Fishing with Scotch: Hemingway and Wyoming - Wyoming Magazine

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Fishing with Scotch: Hemingway and Wyoming

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In Ernest Hemingway’s well-received short story, “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber,” the legendary American author writes of hunting big game in Africa with the prose and confidence to which only experience can give birth.

When Hemingway wasn’t stalking lions and other big game across the African plains or swilling scotch in the South of France, he found refuge from metropolitan life in a cozy cabin at Spear-O-Wigwam in the Bighorn Mountains, and is rumored to have frequented watering holes such as the Mint Bar in Sheridan and the Last Chance Saloon in Big Horn.

Following the success of his renowned modernist novel The Sun Also Rises, Ernest stole away to his home in the woods near Park Reservoir and began to write a first draft for the quintessential WWI chronicle: A Farewell to Arms.

While many of his novels are set beyond the shores of the United States, Hemingway drew inspiration from the raw purity of Wyoming’s majestic nature and the rustic simplicity of the lifestyle. He often fished for trout in the Bighorns, and kept a journal of his exploits, wherein he wrote:

“1st day — worked four pages,

fished with Bill Horne caught 12

2nd day — worked 4 ½ pages,

fished with two girls caught 2

3rd day — worked zero,

fished by self alone, caught 30-limit.”*

The troubled novelist split his time between enjoying the splendor of the outdoors and plugging away at one of his many literary triumphs, living deep and sucking the marrow of life in the spirit of fellow nature lover Henry David Thoreau.

Unfortunately, even Wyoming’s beauty was not enough to save him from his inner demons, as Hemingway tried to commit suicide by spinning a plane propeller in Casper. Although a tortured soul, his brilliance and lasting effect on modern American literature are undeniable.

His passionate simplicity has inspired many writers to mimic his literary style but, of course, have all come up short in comparison to the originator found in Hemingway. The literary soldier found new life and eloquent breath between the pages of Hemingway’s harrowing works, and many subsequent fictional servicemen owe their lives to Ernest Hemingway.

Not typically one for over-sentimentality, he once said of our Equality State:

“There are two places I love, Africa and Wyoming.”

*Excerpt from Carlos Baker’s Ernest Hemingway Selected Letters 1917-1961.

Photo: JFK Presidential Library

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