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Ernest Hemingway, Bears, and Sunlight

My neighbor who was born in the valley in 1924 told me the other day that September 16 was his cut-off day.  “Usually snows on that day, or anytime soon afterwards”, he said.  Well, things are definitely a’changin because it rained, hard, on Sept. 16.

Besides the climate, Sunlight has changed a lot since my neighbor homesteaded here.  In 1929, when he was just 5 years old, Ernest Hemingway came to the Basin and stayed at a ranch called the L-T, owned by the Copelands.  Hemingway, with his wife Pauline and their young son, came to write, rest and hunt in these mountains intermittently over the next 10 years. Apparently, he wrote “The Green Hills of Africa”“Death in the Afternoon” and “To Have and Have Not”  here in a small cabin.

But these facts are findable online.  What interested me was a wild story I heard from a reliable local; a story that apparently is famous around Cody.  Here’s the tale I was told:

Hemingway made a bet with some friends that a grizzly bear could take on an African lion.  In order to prove it, he concocted up a scheme.  He hired one of the Crandall locals to catch him a live grizzly.  Being that this was in the 1930’s, there were of course no tranquilizer guns nor other easy methods to catch a live bear.  So the hired fellows dug a very large and deep pit; threw in some attractive bait, then covered up the pit and waited.  Soon enough a griz appeared and fell into the pit.  The question now was how to haul the bear up, and keep him alive.  One of these locals was an excellent roper.  He roped the bear’s front and back legs, and after a lot of pulling, they got the bear out of the pit.  They tied a rope around the bears neck, and apparently easily led the bear to a waiting cage.  This poor unsuspecting grizzly was then transported to Las Vegas, where an African lion awaited him.  The griz was led into the ring with the lion, and within seconds killed that lion. So Hemingway won his bet.

What happened to that grizzly after the match?  That part of the story was omitted, but I suspect he was made into a rug which lies somewhere now.

This is such a wild story that I’d love to hear from any locals that can add tidbits or fill in with details.

Grizzly minding his own business

And it is the season to tell bear stories as the bears come low down, in hyperphagia and getting ready for winter.  Here’s a cute grizzly cub I caught on my trail camera the other day–way too small to take on a lion.

2 Responses

  1. Interesting story — the lion, of course, had never encountered a creature like the grizzly so it had no idea of what to expect. The bear had dealt with large felines and had a strategy. No doubt Hemmingway considered this in his bet. Thanks!


  2. I never knew Hemmingway even lived around here! An interesting read!


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