It was August of 1971. I was forty-one years old. I’d had just returned to Anchorage from the Wrangell Mountains where I had been guiding for the Dall Sheep. It was between hunts and I had a few days off. I’d dropped into the fur traders taxidermy shop, which I was a 50/50 partner with Dick Idol. I kept my hunting business office in the same office as the taxidermy shop.
Dick and I were discussing all the latest events, which included a buying and selling trip to Norway and Sweden by way of several states and cities to promote my hunting business. I had planned to spend about eighty days, thirty in the states promoting hunting, then travel on to Holland, Norway and Sweden to mostly buy furs for our taxidermy business. After that, I planned an African Safari in Kenya and a Tiger and Leopard hunt in India, returning home through the Orient via Bangkok, Hong Kong and Tokyo. While Dick and I were talking I spotted this beautiful girl working at one of the fur tables. I asked Dick, “Who’s that beauty and what was she doing here”? Dick said “She just blew in here from Hawaii and asked for a job. I put her to work making fur flowers out of all the leftover fur scraps we have”. She’s pretty creative and she can make about twenty to twenty-five a day. They sell for $5.00 each and the material is scrap and her salary is $2.00 a flower. We’re selling all she can make”. I said man, she’s a beauty. I’d sure like to meet her. Dick introduced me. Her name was Kandice Green, recently from Hawaii, grew up in Portland, Oregon. She was of the free wandering crowd, roaming the country, looking for adventure. One thing for sure – she was a raving beauty. Unfortunately, I had to leave the next day and return to my hunting lodge in the Wrangell Mountains. I never saw Kandice again for over a month, when I next returned to Anchorage. I asked her out for dinner and night clubbing. She turned me down. I suspected she was an anti-hunting type of girl although I didn’t ask point blank. I often wondered why she applied to work in a taxidermy shop where animals are mounted on forms for hunters.
It wasn’t until October I saw Kandice again. I asked Dick where she went since she was no longer making flowers for us. He said she went to work in the donut shop. So naturally I stopped by the donut shop to get donuts for the crew at the taxidermy shop. Kandice was there, as beautiful as ever. I tried to make small talk but I wasn’t getting anywhere. Of course, the ultimate goal was to convince her she might have a good time if we went out. No such luck. She wasn’t having any of that. I just took my sack of donuts and left, but before I did I said, “How would you like to go around the world with me?”. She answered, “What’s the matter with you – are you crazy?” I said, “no, I’m going to Africa and India in December and I’d really like you to come along”. She looked at me like I was crazy and turned and walked away.
I had been planning this trip for several months. I would first go to several places in the states to book hunts for my hunting lodge, then to the Weatherby Awards dinner at the Stardust in Las Vegas, on to North Carolina for Christmas with Dick’s parents, on to New York for a week of business booking clients, then to Amsterdam, Holland, Copenhagen and Norway to buy furs, drive down through Germany, fly to Nairobi, Kenya, Africa on Safari for twenty-eight days, on to India for a Tiger and Leopard hunt for thirty days, on to Thailand, do the floating market at Hong Kong, then back to Anchorage. We’d be gone from Alaska for eighty to ninety days.
I didn’t go back to the donut shop and see Kandice for a week or so, but I thought what the hell, I might as well see if I’d planted a seed since I couldn’t get her off my mind. I stopped by one morning, got my donuts and as I was leaving, Kandice said, “were you really serious when you asked me to travel around the world with you”? I said yes, I was serious. “you’ve got thirty-one days to get your passport and your things in order. We leave on November 15th”. I then told her my travel plans. She made a comment that it would be good for college credits if she took me up on my offer. Hell, I didn’t know anything about college credits, but I did know what I wanted. Here was the possibility of having a gorgeous companion that was above average intelligence and beautiful to travel the world with. This could make a great trip – an outstanding trip.
We started making plans and getting all our necessary paperwork taken care of. We went out to dinner and dancing a few times, to kinda work the stiffness out of our relationship. Kandice was easy to be with, she felt good, looked good and had a quiet, easy going manner. She sang and played the guitar and lived her life to the fullest. I enjoyed her company a lot and looked forward to some enjoyable days ahead.
It was on one of those evenings the four of us were out, dining and dancing, sitting in the club on Gambell street in Anchorage, when Jeff Graham walked up to our table. Jeff Graham – is a true mountain man who worked as a guide for me all during the sixties. He was one of the toughest men I’ve ever known. I once saw Jeff literally pull a horse over fifteen miles. He was one of the few men I’ve known who could walk a horse to exhaustion.
Jeff now had his own guiding hunting business. He based his guiding operation out of Port Heiden, Alaska on the Alaskan Peninsula. Jeff had heard I was going outside to the states. He asked if I’d take a couple of mistake bear hides to a Seattle taxidermy shop for him. The bear hides in question were not tagged by the Fish & Game and for whatever reason – I don’t know – but I suspected they were killed by mistake and the client hunters wouldn’t claim them since they were too small – Jeff said one was killed this past season and the other the year before. He was going to get them mounted instead of simply throwing them away.
It was risky business shipping a hide out of the State of Alaska if it wasn’t officially tagged by the Fish & Game Department. Jeff knew he was asking me to do an illegal action but we both considered it pretty safe to pack them in duffle bags and take them along as baggage. This was in the days before baggage was searched or even looked at a second glance. I told him to pack each one in a duffle bag and leave them at the taxidermy shop. I’d take them to the world famous Seattle taxidermy.
Finally the big day came. We were leaving for Seattle on the midnight flight of Northwest Airlines. It was a 747, my first ride on that magnificent airplane.
Kandice and I went to the airport. We had lots of bags. Again, that was the good old days when the agents just smile if one had a couple of extra bags. I had arranged for Kandice to check in the two duffle bags with the bear hides plus her other two bags for a total of four for her and four for me. I’d told Kandice, who I was pretty well acquainted with now, that I would like her to check in the duffles with the bear hides since if she by chance got caught with them, it would only be a slap on the wrist for her plus a fine, which I would pay. But if I got caught with an illegal bear hide (one that was not officially tagged) then I may lose my guides license and further serious consequences. I also told her I’d protect her if she just happened to get caught with an unsealed bear hide. I’d furnish an attorney and pay the fine.
I was finally getting second thoughts about taking Jeff’s bear hides out for him but in my loose moment of drinking and acting like there was nothing to it, in front of Kandice, I’d let my mouth over run my better judgement. But I wasn’t going to back out now. We were at the airport and we were checking in.
After checking in all the bags, we started boarding the big bird. Everything was all go – we were on our way! Taxing out for take off to runway six in Anchorage, we’d no more than gotten to the active runway when the captain came over the speaker and said, “Ladies and gentlemen, we’ve been told there is a bomb on the aircraft. We’re returning to the terminal where everyone will be asked to deplane. There will be several police and customs agents who will interview each of you. The FBI will be assisting. All baggage will be unloaded and each passenger must claim his or her own baggage.” You can imagine what was going through my head about this time.
I didn’t seriously think there was a bomb on board. I was trying to think of who knew we had those bear hides. I just knew it was someone who knew I had those bear hides and wanted to see me get caught with them. I would bet anything there was no bomb on that plane, but someone wanted me to get caught with those bear hides. I even wondered if Jeff had set me up. We’d soon see.
We all got off at the customs terminal and went inside and waited on our bags to be brought in so each of us could claim our bags. I told Kandice they would find the bear hides and that they might confiscate them and detain her. I further tried to assure her that I’d back her up and get my lawyer if need be. She said, “You better – if you don’t I’ll see that you go down with me!” I said, “I’ll do everything in my power to keep you out of trouble.”
About that time I looked across the room and stared straight at Jim, the agent in charge of the Anchorage FBI. I knew Jim and said hello. He asked what I was doing there so I told him I was just getting started on a world tour but it appeared like it’s getting a slow start. Jim and I visited for awhile. He moved on to supervise all the passengers and baggage search. In the meantime I’d separated from Kandice. I left her standing all by herself with her two duffle bags and two suitcases. She looked forlorn standing there alone, not knowing what was going to happen to her when her turn came for the interview.
She finally got to the interview. It was a local, fat airport cop. He asked if that was her baggage. She said yes. They proceeded to search her bags. They opened the duffle and saw it was some kind of fur. They turned it up and dumped the small bear hide out on the floor of the customs terminal. You could of heard a pin drop. No one said a word. Kandice looked even more forlorn. I’m sure she wished she could have crawled into that bag.
The big, fat airport cop said, “Hey you guys, I’ve got a bear hide. What am I suppose to do with this?” Another one shouted, “Has it got an export tag on it?” The big cop looked and said, “NO!” Someone said you’re suppose to call Joe Brantley. I knew then that we may be in for real trouble. Joe Brantley was the Fish & Game agent who had been chasing me around for years. He would stoop to anything to pin a violation on me. On one occasion I stopped at Port Moller airport to get gas from a cannery. I noticed there were several Fish & Game airplanes parked all in a row. Lots of game wardens were milling around in a group. One of them was Joe Brantley. Joe walked over to my plane and proceeded to tell me how they were going to “get me” that spring and that if I didn’t hunt legal they would nail me. Joe also told me that all those planes and the people flying and riding in them were assigned to me. Well, we still guided eight bear hunters who all got bear but the Alaska Fish & Game air force did not catch us in a single violation but boy did they try. See photo of Fish & Game planes.
Just the year before, Joe Brantley asked my former wife Beverly if she would work for him under cover to convict me of a hunting violation. I’m not saying I didn’t have it coming, but how low can one stoop to get the job done. Even though Beverly and I were separated, we were friends. I’d always thought I’d given Beverly a bum deal in our marriage. She had always been fair with me. It’s just the marriage didn’t work. But Joe Brantley made a mistake when he thought Beverly would set me up. She came straight to me with Brantley’s offer.
To get back to the present, Kandice, looking lost and lonely, stood by her bear hide and duffle until Brantley showed up. I was standing on the other side of the room when Joe came in. He walked straight up to Kandice, took one look at the bear hide and proceeded to read her her rights. He took her and her baggage and left the terminal. My worst fears were realized. I correctly figured he was taking her to jail. In the meantime, I sure didn’t want to jump off the plane since that would look highly suspicious to Jim and the FBI man. So I got back on the plane bound for Seattle. The plane landed in Seattle around 5:00am. Of course, they never did find any bomb on that plane.
The minute I got off the plane I immediately called two prominent attorneys in Anchorage who I’d worked with many times. The first one I called was my good friend and attorney Burton Biss. I also called Bob Hartig, who was fairly new to me. I didn’t know how he’d take me calling him at 5:00am, but he was not too disturbed and agreed to go down to the jail and see if Kandice was there. Burton Biss was out of town until noon, but he was very supportive on the phone and had some good advice for me. In the meantime, Bob had found out that Joe Brantley had taken Kandice straight to jail. He told her she could go if she’d sign a statement on who the bear hide really belonged to and who had her take it as luggage. Ole Joe knew that hide didn’t belong to her. Kandice held her guns and remained silent and said she had bought the hide from a man on the street. She said she was going to give it to her Daddy in Portland. She was the picture of innocense but she was lying through her teeth, bless her heart. She kept her word and didn’t give me up but she told me later that if that lawyer hadn’t showed up when he did she was starting to weaken.
Joe Brantley knew Kandice was connected to some guide or hunter. Joe was a seasoned game warden. He’d had years of experience and he rightly figured he was on to something. The attorney told Kandice that he’d get her out of jail as soon as the judge held court, about 9:00am, and she could plead not guilty and leave since I’d told the attorney to vouch for her and I also had Burt Biss inform the judge that she would plead not guilty and appear for trial sometime after we returned to Alaska in about ninety days.
Joe Brantley knew something was going on. There was more to this story than a girl who bought a bear skin for her Daddy. Especially when two of Anchorage’s best criminal attorneys showed up at her hearing. Joe tried to have the D.A. throw a monkey wrench in the proceeding by protesting Kandice being released on her own recognizance, but Hartig and Biss convinced the judge to release her.
On the way out of the jail and courthouse, Kandice was walking down the hallway with an attorney on each side of her, one carrying a duffle bag and the other her two suitcases. When Hartig asked Kandice, “Boy this duffle bag is heavy. What have you got in there?” Kandice replied, “Oh, that’s the other bear hide. They never did look in my other duffle bag when they got all excited about finding the first bear at the airport. Joe Brantley carried it in to the jail and now you nice gentlemen are carrying it out for me.” Bob Hartig about dropped his teeth and the duffle bag. Here was one of Anchorage’s outstanding attorneys carrying an illegal bear hide out of the jail house!
I caught up with Kandice at Las Vegas at the Sands Hotel. We stayed there a couple of days while I booked some bear hunters for the next year. I had some of the most enjoyable days I can remember. Kandice and I traveled from Las Vegas to Arizona, where we spent a couple of days camping in the desert. Kandice sang and played her guitar. She played and sang that great old song, “Me & Bobby McGee” and did it the best I’d ever heard it outside of Charlie Pride.
We spent Christmas in North Carolina with Dick Idol’s parents, then on to New York and on to Europe. We drove through Germany, then on to Rome. We flew to Greece and to Nairobi, Kenya, Africa where we went on a Northern Frontier Camel Safari for big Elephant. The Africa and India Orient part of our trip is another story, which I’ll get to in the future.
We got back to Alaska on February 5, 1972. Kandice had to go see the D.A. I told her she was the best at what she was born with and that she should date the young D.A. Maybe that would solve everything. I went to the Arctic Polar Bear hunting. Kandice was living in my house. I heard later through the grapevine that Kandice went out with the Assistant D.A. on several dates and that the bear hide case just went away. The case kept getting put on the back burner and finally just disappeared. The case was dismissed by a judge. Kandice left my home sometime that spring in March of 1972. I’ve never seen her since.
I’ve often wondered whatever happened to that beautiful little wayward girl who I took around the world. I hope she enjoyed it half as much as I did. It was twenty years later, about 1992 or so, that I got a letter in the mail. The letter was from a Catholic Convent in South Carolina and it was addressed to me at my Texas office. The letter was a request for a character reference for a Kandice Green. The letter simply stated that a Miss Kandice Green had given my name for a character reference. She was applying for a teaching job at that Catholic school. I did give Kandice a good reference. I hope she was successful getting the position. I’ll never know how that letter reached me since I lived in Anchorage at the time I met Kandice. Sharon and I didn’t move to Texas until 1982. Of course, Sharon didn’t know anything about the entire episode, which was just another one of my wild experiences in years past. There will be many more adventurous experiences related in the process of telling these stories. Some I’m not proud of but one thing for sure I can count on is my wonderful wife Sharon and her support as I try and relate my past life’s experiences in writing the book I plan in which some of these stories will be a part of.
Once in awhile, a guide makes a mistake and kills a bear too small or kills a bear by accident due to a charge or other reasons. It’s a real hassle to turn such a bear in to the officials but it’s a shame to just leave it to waste. Jeff had two such bears, a sow and cub. He had to shoot one that charged him while he and a client were out hunting. Even though it’s not legal, most people did not turn these incidents in to the Fish & Game. I believe the guides of today have a different attitude towards regulation violations. Most of them act and perform like real professionals who practice good game management.