BOISE, Idaho — A young Hunter S. Thompson went to Idaho to write about Ernest Hemingway and decided to take a piece of his hero home with him — a set of trophy elk antlers.
More than half a century later, the gonzo journalist's wife returned the antlers to Hemingway's house in the mountain town of Ketchum.
"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.''
Davidson was there on Aug. 5 when Thompson's widow, Anita Thompson, gave back the antlers she says her husband regretted taking. Hemingway's house 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 own life.
The late writer Hunter S. Thompson and his wife, Anita Thompson, are shown at the Pitkin County Court House during their civil wedding ceremony in this April 23, 2003 photo, in Aspen, Colo. (Photo: Louisa Davidson/AP via Canadian Press)
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 home three years earlier at age 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.
Antlers hung in Thompson's garage for decades
Early in the piece, he wrote about the large elk antlers over Hemingway's front door but never mentioned taking them.
For decades, the antlers hung in a garage at Thompson's home near Aspen, Colorado.
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 Aug. 1.
"She gave a little background about the antlers and said she'd love to return them,'' Davidson said.
They have since been shipped to a Hemingway grandson in New York who wanted them, she said. It's 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.
"She gave a little background about the antlers and said she'd love to return them."
Anita Thompson and Sean Hemingway didn't respond to emails or phone messages seeking comment from The Associated Press.
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 age 67 at his Colorado home.
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Ernest Hemingway Foundation of Oak ParkErnest Hemingway at six months with his sister Marcelline, age two.
Ernest Hemingway Foundation of Oak ParkGrace Hall Hemingway showing Ernest and his sisters, Marcelline and Ursula, the seven-pound pike she has caught. Note that Ernest is dressed as a Native American Indian.
Ernest Hemingway Foundation of Oak ParkThe Hemingways arrive in Michigan by car in 1917. Ernest is wearing his high school “letter sweater.”
Ernest Hemingway Foundation of Oak ParkAnson and Adelaide Hemingway, Memorial Day, 1915, outside the boyhood home at 600 N. Kenilworth, Oak Park, Illinois. Anson is proudly wearing his Civil War uniform and medals.
Courtesy Oak Park Public Library, Oak Park, IllinoisErnest Hemingway with the varsity football team at Oak Park High School.
Courtesy Oak Park Public Library, Oak Park, IllinoisErnest Hemingway in the class play, Beau Brummel, at Oak Park High School.
Hemingway Collection, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and MuseumErnest Hemingway seated in a Red Cross ambulance, Italy, 1918.