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Smithsonian home to WSU prof's bones ... best friend's, too
WASHINGTON — In a dim hallway in the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History, anthropologist David Hunt opens a dingy green cabinet and pulls out a drawer full of human bones.
"This," he says, "is Grover Krantz."
The bones are arranged carefully. In the front right corner is Krantz's skull, propped on his lower jaw. Next to that are the long bones of his legs and arms. Plastic bags hold the smaller bones of his ribs, hands and feet. They're gray and smell a little musty.
Behind the skull is an old film canister. Hunt picks it up.
"Grover kept a lot of stuff," he says. "These are his baby teeth."
JoAllyn Archambault, the director of the museum's American Indian program, comes down the hall.
"Oh, hi, Grover!" Archambault says. She smiles. "I've known Grover since I was 18 years old."
The folks at the Museum of Natural History work with thousands of skeletons — dinosaur skeletons, mammal skeletons, human skeletons. But only one skeleton in the collection came from a human being who was a friend of many Smithsonian scientists. They studied with Grover Krantz, drank with him, laughed with him.
Krantz, a longtime Washington State University professor, was a legend in anthropology circles and semifamous in the wider world, too, as the eccentric professor who searched for Sasquatch.
Krantz didn't work at the museum, but his late brother was a photographer there and Grover would stop by to visit. Inevitably, fun would break out.
"He said, 'I've been a teacher all my life and I think I might as well be a teacher after I'm dead, so why don't I just give you my body,' " Hunt recalls. "I said, 'That's a really admirable thing to do, Grover.'
"And he said, 'Yeah, yeah, but there's one catch: You have to keep my dogs with me.' " Hunt laughs as he tells the story. "I said, 'Well, how many dogs are we talking about, Grover?' And he said, 'Just three — maybe four.' "
Now, Hunt pulls out the drawer above the one that holds Krantz's bones, revealing the bones of Clyde, Krantz's gigantic Irish wolfhound. The next shelf up holds the bones of two more wolfhounds, Icky and Yahoo.
"Grover wanted to be with his dogs because he loved them," says Laurie Burgess, another Smithsonian anthropologist.
In the drawer with Clyde's bones is one of the dozen books Krantz wrote. Titled "Only a Dog," it's a funny, moving memoir of Clyde that Krantz wrote eight years after the dog died in 1973. It includes a photo of Clyde standing on his hind legs, his huge paws on Krantz's shoulders.
Sitting between the book and the bones is a pewter bowl. "Is that a dog bowl?" Burgess asks.
"Yes," Hunt says. "It's a trophy from a dog show."
"See?" Burgess replies. "It's about love."
She's right. The tale of the anthropologist in the drawer is, among other things, a love story about a man and his dog.
A legend in Berkeley
"Grover was outrageous," Archambault says. "He was a legend in Berkeley in the '60s — for parties, for wild ideas, for outrageous behavior, for real smart conversations."
She met Krantz in the early 1960s, when she was a Berkeley freshman and they both worked in the university's anthropology museum. Krantz was in his early thirties. Born in Utah in 1931, he grew up collecting animal skeletons. He earned bachelor's and master's degrees at Berkeley but dropped out of the doctoral program after some kind of beef with a professor.
"He was always in trouble with his professors, because he was so smart and he challenged them," Archambault recalls. "As a grad student, you have to be politic, and that wasn't one of Grover's skills."
He was a big guy, 6 feet 3 with a huge head and hands, and everybody knew him. He was famous for his parties.
"They'd be 24- or 36-hour parties," she says. "And he had all these women around." Krantz had plenty of fun, but those were tough years. "My life at that time consisted of a part-time job and nearly full-time drinking," he wrote in his book on Clyde. "It was steadily downhill for me."
At 32, he'd been married and divorced twice. Dropping out of the doctoral program had stalled his dream of becoming a professor, and he was working as a part-time museum technician. He was stuck in a rut.
And then he bought a puppy.
He named the puppy Clyde.
"Grover loved that dog," Archambault says. "Every place he went, he took Clyde. And Clyde would kind of bump into things because he was so big."
Working at the Berkeley museum, Krantz broke his big toe in a particularly memorable manner: He dropped the Dead Sea Scrolls on it. During his recuperation, a woman named Eve Einstein took him and Clyde in. She became his third wife.
In the mid-'60s, Grover and Eve and Clyde moved to the University of Minnesota, where Krantz finally got his Ph.D. In 1968, he began teaching at Washington State University.
He'd pulled his life together, and he gave the credit to Clyde, "the closest thing to a son I ever had." His love for Clyde had made the difference, he wrote, "between being a functioning human being and a drunken bum."
"As if he'd lost a child"
At Wazzu, Krantz and Clyde bounded around the campus, just as they'd done at Berkeley and Minnesota.
But Clyde got old. In January 1973, he died.
"His death left me with the most empty, lonely feeling of my life, before or since," Krantz wrote.
Krantz buried Clyde in his yard, where he'd already buried many animals. Anthropologists study skeletons, and the cheapest way to get them is to bury dead animals and dig them up about a year later, after they've decayed. But this was different. This time he was burying a friend.
"It really was as if he'd lost a child," recalls University of Idaho anthropology professor Don Tyler, then one of Krantz's students.
Krantz plummeted into a deep depression. Within six months his marriage collapsed.
A few years later, Krantz dug Clyde up and added the dog's skeleton to his collection. As he cleaned it, he pondered the bittersweetness of love.
"Maybe we shouldn't get so attached to other beings, whether they be people, dogs or whatever," he wrote. "By projecting so much of ourselves into them, we only make ourselves vulnerable to the hurt of losing them. But then, if we didn't, we wouldn't really be human, would we?"
His tests were notorious
Krantz got other Irish wolfhounds. He loved them all, but none quite as much as Clyde.
He spent 30 years at Wazzu, teaching anthropology, human evolution and forensics while running the university's anthropology lab. His tests were notoriously difficult, but his classes filled up because he was so much fun. And he didn't restrict his teaching to the classroom.
"He liked to go down to the student union building and have his lunch and sit with the graduate students and sort of hold court, talking about whatever subject came up," recalls Tyler.
He did archaeological field work in China and Indonesia. He wrote books, "The Process of Human Evolution" and "Climatic Races and Descent Groups." But when he became famous, it was for his hobby: chasing Sasquatch.
Krantz had heard lots of stories about the apelike "Bigfoot" creatures rumored to reside in remote forests. He chased down the rumors, interviewing alleged witnesses, analyzing photos, making plaster casts of footprints supposedly left by Bigfoot.
Slowly he came to believe Sasquatch might exist, and he said so in several books. Naturally, that attracted a lot of publicity, which did not help his academic career.
"He was slow to advance to full professor, because they thought he was embarrassing the university with the Sasquatch thing," Tyler says.
In 1981, a Colorado woman, Diane Horton, read a news story on Krantz's search for Sasquatch. She wrote him a letter asking intelligent questions. They began corresponding. About a year later, they married.
"He was just delightfully refreshing," she recalls. "I was 37 and he was 49, and we were both divorced, and it was nice to meet somebody who had a brain and sense of humor."
When he married Horton, Krantz told Tyler: "This is it. This is gonna be the last one."
He was right. His fourth marriage lasted. In 1998 he retired, and the couple moved to the Olympic Peninsula. Then he got cancer. As his body melted away, he pondered a question only an anthropologist would ask: What should I do with my bones?
He wanted somebody to use his bones the way he used bones: as teaching tools.
He called Dave Hunt.
Krantz died on Valentine's Day 2002. His body was shipped to the University of Tennessee's "body farm," where scientists study human decay rates, valuable information for detectives and coroners investigating homicides.
In 2003, his skeleton arrived at the Smithsonian and Hunt laid it in its final resting place: that pale-green cabinet, just below the drawer that holds Clyde.
Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company