Wyoming hotel honors link with Hemingway

CODY, Wyo. — The room is tastefully adorned in red brick, crown molding and a tile mosaic inlay.

There's a steamer trunk and a cushy chair, a king-size bed and the warm glow of a bedside lamp — the accoutrement you might expect from a boutique hotel.

But look closer — the 1930s Royal typewriter set on the desk, the vintage rotary phone, the black-and-white photo of Ernest Hemingway staring out over the surf.

It was here that Hemingway mailed the final draft of "Death in the Afternoon." An ode to the Spanish bullfighting culture, it was a subject he would refer to in his writing throughout his career.

While Cody may be a long way from Hemingway's home in the Florida Keys, not to mention Pamplona, Spain, his signature in the Chamberlin Inn's historic registry places him here on Oct. 16, 1932, the year the book was published.

Recent research conducted by a UCLA graduate student also has found more about Hemingway's days in northwest Wyoming, where he fished the local rivers, hunted big game and drank whiskey at the local taverns.

"At that time in his life he was writing a lot of short stories," said Ev Diehl, who owns the Chamberlin Inn with his wife, Susan. "I've always been a big fan. I've read everything he's written. I remember when he shot himself. It was kind of a tragedy for me."

The Diehls purchased their hotel, then known as the Paawnee, in 2005, vaguely familiar with its history.

Their first order of business was to change the name back to the Chamberlin, honoring Agnes Chamberlin, the pioneering businesswoman who founded it as a boarding house in 1903.

Changing the name was the easy part.

"There were a lot of rooms you couldn't get into," said Susan Diehl. "The basement was completely full of antiques and things she collected."

Any sense of the hotel's original charm had been covered up with clutter or stripped from the property. But from that clutter came a few old ledgers used during the hotel's golden days.

Intrigued, the Diehls scanned the ledgers line by line, looking for nothing in particular. Then they found Hemingway's signature.

"When we got the ledgers, we'd heard rumors that Hemingway had stayed here," Susan said. "I was with my daughter when I found it. I screamed and said, 'We've got some history here.' "

Not much was known about Hemingway's days in Cody. But that changed in 2006 when a travel writer named Richard Carroll, a graduate student at UCLA, arrived to complete his thesis on Hemingway.

"Hemingway loved Wyoming," Carroll wrote in a letter to the Diehls after completing his research. "He told his friends that the best fishing in the world was at the Clarks Fork branch of the Yellowstone River."

Using books written about Hemingway, Carroll started piecing together the author's Wyoming adventures. Citing an excerpt from the 1969 book, "Ernest Hemingway: A Life Story," by Carlos Baker, Carroll noted that Hemingway received a deep cut on his chin while riding at a local ranch that many believe was the L Bar T.

That night, according to Baker's book, Hemingway went to the Crandall Ranger Station and rented a "decrepit car" from the ranger.

"He reached Cody about midnight and roused Dr. Trueblood, a one-time veterinarian who offered Hemingway whiskey," Baker wrote. "After the stitching, they took the whiskey and went across the street to an all-night restaurant for more drinks."

Carroll believes the restaurant was likely the Irma Hotel. Founded by William "Buffalo Bill" Cody in 1902, the Irma still holds a prominent corner in town, a short walk from the Chamberlin Inn.

It's easy to imagine Hemingway bellied up to the bar while mixing it up with the locals. At least that's how Diehl likes to picture it.

"We just assumed he probably hit the pubs pretty hard with all the local boys," Diehl said.

"There were also a couple other bars around the corner, including the Wonder Bar, which is now the Proud Cut Saloon."

Hemingway was doing more in Cody than fishing and drinking. He was also working, and it was from here that he mailed "Death in the Afternoon," along with several short stories.

During that 1932 visit, Carroll said, Hemingway had been hunting in the Closed Creek and Pilot Creek area. He arrived back in town just ahead of a winter storm.

"By that night, he and Charles are in Cody with the smell of snow in the air and winter setting in thickly behind them," wrote Michael Reynolds in his 1997 book, "Hemingway: The 1930s," from which Carroll pulled some research.

But Carroll's favorite anecdote was found in "Selected Letters: Ernest Hemingway," edited by Carlos Baker. Among the letters was one Hemingway wrote from Cody to his editor, Maxwell Perkins.

"Did you get a second lot of sheets signed to be bound and mailed from Cody? Mailed about Oct. 15-17," Hemingway wrote.

"I mailed about 14 letters with them (rather left them in the mailbag of the Studebaker garage in Cody in the a.m. before mailman came by for him to mail on the morning we started) and have never had an answer from any of them.

"Will you answer this by return mail so I can write to Cody. All the letters are important. It was my summer's correspondence which I finally answered before leaving the ranch."

Carroll called the letter a marvelous background detail connecting Hemingway to the Chamberlin Inn and the city of Cody.

As for the photo hanging in the wall of the "Hemingway Suite," as the Diehls now call it, Carroll said it was taken by a man named Walter Hauk. Hauk was a writer-photographer who was married in Hemingway's "finca," or property, in Cuba.

"Walter was working as first secretary of the American Embassy in Havana at the time, and his wife was Nita Jensen, Hemingway's secretary," Carroll explained. "Hemingway was Walter's best man.

"The photo was taken on the Pilar, Hemingway's famous fishing boat. There are only three copies in existence. Walter has the original, he made one copy for me, and now you have one for the Hemingway Suite."

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