Paradise and Purgatory: Hemingway of the L Bar T and St. V’s

Ernest Hemingway spent the summer and fall of 1930 hunting and fishing at the L Bar T, a dude ranch twelve miles south of Cooke City, MT. Although his vacation was initially a great success, it nearly ended in tragedy.

After rejecting a number of places as too civilized, too conscious of his notoriety, Ernest Hemingway spent the summer and fall of 1930 hunting and fishing at the L Bar T, a dude ranch twelve miles south of Cooke City, MT. Although his vacation was initially a great success, it nearly ended in tragedy.

Near dusk on November 1st, Hemingway, fellow novelist John Dos Passos and a cowboy friend, Floyd Allington, were involved in an automobile accident between Park City and Laurel. Hemingway sustained an oblique spiral fracture of his right arm, while Dos Passos escaped injury and Allington experienced a dislocated shoulder.

Since his vocation (writing) and his great loves (hunting and fishing) were threatened by this stubborn break, Hemingway was fortunate that Doctor Louis Allard, one of the best orthopedic surgeons in the Northwest, and a man already famous for his work with polio patients, was in residence at St. Vincent’s. Using a procedure that was radical even for its day, Allard bored holes in Hemingway’s broken bone and lashed it together with kangaroo tendons. As a physical man, a lover of the outdoors, Hemingway’s seven weeks of recuperation at St. Vincent’s (three of them immobilized) were pure tortu4re. Despite the resulting depression, Hemingway was able to focus his powers of observation on the hospital environment and discover many of the characters and most the details that would alter appear in one of his finest short stories, “The Gambler, The Nun, and the Radio”.

Still in a cast, Hemingway left the hospital on December 21st. He would, however, soon tear it off – long before he was supposed to. He was in Key West by now and that doggoned cast got in the way of his fishing.

Paradise and Purgatory