Here's How Johnny Cash Burned Down A National Forest

It was June 27th of 1965 when Johnny Cash stumbled out of a burning ring of fire in California's Los Padres National Forest. That the Man in Black was responsible for the conflagration has been established by everyone from the FBI to Cash himself, but more than five decades later, the details remain a little murky.

A quick recap: By the mid 1960s, Johnny Cash had cultivated a massive pop culture following, a pharmaceutical gourmand's taste in amphetamines, and an outlaw persona. His crimes were legion — in May of 1965, he was arrested for picking flowers on private property. Truly, he was country music's bad boy.

But it was the forest fire, started six weeks later, that earned Johnny his very own FBI file, according to Muck Rock. The file, obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, opens with a complaint alleging that the musical icon's camper had shot sparks out of its faulty exhaust system after getting stuck along the side of the road. Cash tried to gun the engine and accidentally lit the forest ablaze. Or so he claimed.

And it burned, burned, burned

There's another explanation, one that's so far beyond belief as to seem like a work of high fantasy: maybe, just maybe, Johnny Cash was really high, started a fire, and then lost control of the fire due to being, as previously mentioned, really, really high.

At least that's what Cash's nephew, Damon Fielder, believed happened. Per The Vintage News, Fielder was on the fishing trip with Cash when the fire started and went on to say that his inebriated uncle just let a campfire get out of control. In any case, the blaze burned 508 acres of forest, spread across three mountains, and scared off 49 of the area's 53 California condors.

"I don't care about your damn yellow buzzards," said Cash, displaying that laissez faire attitude so often seen in convicted flower pickers. After feigning illness to avoid a court date, the "Walk the Line" singer eventually paid the piper to the tune of $82,001 in damages.