The real Yosemite Sam passed away on April 21st in his Death Valley, California home. Sam Ruse was the model for the Warner Brother's cartoon character, of the same name, and lived his life like you would imagine; charging about the desert with purpose while swearing in an unintelligible burst of four letter sounds. Dag nabit, Sam even looked like the Warner Brothers animated actor - short redhead with bowed beyond belief legs, ornery demeanor, and tattered western hat.
Surprisingly Sam was born in Sydney, Australia in 1909, the ancestor of James Ruse early Australian convict settler. Sam left home at 16 to wander about Australia, New Zealand, and Tasmania taking pictures of the countryside and rural areas with a Brownie camera. Few of his photos exist but some were published in small city newspapers.
At 19 Sam left Australia for good and sailed to America to make his fortune. Arriving in San Francisco Sam met Ansel Adams who needed help moving photography equipment. Adams took Sam in as an assistant and they traveled around the western US, Adams with camera and Sam with donkey and packing equipment. Sam got the name 'Yosemite' for his rock-climbing prowess and is immortalized as a flyspeck on the side of Half Dome in many of Adam's most famous pictures.
In 1936 Yosemite Sam met an aspiring actor named Mel Blank who later became the famous voice of many, if not most, of Warner Brothers cartoon stars. They were friends for life. Blank made every effort to sound like Sam who had a very unusual voice and acted like the cartoon personality. Both Yosemite Sam and the Tasmanian Devil, Warner Brother characters, were modeled after Sam's funny voice and guttural sounds.
Sam and family moved to Death Valley in 1962 where he spent his remaining years prospecting and raising scorpions for pet shops. He went on one last trip with Adams in 1966 to photograph Mt. McKinley in Alaska. His wife 95, and his four sons survive Yosemite Sam.