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The 49th Frontier
Virginia Kraft
August 24, 1959
Rifle in hand, a wilderness before her, Virginia Kraft takes her first look at the rugged beauty of Alaska, America's new state. Its hardships are many, she reports, but the sportsman's reward may well be a record.
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August 24, 1959

The 49th Frontier

Rifle in hand, a wilderness before her, Virginia Kraft takes her first look at the rugged beauty of Alaska, America's new state. Its hardships are many, she reports, but the sportsman's reward may well be a record.

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Then something black moved above the line of brush. My safety went off—and on again. In a triple whisper we said, "Black bear." The grizzly had evidently gone for water and the black had moved in. Fifteen minutes later we saw the black run off up the mountain in the peculiar loping gallop of a bear in a hurry. He had either winded the grizzly or us.

I sighted for the hundredth time down the barrel. Nothing happened.

It was a full 40 minutes after the black bear left that we saw the grizzly. He was on the kill again, stretching leisurely, with two inches of mahogany fur visible above the horizon of brush.

My heart turned over. Now the minutes dragged, and still we waited, three people hypnotized by a strip of fur. At last he moved, and a target-size mound of velvet came in sight. I drew in my breath and fired.

The bear disappeared beneath the horizon; then, standing on his hind legs, he threw his entire body into the air. I fired again, this time at the backbone. Again he disappeared, and again he rose above the brush, flinging his forepaws outward before he fell for the third time. There was no further movement. The noise of the shots still echoed across the mountain. Motionless, we stood watching the place where a giant had reared toward the sky.

WOMAN'S WHIM

Then we did a foolish thing. Without thinking we plunged headlong into the thicket. As I jumped off the hill, from the corner of my eye I saw a small tree shimmy above the brush. "He's over there," I shouted, pointing to our right. "Don't be silly," Dennis called, "that bear's dead."

"No! I saw it move. He's still out there."

We stopped, and humoring a woman's whim, started walking abreast, slowly and with caution. We'd gone no more than 30 yards when directly before us another bush quivered spasmodically and was still. For an instant we were frozen in our steps. Then, realizing the helplessness of our position, we ran. On the top of the hill we huddled back to back, expecting the bear to come crashing out at us any minute.

"Guess he wasn't dead after all," Dennis said finally, and when I could speak I said, "No." The three of us lit cigarettes and smoked them, and then we lit some more and smoked them. We whispered about what to do next and finally decided to separate, each covering about 10 yards of brush until Dennis reached a fir tree about 25 yards away. Every step was a nightmare. As Dennis neared the tree, Mike and I closed in on either side. Dennis climbed the tree, called down that he thought he saw something, and fired. We moved forward again. Then Mike shouted, "Over here," and we heard his rifle go off.

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