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Antlers taken by Hunter S Thompson from Hemingway's home returned

Published 18/08/2016

An interior view of the house formerly owned by Ernest Hemingway outside Ketchum, Idaho (AP)
An interior view of the house formerly owned by Ernest Hemingway outside Ketchum, Idaho (AP)

A set of trophy elk antlers taken from the home of Ernest Hemingway by Gonzo journalist Hunter S Thompson when he went to Idaho to write about his literary hero have been returned more than half a century later.

"One of the stories that has often been told over the years is the story of Hunter S Thompson taking the antlers," said Jenny Emery Davidson, of Ketchum Community Library.

"These are two great literary figures who came together over the item of the antlers."

Ms Davidson was there on August 5 when Thompson's widow, Anita Thompson, gave back the antlers she says her husband regretted taking.

Hemingway's house in Ketchum is owned by The Nature Conservancy, which has an agreement with the library to help catalogue and preserve items in the residence where the author took his life.

In 1964, Hunter Thompson, then 27, came to Ketchum when he was still a conventional journalist.

He had not yet developed his signature style, dubbed gonzo journalism, that involved inserting himself, often outrageously, into his reporting and that propelled him into a larger-than-life figure.

Thompson was writing a story for the National Observer about why the globe-trotting Hemingway shot and killed himself at his mountain town home three years earlier at the age of 61.

Thompson attributed the suicide in part to rapid changes in the world that led to upheavals in places Hemingway loved most - Africa and Cuba.

Even Ketchum, which in the 1930s and 1940s attracted luminaries such as Gary Cooper, had fallen off the map of cafe society by the late 1950s, Thompson wrote.

In the story, later collected in his book The Great Shark Hunt, he noted the problem of tourists taking chunks of earth from around Hemingway's grave as souvenirs. Thompson aimed higher.

Early in the piece, he writes about the large elk antlers over Hemingway's front door but never mentions taking them.

For decades, the antlers hung in a garage at Thompson's home near Aspen, Colorado.

Ms Davidson said they made their way back to Idaho after historian Douglas Brinkley, who spoke at the library in May and was familiar with the antler story after interviewing the writer, contacted Anita Thompson. She called the library on August 1.

"She gave a little background about the antlers and said she'd love to return them," Ms Davidson said.

They have since been shipped to a Hemingway grandson in New York who wanted them, she said.

It is not clear if the antlers came from an elk killed by the author, who was a noted big game hunter, or if they were a gift.

Not long after the visit to Hemingway's house, Thompson developed the journalism style that took him into the dangerous world of the Hells Angels motorcycle gang and would make him famous.

Like Hemingway, Thompson ended his own life by shooting himself, dying in 2005 at the age of 67 at his Colorado home.


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