By Ray Stern
By New Times
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Though their mother, Lorana, claims they were raised exactly the same, though they worked the same summer jobs stacking lumber at the mill in Fredonia, pumping gas or working on the family ranch, Bruce's and Gordon's personalities ran in opposite directions, in that way of brothers who choose different paths so they won't be forced to compete with each other.
"As soon as they were born, my father presented each son with a pair of cowboy boots," says Lorana. "Gordon never took them off." Even when he was 6, he always wore a toy six-gun, and would tail after his paternal grandfather, a rancher and cattle inspector. Gordon, she says, took after the cowboy side of the family, while Bruce "is more of a Whiting, organized, methodical." Compared to Gordon and his thoughtful drawl, Bruce seems to speak in italics and exclamation points. He's as conservative in his lifestyle as he is in his politics, and lives frugally in a middle-class suburban house in Mesa with his four kids and his wife of 21 years. Growing up, Bruce was the disciplined student, the nerd of the family. Where Gordon starred in sports at Camelback High School, Bruce was drawn to music and scouting. While Gordon is an avid hunter, Bruce would rather shoot photographs of animals. Bruce is a devout Mormon. When he finished his degree at BYU, he went on mission for the church in Mexico. He lived in a squalid hut in Chilpancingo, south of Mexico City, slept in a hammock and traveled from village to village knocking on doors and preaching the gospel. He learned to speak Spanish flawlessly, which later helped him to manage Kaibab's holdings in Mexico. When he returned from his mission, Bruce went back to school and graduated with BYU's first law class, then went right to work as Kaibab Industries' first in-house counsel.
Gordon's path was different, and more difficult. "You know when they say someone was in sports it means his grades ain't worth a shit," Gordon says now, in his characteristic self-deprecating manner. He partied his way out of two colleges, then worked construction jobs in Alaska and Hawaii before finally finishing an agriculture degree at ASU and going to work for a ranch outside Tucson.
After a couple of years, Gordon approached his father about going into partnership and buying a ranch in Aravaipa Canyon, 60-some miles east of Safford, and Mickey agreed "to help Gordon find his dream."
@body:Just last year, Gordon and his wife, Nanette, bought a house in the booming metropolis of Thatcher, Arizona, population 3,763, so that their three kids could take part in extracurricular activities after school. They'd spent 12 years living far up the canyon, and they still run the ranch and keep the ranch house, and Gordon's heart is still there even if he has to venture into civilization to make a living. Nowadays, he manages some real estate holdings for Kaibab to add to the meager income he gleans from the ranch.
As he cooked dinner in the ranch house that evening, Gordon told a story about working on a crew repaving an airstrip in Bethel, Alaska, 400 air miles from Anchorage. It was the early 1970s, and he was filling a co-worker's ear with marvels about a manned space flight that had just landed on the moon.
"Why'd they want to go to the moon?" asked the co-worker, an Eskimo named Henry. "Because it's important," was all Gordon could say.
Henry was not convinced. "Do they have walrus there?" he asked.
"Do they have seals? Or caribou?"
"Then why do they want to go there?"
Gordon waited a moment before continuing. "In his mind and his world, that was of more value to him," he said. Then Gordon talked of his own need to live up Aravaipa Canyon, 37 miles from the nearest paved road, 55 miles from town, in wide-open country with no one next door. He'd get up in the morning and have to decide only if he should saddle a horse or fix fence. He'd turn on the radio while he made coffee and laugh at the traffic report.
"I didn't go anywhere for years, because what I needed in life was right here."
The county sheriff deputized Gordon so that he'd have someone on call up in the canyon in the rare case of an emergency. Gordon went through the police academy and worked occasional shifts in town, though he never took a paycheck.
Six years ago, for reasons he can't explain, he came out of the canyon to lobby for a seat on the Game and Fish Commission. He attended meetings for a year. Bruce and Mickey pulled what strings they could to make the appointment go through, and Gordon ended up the only Evan Mecham appointment that year that wasn't protested.
It's not a paid position; the commission was set up in the 1920s to insulate the department from the direct influence of politics. There are five commissioners, by mandate from different parts of the state, one of them replaced each year, with the senior commissioner serving as chair. The commission, then, oversees the director and the business of the department. Gordon has also served for the last two years as chairman of the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, which comprises the game and fish departments of 13 states and four Canadian provinces.