When the car stopped and the blanket was removed, he saw two men with hoods over their heads. There were trees all around. He could hear the sound of a river. The men told him to write his name on the back of an envelope, which he did. Then he was blindfolded and led into the woods, across a running stream. "I thought they were going to push me in the water," he says.
Beside a deep pit in the woods, his blindfold was taken off. The pit was three feet wide and six feet long, covered with tin, braced with posts and lined with boards. The boy was lowered into it and fastened to a crosspiece by handcuffs, one on an arm and the other on a leg.
One man drove away to mail the ransom note by special delivery. Philip Weyerhaeuser, George's father, was directed to say nothing to anyone, to keep the news out of the papers, to gather 5,000 old $20 bills, 5,000 old $10 bills and 10,000 old $5 bills. When he had the money ready, he was to place an ad in the personals column of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reading, "We are ready. Percy Minnie."
In the evening, just before dark, the men returned to the pit and everyone ate a picnic lunch of sandwiches, cookies and hard-boiled eggs. Then George was again handcuffed and entombed with two blankets and a kerosene lantern for warmth.
The Weyerhaeuser family had come up against a small-town Bonnie and Clyde partnership that had added a tough third partner. The girl was pretty, placid, blonde Margaret Thulin, who, in the course of her wanderings, met and married Harmon Waley, a tall, handsome, 24-year-old Hoquiam, Wash. boy. He had been in and out of jails and reformatories from the time he was 17 years old. In prison he came to know William Mahan, also known as William Dainard and Swede Davis, who was winding up his term for bank robbery. Mahan had five bank holdups on his record, including a $100,000 bank robbery in Idaho.
These three were living in Spokane when Margaret happened to read in the newspaper that John Philip Weyerhaeuser Sr., George's grandfather, had died. The obituary recalled all those stories of the Weyerhaeuser family wealth. Three days later Margaret, Waley and Mahan were studying George's movements as he went to and from school. They had not intended to pick up George when they did. They were merely checking his route when he happened to walk up to the car.
The police had already been called when the ransom note arrived at the Weyerhaeuser home, so the instructions not to call them could not be followed. Philip Weyerhaeuser got the bills together and placed the ad in the paper as he had been ordered to do but added another: "Due publicity beyond our control please indicate another method of reaching you. Hurry. Percy Minnie."
Mahan's planning had a demented ingenuity. He and Waley returned to the pit. Someone in the area shot at something and alarmed them. They moved George into deeper woods to a second pit they had dug for such emergencies.
He was again handcuffed to a post in the pit and left there that night and the next day. The following night, when Mahan had read Philip Weyerhaeuser's answer in the classified ads, George was lifted out of this second pit and locked in the trunk of Mahan's gray Ford coupe. He was driven all night across the state to Spokane, 300 miles east, a hard trip, even in the front seat of a car, in 1935. Mahan occasionally yanked him around; Waley occasionally rescued him. Near the Idaho-Washington boundary he was chained to a tree all day while his captors went into the city. They returned that night with a big Uneeda cracker carton, packed George into it and carried him into their apartment.
George was locked in a closet. Waley slept on a mattress outside the door. Mahan raced back to Seattle, to resume an outwardly ordinary life at the Fir Apartments and collect the ransom. The procedure for this was a harrowing melodrama. Margaret mailed a letter to George's father instructing him to register at the Ambassador Hotel in Seattle under the name of John Paul Jones and wait there for a telephone call. At the hotel Philip Weyerhaeuser got the call, directing him to a point on the highway midway between Seattle and Tacoma. There he found a stake with a cloth tied to it. A note in a can at the base of the stake directed him to a second stake on a dirt road off the highway.