Into The Wild


Chapter 3

Chapter 3 Summary

Chapter 3 opens with a brief description of Carthage, South Dakota, a small, sleepy town where Krakauer has come to interview Wayne Westerberg. It is two months after McCandless’s body was discovered inside the bus. Westerberg and Krakauer meet in the town’s only bar, where Westerberg sips a White Russian and tells Krakauer that this was what “Alex” used to drink. Westerberg, a grain elevator operator, had picked up McCandless—who called himself Alex—hitchhiking in Montana in September 1990. The likeable, talkative young man looked hungry, Westerberg recalls. When Westerberg stopped at a friend’s house to deliver a package, the friend’s wife immediately cooked him a big meal. McCandless was headed for Saco Hot Springs, about 240 miles down Highway 2, but Westerberg could only take him another ten miles before he had to turn off. However, when Westerberg reached the turn-off, it was raining and he didn’t want to leave the young man out in the rain. He offered him a place to stay, and McCandless accepted and stayed for three days. When McCandless hit the road again, Westerberg told him that he could give him work at the grain elevator in Carthage if he ever needed it.

Westerberg recalls that McCandless turned up in Carthage within a couple of weeks to take him up on his offer. McCandless stayed in Westerberg’s house along with several other employees. He was well-liked by the people there, and McCandless seemed to like Carthage, as well. He was, Westerberg recalls, “the hardest worker I’d ever seen.” He also describes McCandless as intelligent, and says that he “did too much thinking.” Westerberg could tell from conversation that “something wasn’t right between him and his family,” but he didn’t pry into the young man’s business.

In October 1990, Westerberg was caught in an FBI sting; he had been involved in satellite television piracy. Westerberg was sentenced to four months in Sioux Falls and, with...

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