angry polar bear, barely visible against the white Artic landscape,
suddenly leaped from an ice ridge and charged. Bill Cammack tried
to run, but the bear was almost on top of him. So Cammack dropped
his camera and reached for the rifle slung over his shoulder, but
it was too late. The bear knocked him down and began gnawing on
his backside like it was brisket.
Bill Cammack's life was an adventure even before he got a butt-chewing
from a polar bear. Born in San
Saba and raised in Blanco
County, he was a radio engineer by trade, spending most of his
career in Mexico.
In the 1930s he worked for Dr. John R, Brinkley, the infamous goat
gland doctor, at Brinkley's radio station across the river from
Del Rio, Texas.
In the lull between hillbilly music and commercials for Last Supper
tablecloths, Brinkley guaranteed to restore male virility by transplanting
goat testicles into humans.
After retiring from the radio business Cammack went home to his
ranch between Johnson
City and Rocky Creek.
Cammack was a pilot, a photographer and a big game hunter. Some
of his specimens are still on display at the Buckhorn Saloon in
San Antonio. He was
a charter member of the Texas Order of Saint Hubertus, the oldest
known hunting organization in the world.
In April 1963 Bill Cammack and his guide Ralph Marshall were hunting
polar bear in Alaska near the Arctic Circle. From a bush plane the
two men spotted a large bear walking by a frozen lake 60 miles west
of Point Hope. They circled around and landed on the ice 150 yards
Marshall moved in closer, leveled his rifle and fired, but the bear
took off in the opposite direction. The two men trailed the animal
for a quarter mile until it disappeared behind an ice ridge. Marshall
followed with Cammack just behind, not knowing that the bear had
circled the ridge and was coming up behind them.
"The bear hit me from behind," Cammack told a reporter, "and I felt
a stabbing pain as he sank his teeth into my left side. Then I felt
a searing pain as he slammed his foot into my other side."
"I fell flat on my face, and the bear came with me. He didn't loosen
his hold on my left side and a sharp pain knifed up and down my
body as he chewed my flesh."
"Marshall then fired again. I think he hit the bear in the neck.
It loosened its hold on me and slid sideways."
Marshall ran to the scene to find the bear dead and Cammack in bad
The nearest doctor was in Kotzebue, 180 air miles south, but the
weather had Kotzebue fogged in. So Marshall flew Cammack to Point
Hope for emergency first aid. The next morning they took off for
Kotzebue but the engine failed and the plane crashed. Marshall had
to hike 15 miles back to Point Hope to get another plane
When Marshall returned for Cammack, Kotzebue was fogged in again
so Marshall flew back to Point Hope to await better weather. The
next day Bill Cammack finally made it to the hospital at Kotzebue,
2 and ½ days after being mauled by a polar bear.
The doctor stitched up the gash in Cammack's backside and the tear
in his abdomen. Two weeks later Cammack was back at his Blanco
County ranch although he had to make the trip standing up.
"I think I would have been a goner if it hadn't been for my clothing,"
Cammack said. "I had on 2 sets of insulated underwear, 1 set of
down underwear, a heavy wool shirt and pants and a down jacket."
"The bear went through all that, but I think it was enough of a
cushion to keep him from chewing me to death."