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"Hindsights"


Looking back at:

Polar Bear Bites Rancher

By Michael Barr
Michael Barr

The 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 Blanco County 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 away.

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 shape.

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 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."


Johnson City TX - Bill Cammack Wildlife Museum 1972
Bill Cammack Wildlife Museum
in Johnson City

Fredericksburg Standard April 19, 1972
Courtesy Fredericksburg Standard

In April 1972 Bill Cammack opened his Wildlife Museum in Johnson City on Highway 290 across from Eckert Ford.

By the way the large stuffed animal in the window is the bear that thought Bill Cammack's backside was beef jerky.


Michael Barr
"Hindsights" July 15, 2021 Column

Sources:
"Bill Cammack Exhibits Huge Polar Bear Bagged Last Year in Alaska," Harper Herald, March 6, 1964.
"Cammack Opens Wildlife Museum in Johnson City," Fredericksburg Standard, April 19, 1972.




"Hindsights" by Michael Barr

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