Longform

The Fight of Their Lives

Page 4 of 23

He no longer believed in Schweitzer's approach to healing, in his emphasis on relieving individual suffering. Although that was an honorable endeavor, without an emphasis on public health it was simply "repetitive relief of preventable illness," Hern had concluded.

"Schweitzer is an incredible historic figure," Hern says now. "He made a fabulous contribution to Western civilization as a humanitarian and to the people he helped. He gave us a great moral example, and I admired him tremendously as a man. But he was a man of his time, the nineteenth century, and should be seen in the context of his time."

Hern looks up. "Schweitzer would probably be horrified at what I do now," he says slowly.

"It took me some time to be reconciled to that."

Ken Scott was born in Omaha, Nebraska, in 1949. His father worked as a superintendent at the Keebler Cookie Factory; his mother was a kindergarten and first-grade teacher. They were good, solid Lutherans who attended church every Sunday--or at least, Ken's mother and her sons did.

In a 1994 psychological evaluation, Scott described his father as hardworking but strict and unaffectionate. His mother, who'd gone back to work after he and his brother started school, "was a very loving and caring woman who was concerned about her family," Scott told the psychologist. "She was not afraid to rack you up if you had it coming, but could show compassion."

(Scott, who spoke with Westword in the fall of 1995 ["Battle Cry," November 1, 1995] declined to be interviewed for this story. When contacted by phone, his mother hung up.)

Ken, the Scotts' elder son, was a big kid--eventually reaching 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds--and an accomplished athlete. He had problems academically, however, because he was dyslexic. And, the psychologist noted, "he was not too involved with females because he couldn't dance and states that he had no rhythm."

Where Scott truly excelled was as a hunter. After the family moved to Colorado when he was a senior in high school, he would sometimes disappear into the mountains for weeks, always emerging with his prey. "His friends told me that if you couldn't fill your elk tag, he'd do it for you," says Mike Newell, who was hired by Planned Parenthood to investigate Scott in 1993.

Scott told friends that he'd once followed a mountain lion for several days. At one point, the rock he was climbing on slipped down the hillside before coming to a precarious stop at the edge of a cliff. Fearing it would slide off entirely, he lay still for hours before finally deciding the rock was stable. He got off and went on to kill the lion, keeping its skin for a rug.

To his friends, Scott boasted that it was the stalking that made hunting so rewarding. He followed a bear for three days, played cat-and-mouse with elk and deer before finishing them off.

After graduating from high school in 1967, Scott went to Trinidad Junior College on a wrestling scholarship. "He wanted to be a teacher but found that he couldn't spell very well and didn't think that would go over very well with the people who ran the schools," the psychologist noted.

In 1969 Scott met a pretty sixteen-year-old Hispanic girl from a poor Trinidad family. She was soon pregnant, and they married that summer--a rebellion against his parents' strictness, Scott told the psychologist.

The young couple moved to Fort Collins, where Scott enrolled at Colorado State University. He found the classes too difficult, though, and dropped out.

Scott's marriage didn't last much longer than his college career, and the couple divorced in 1973. Scott refused to pay child support for his daughter; he told the psychologist his wife had left him for another man.

In 1968 Hern returned from his stint as a Peace Corps doctor to a country in turmoil. Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. had been assassinated. The Vietnam War still raged; a medical-school classmate had died after stepping on a mine near Da Nang.

Hern had planned to spend some time with his family before heading to graduate school in North Carolina. But when Senator Eugene McCarthy's personal physician made a televised appeal for doctors to help protesters set upon by police outside the Democratic National Convention, he flew to Chicago. As he rode the bus from O'Hare airport into the city, where he would establish the first emergency clinic for protesters, he gazed out on scenes of urban blight.

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Steve Jackson