Dropping a Deer: Excerpts from the Lost Memoirs of Ernest Hemingway

    icon Nov 18, 2021
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Editor’s Note:  This dispatch originally appeared in Volume 1, Issue #8 of The REVIEW  back in November, 1979. The authors were fortunate enough to discover this personal memoir written by Earnest Hemingway prior to his death in Ketchum, Idaho in 1961.

I picked up the arrows at Sam’s Sport Shop because Miss Mary insisted. I like the way Sam shoots straight with customers. I tried to shoot a ping-pong ball off a colored boy’s head in his shop and Sam said, “Cut the crap Ernie.”  Didn’t call me Hem. I said, ‘Sam, don’t make me miss.’ He said, ‘Miss?  You’re too far gone to even pull that bow back straight and true, so put it down now and get the hell out of here and up to those woods by the family cabin in Walloon, far away from people where you belong.’

Sam has guts and does his job clean and well.

Ticks me off. Opening of deer season and my khaki bush pants smell strange. Tomato paste and wine stains from my last African expedition. Why didn’t Miss Mary clean them promptly? She’s a skinny little bitch. No meat left. Gonna have to shave all her hair off when she’s asleep. Maybe I’ll wear my green corduroys with a heavy sweater and no shirt.

Note to Myself: If I don’t bag a deer, buy one at Vern’s Meat Market. Shoot it a few times to make it look like it was hunted. Take some over to Max Perkin’s office wearing my wine covered khakis and get some advance money for this memoir. Take my gun too. Might get a healthier slice of the Scribners' fat green money pie that way.

James Joyce. He borrowed my hedge clippers and never returned them. He should have a sense of ethics about returning something he borrowed. I distinctly recall I lent them to him. They were manual clippers because I already have two power sets. I had no use for the old clippers. Maybe I did give them to him, but he should have called and thanked me.  Did the same thing with my golf clubs the time before.  Came over on a fine sunny day and said, ‘Hem, it’s a beautiful day, think I’ll trim my hedges so I can see beyond the back yard.  Told him I was using them and then he asked if it was okay to  borrow my golf clubs? Typical trickery. Always writes with a head full of Guinness. No wonder its hard to get past the first sentence of Finnegan’s Wake.

A Tip to Hunters: Never run from animals at night when you can grab a clear shot at day. Drank so much I got lost in the woods. Kept bumping into trees. Gertrude Stein once told me there’s more to life than living in the fear of the unknown. She ought to know. Sat in her house on Montmartre all the time because she was afraid to make a big move. Had no idea so many animals came out at night. Especially the little fuzzy ones. Animals are not afraid of humans at night. Interesting point. Why risk running into them at night when you can pump lead into them in the morning?

Met Lou Lazlo at the hardware store. Asked me to Bob Boobers Bar for a drink. Lou had a beer. I asked for a margarita. Lou wondered if he could offer a suggestion about my writing. I was honored because Lou is one of my truest readers. Rather hear a suggestion from old Lou than one of those homo editors in New York. Lou says, “Hem, you need more humor in your writing.’ I said, ‘Lou, hunting is serious stuff. Jokes can break the rhythm & flow of writing and stick out like a broken bone.’  Lou says, ‘Good point, Hem." I like Lou.

'Gotta go, Lou. Put the drinks on my tab.'

‘You don’t have a tab, Ernie.’

Come to think of it, I don’t like Lou. He’s cheaper than that flab lip Faulkner.

Bagging the Big Bucks today. The air is crisp and cool. The remaining leaves of fall drip into the gentle violence of the stream like pale abandoned housewives. We head for our makeshift shanty.  We find the blind I made as a young boy on the banks of the Two Hearted River. To get there you have to go across the river and into the trees. When we woke the first morning the sun was also rising. That dumb Indian buck we took as guide was hungover. Walking into the woods we munched on cornbread and raw eggs. It was a moveable feast. We didn’t hunt long because it was cold and we were dehydrated from the night before. About 9 o’clock in the morning we bid a farewell to arms and went back to camp to sleep until we felt better. Felt sick as I lay dying.

The damn skinny Michigan deer don’t compare to the fat and true kudu you find in the Green Hills of Africa. We passed an island in the stream but didn’t have a boat, so we said to hell with it. If you’ve seen one island you’ve seen them all. We were seeing double anyway and I was getting sick of the sensory overkill from this hunt.

We woke later that day. Suddenly we heard a shot and the rustling of the woods. We were sure it was a deer death in the afternoon. We were wrong. It was just Cooper shooting at beer cans and falling down in the leaves. I felt like taking a swing at him because he came back to camp with a stupid grin on his face. I should have hit him. Instead I just tripped him when he turned his back on me. I know it was mean, but what is moral is what you feel good after doing and what is immoral is what you feel bad after.  I felt good and opened my second bottle of Gordon’s. We didn’t see any deer at all that day. Maybe they were just sleeping.

The Indian buck told me it was because I was playing my transistor radio so loud. I told him that to have a radio and not use it was to have and have not. It was a good line and I will use it again someday.

We got back to Boobers' Bar about 5 o clock. We ate same hamburgers and watched our beards grow. Cooper and I had made a separate peace and he poured a beer over my head. Later we arm wrestled and the winner took nothing.

Of all the men in the bar only one had dropped a deer that day. No one had been wounded  and we drank and were glad of it. Jake Barney from Chicago did go around wearing an arrow through his red hat that his hunting partner had put there by mistake. That old Jake always did have grace under pressure.  I asked him, ‘Leaping snows of Kilimanjaro, what Robin Hood put that arrow in your hat, Jake?’ Jake didn’t answer and I appreciated him for that.

I was coming on to this squaw who said that I smelled bad. I told her, ‘We could have such a damned good time together.’ She stood upwind from me and said, ‘Isn’t it pretty to think so?’

I got mad and stood to leave. Cooper was passed out in his chair. It was like saying goodbye to a statue.

After awhile I left and walked back to my travel trailer in the rain.

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