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But the family has been embroiled in the dispute over natural resources for at least 100 years.
In 1891, Bruce and Gordon's great-grandfather, Edwin M. Whiting, and his sons were logging near St. Johns when they were approached by uniformed men on horseback, members of the newly formed National Forest Service, who told Edwin that he'd have to pay for the right to cut timber in the national forest reserves. Whiting is said to have responded in disgust, "The first thing you know, the government will be telling you exactly which trees can be cut."
The conflict that started that day in the woods continues today. Kaibab Industries is under grand jury investigation for cutting more than exactly those trees the Forest Service allowed it in the north Kaibab National Forest. The company claims innocence, but sources close to the investigation feel strongly that indictments will be made.
The Whiting forebears migrated westward from New England with the original "saints" of the Mormon church. They weathered plagues and religious persecution and Indian wars and finally settled in Utah. In the late 19th century, the church asked Edwin M. Whiting to take his wives and children to St. Johns, Arizona, to spread the teachings of Mormonism to that unsettled country. To earn a living, he and his sons followed the construction of the railroad across northern Arizona, cutting timber for railroad ties and shooting game to sell to the work crews. Two years later, he built his first sawmill near St. Johns. It was little more than a portable shack that he would set in the forest until the timber supply was exhausted in the area. Then he would simply pack up the mill and move it to the next area.
Edwin's sons went in and out of the timber business for the next 50 years, building an empire of gasoline franchises, farms, ranches and other businesses, and only geared up to do serious logging because of the all-out demands of World War II. Conservation was not remotely a concern: The bulletin boards in the Whiting mills in Holbrook and Flagstaff bore signs that read "Log Like Hell." Some would say they lived up to that slogan.
Young Arthur Milton Whiting, who was nicknamed Mickey, was born in Holbrook. During the summer and after school, he pumped gas in one of the family stations, which was still the family's principal business. Like a good Mormon, he went to Brigham Young University, but then he transferred to Arizona State University so he could be with his high school sweetheart, Lorana Randall.
Lorana grew up on a ranch near Joseph City, just west of Holbrook. Her father used to brag that his eight daughters could outrun any man or woman in three counties, and he'd invite all comers to take them on at the county fair. Mickey watched from the grandstand one summer as Lorana won a race, and decided right there to chase after her himself.
Mickey's mother died in the late 1940s, while he and Lorana were at ASU; shortly after that, the manager of the family's Holbrook sawmill suffered a heart attack and Mickey's father asked him to come home to run the mill while the manager recuperated. He settled into the position of "boss's son," and never went back to school. He went from Holbrook to Flagstaff as the company expanded, and in 1952 to Fredonia.
Until the widespread use of the diesel-engine long-haul truck after the war, timber supplies and markets were limited to where the railroad traveled. The trucks made logging more mobile, and consequently the Whitings extended their operations into the Kaibab National Forest, north of the Grand Canyon. Bruce and Gordon were born by the time Mickey set up shop in Fredonia, just south of the Utah border, and a younger sister, Janice, was born there, as well.
Mickey and his cousin Jay eventually bought the timber operations from their fathers and the other Whiting brothers, who kept the gasoline side of the business. They named the new company Kaibab Industries, and in 1957 moved their headquarters to Flagstaff, then, as it grew, to Phoenix in 1968. Here Mickey and Lorana adopted a third son, Barry, whom they named after Barry Goldwater. While in Flagstaff, they had also taken in a Navajo boy named Henry Redhouse as part of an educational exchange program of the LDS church. Henry, who was the same age as Gordon, would live with the Whitings during the school year and then return to the reservation each summer to live with his real family. When the program was over, Henry stayed with the Whitings, and moved to Phoenix with them. Mickey took him in as a fourth son, paid to send him on mission for the church and even put him through college. Henry now works for Kaibab Industries as a computer technician, and remains part of the family.
While the younger Whiting children live their lives quietly, Bruce and Gordon stepped into the public eye.
@body:Mickey Whiting once started an address to the Game and Fish Department by joking, "My one son became a lawyer and the other became a Game and Fish commissioner--where did I go wrong?"