His quest for gallium seems a little odd. Today the soft, silvery metal is used in electronic circuit boards, semiconductors, and LEDs. Why he thought it valuable in 1940 is open to conjecture. Gallium is akin to mercury in that it softens to a liquid when held in your hand. Playing with mercury that way is dangerous, but gallium seems relatively safe. Perhaps the changeable nature of the element held some fascination for Hendrickson.
Hendrickson was often called a squatter, though he may have originally had permission from the property owner to build his cabin on the foothills ridge near Bogus Basin. He and the landowner came to a dispute in 1936 when Hendrickson cut a cord of wood from the nearby forest. The property owner took him to court. Scant coverage of the matter appeared in the Idaho Statesman at the time, focusing mostly on the cost of the trials—an estimated $100—as compared with the value of the wood, $5. Two juries heard the case. The first couldn’t agree on a verdict and the second found Hendrickson not guilty.
The squatter was back in court again in 1939, this time fighting for his mineral rights in federal court against the Forest Service. Squatter was the appropriate term for the man by that time, because the Forest Service had purchased the property where he lived and wanted him off. Their argument against his mineral rights claim was that no mineral of worth had been discovered. This time Hendrickson lost the case.
In the early morning of Wednesday, July 31, 1940, Deputy U.S. Marshall John Glenn and Boise Police Captain George Haskin caught a cab and took it up the dirt road into the foothills for the purpose of serving a contempt of court citation to Hendrickson. They left the cab and driver on the road and walked in to Hendrickson’s cabin, about three quarters of a mile away.
While Haskin covered the window of the cabin, Glenn pounded on the door and roused Hendrickson. The Marshall said a few words about why they were there. Hendrickson, who had frequently said they would have to take him from his cabin boots first, shot the man twice. Glenn staggered away a few feet and fell dead. Haskin ran around the cabin and took cover. A few minutes later he made his way back to the taxi, and then back to town for reinforcements.
About 8 am law enforcement began to arrive at the cabin. U.S. Marshall George Meffan was the first, driving his car right up to the cabin where it stalled. Before he could get out Hendrickson shot him dead behind the wheel.
That’s when the siege—and that’s the word for it—began. Law enforcement officers from Boise, Ada County, Idaho City, Moscow, and the FBI surrounded the cabin and fired into it with everything they had for hours. And they had a lot. They used rifles, pistols, submachine guns, and even sticks of dynamite on Hendrickson. Sheltering in bushes and watching the situation develop were the county coroner and “girl reporter” Nina Varian. The fight went on for some four hours.
Varian, under the headline, “Girl Reporter Describes Tragic Drama of Man-Hunt; Negro Was Obsessed,” described it this way: “I saw grisly hell let loose in a lovely heaven of blue sky, green timber, gold sunshine. I crouched in soft, brown earth against hot gray rocks as the whine and roar of guns blasted all around me… I looked at two dead men—one sprawled like a blue lump on the ground, the other slumped over the wheel of his car, an inert mass; and I watched the frail hut that housed a doomed man.
“It was a man-hunt. Grim, relentless, terrible. Avenging man, hunting his kind; ruled by emotions muddied up from the dregs of ages past. I know now what ugly things are covered by the cloak of civilization.”
The outcome was never in doubt once the shooting started. Hendrickson fought for hours using his own weapons and the weapons of the men he killed. Eventually, he himself was killed.
The battle was covered on three pages of the newspaper on August 1, with stories from eyewitnesses, a timeline, multiple photos, and a sketch of scene. “Girl reporter” wasn’t the only term that jars today. Hendrickson was referred to as a negro and a colored man, both terms long since put to rest in most newspapers. The photos included one of Glenn’s body being unceremoniously carried away by two men.
Pearl Royal Hendrickson, 50, was carried off the same way, feet first, as he had promised many times if officials tried to evict him.