quoting Gordon, “We had a long dry spell of weather. A logging company was moving logs from the woods to the sawmill in Alamogordo. The foreman was in my store about seven o’clock one morning. The sky was as blue as it could be, without a cloud in sight. I said, ‘Archie, you better have your trucks out of the woods by about ten o’clock, or they’ll be stuck in the mud so deep you might not get them out.’ ‘I bet your bear grease told you that,’ Archie said, laughing as he and a couple of his workers went on their way. Before 10 pm, a downpour of more than 2″ soaked the woods, and the logging trucks could not get out that day. Afterwards, for as long as his trucks came by my store, the foreman checked the weather with me every day.”
As Gordon’s reputation began to spread, meteorologists questioned his abilities, and often challenged him. One time, Gordon advised Holloman Air Force Base to delay the release of their weather balloons because he predicted high winds for the coming week. They held off despite their meteorologist recommending that the balloons be released. There were high winds for a week. Another time, a Los Angeles weather man challenged Gordon to one week of predictions—comparing their results to the actual weather. Gordon was consistently more accurate despite the weather man’s use of satellites and radar. In time, area TV weathermen called Gordon for his predictions, which were always very accurate.
Gordon discovered over the years that many different animal fats would work for predicting. In addition to bear, he used seal, turkey, turtle, chicken, cougar, and even human, which was derived from a kidney operation patient in El Paso. Cattle, hogs, deer and elk did not seem to work well. The grease was rendered on a slow fire and then placed in a sealed jar permanently. He found that south or west windows appeared to be the best locations, and the jars had to be left undisturbed. The oils or grease varied in color from an almost clear liquid to a dark reddish brown, and Gordon discovered that the clear and pale yellow oils worked better than the very dark ones. He eventually developed a chart that contained 20 different patterns, including tornadoes, earthquakes, and even nuclear explosions.
When the first atomic bomb was detonated at Trinity Site on July 16, 1945, Gordon saw an unusual shape in the grease, and commented to neighbors and friends about a strange activity that had taken place. He was soon visited by the military wanting to know where he had received his information. He observed a similar mushroom pattern following the nuclear accident at Chernobyl in Russia in 1986.
Gordon was never sure why the grease acted as it did. He commented that it appeared to be like living cells responding to chemical and pressure changes in the atmosphere. In 1963, when Dr. Dolph Hatfield, who was a genetic scientist with the National Cancer Institute in Washington, D.C., became interested in using the bear grease for culture studies, he visited Gordon and received several of the jars as a gift. Gordon pointed out the various patterns to him, and the two kept in touch, comparing notes on their patterns. They discovered the patterns were similar, even at such a great distance apart. The bear grease was later tested at the Bethesda Naval Hospital in Maryland, where they were unable to find any specific biological reason for the patterns.
By comparing the action of the bear grease with activities around the world, Gordon discovered the relationship of a particular pattern to a particular activity. He was able to predict earthquakes in Iran in 1972 and what he thought would be one in Iceland, but actually occurred in Chicago, which was in the same direction, but closer. Also in 1972, he noted a small tremor in El Paso that was later verified by UTEP scientists through the readings of their instruments.
In October 1974, Gordon predicted from observing more than 100 jars of bear grease at his home, that the coming winter would be a harsh one. Naturalists observing the actions of animals and birds concurred. Even the Old Farmers’ Almanac agreed. Their predictions all turned out to be quite accurate. Gordon received his first national publicity when “Ripley’s Believe It Or Not” included the story of his bear grease predictions on its November 4, 1984 TV show. It was also included in their newspaper columns throughout the country.
Gordon’s prediction that received the greatest publicity was made on September 14, 1985, when he stated that there would be a major earthquake very soon to the south of Cloudcroft, probably in Mexico. Five days later, an earthquake that measured 7.8 on the Richter scale, located 250 miles south of Mexico City, hit with unbelievable destruction. There were more than 3,000 deaths and injuries were in the 100,000s. Property damage ran well into the millions of dollars.
When the word got out that Gordon had predicted the quake five days earlier, the news media descended on Cloudcroft to learn about the man, the community in which he lived—and about bear grease. The TV segment on ABC appeared on “Good Morning America” on January 5, 1986. There were also news stories on one Mexican and several Canadian TV stations.
Gordon then became quite a sought-after speaker, and made presentations to many service clubs and schools. He gave numerous talks to the geology and geography classes at New Mexico State University in Alamogordo, and was honored by the university for his contributions. His talk to Native American students at the Dulce, NM school caused the children to confront their parents as to why they had not been told of their ancestors’ bear grease predictions.
As Gordon aged, he began losing his eyesight and had to call on his wife Arnell to read the patterns, which he then interpreted. He became afraid that his method of predicting the weather by bear grease patterns would become lost with his death, but several people who learned at his side have continued with the activity.
Jill Kahn, a 10 year old student in El Paso at the time, won a prize in the El Paso Regional Science Fair for her presentation on bear grease weather predicting in 1981, which she had learned from Gordon after he gave her a small jar of the oil five years before. Using it, she had successfully predicted an earthquake in Romania. Another student, Bernadette Montoya, in Santa Fe, received high marks at a science fair for her bear grease predictions. Also, beginning in 1990, Patti Brady, a resident of Cloudcroft at the time and now living in Colorado, began reading and interpreting her sample of grease that she had received from Gordon.
Gordon Wimsatt passed away on October 18, 1995 at 80 years, and was buried in James Canyon Cemetery. He was the father of four children, and had 15 grandchildren, 27 great-grandchildren, and one great-great-grandchild at the time of his death. He owned and operated Wimsatt’s Store in Cloudcroft for years and then became a land developer.
During his lifetime, Gordon served as an Otero County Commissioner, a member of the Cloudcroft School Board, and a board member of the Sacramento Mountains Historical Society. In addition to providing financial support, Gordon donated his family collections to the Historical Society’s museum in Cloudcroft, where a display of his bear grease, his interpretive charts, and other items pertaining to his weather predictions may be seen. Gordon may be gone, but his bear grease predictions will live on.