Proud Highway:Saga of a Desperate Southern Gentleman (13 page)

BOOK: Proud Highway:Saga of a Desperate Southern Gentleman
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April 11, 1957
Eglin AFB
Fort Walton Beach, Florida

Dear Mom,

Leaving the usual apologies unspoken but understood, I'll get on with the letter—which should be informative but short.

First, Davison arrived on schedule last Saturday and we had what I considered to be a very enjoyable weekend. I imagine that he has already informed you that we spent most of our time either on the road or in the French Quarter of New Orleans, so this revelation shouldn't come as too much of a shock to you. It was a spur of the moment decision, born of the realization that there was absolutely nothing for us to do in this vicinity except brave pneumonia and chills by a little beachcombing.

After warning him several times of the considerable travel and expense involved with such a trip, we roared off in “my car” at about 5:00 pm on Saturday. We arrived at Eichelburger's apartment at about midnight and departed immediately for the Quarter. In the short space of about six hours, I tried to give him as comprehensive a tour as possible on our limited funds, having a fine time in the process. After getting to bed at about 6:00 am, we awoke around noon, had an excellent meal in one of the Tulane restaurants, and spent several hours shooting the bull with Ike—who really enjoyed seeing Davison in this completely unexpected manner.

Realizing that he had to catch a bus out of Pensacola at 2:00 am Sunday, we spent the afternoon at a jazz concert and set out for “home” at about 7:00. The trip back was somewhat less pleasant than the one on the day before, due to the fatigue which had begun to get the best of both of us—especially Davison, who I would imagine is a little new at the game.

After a groggy and vaguely recalled farewell, I retired to the bed at about 4:30 and would assume that he got into Tallahassee at about 7:30 or 8:00 am.

Before I forget: when he arrives I wish you would surreptitiously find out if he made off with my green, crewneck sweater. I first noticed its absence this morning and came within minutes of reporting it to the Air Police as a malicious theft. Then I recalled the “few” articles I have made off with at one time or another—whether they were Davison's or not is a moot question—and thought it would be best to find out if he had returned the favor and quietly appropriated my prize sweater. Don't let him know that the loss has shaken me, but please inform me if he has it or not.

On the subject of my status—I had another big storm about an article I wrote about Arthur Godfrey, who is—unfortunately—a personal friend of Colonel Evans', and may return to the Comm Sq at any time. This is a matter of little importance, as I have already volunteered for overseas and will turn my whole attention to the
Playground News,
making the same amount of money and escaping this senseless, maddening censorship which has all but taken the enjoyment out of working on the
Right now, the situation is flexible, but I'll let you know when anything definite develops.

As for Easter, I'll probably spend it with Ike in New Orleans—with an eye to getting home either for the Derby or when the colleges adjourn for the summer.

Until then, I remain,


Whenever Thompson received an overdue bill notice he would write back a note either trying to finagle his way out of the debt or venting his rage.

May 3, 1957
Eglin AFB, Florida

Chamber Music Society

71 Fifth Avenue

New York 3, New York


I was extremely embarrassed by a “final notice before suit” which I received from your office yesterday. My shame was manifest as I read and re-read
the lines which proclaimed to all the world that I, a gentleman of impeccable honor and unimpeachable integrity, have been slandered and branded in this crude manner by a dark plot which threatens my very reputation and standing in this lovely community.

This astounding implication that my professional honesty is in question has thrown me into a state of extreme mental anguish and has caused my guardian to initiate proceedings to place me once again in the narcotics sanitarium which was my home for the last five horrible years.

Should this come about, the responsibility for the disaster would settle heavily on your shoulders—for sending me this hideous little notice and putting me in the class with that lowest and most odious of all humans—the welcher.

Let me say in a final desperate plea—that any debt of mine shall be paid. Even though I am destitute to the point that I must accept meals and lodging from charity; that burning zeal and great dedication which carried me through “the cure” will once more come to my aid in this hour of urgency to cleanse me of this terrifying taint of debt and restore me to my former eminence. Even if I must pawn my syringe, I will see to it that this wretched debt is cleared immediately.

Most cordially,
Hunter S. Thompson
Command Courier
Eglin AFB, Fla.


Despite his sarcastic tone, Thompson was truly upset that Menyers, a Louisville girlfriend, had failed to answer his most recent love letter.

May 11, 1957
Eglin AFB
Fort Walton Beach, Florida

, T

Dear Frailty,

After hovering for two months in a state of hopeful desperation, I have all but given up the ghost. The hideous realization that you have cast me aside like a dead toad has split my heart asunder. My spirit has plunged into a bottomless pit of despair.

Words cannot describe this great ache which permeates my entire being and threatens to drive me crazy with grief. For weeks I raced eagerly to my mailbox twice each day, oozing with hope that I might find a letter from you. But my waiting has been in vain and my hopes have decayed with the passing of time. How could you have done it to me?

The throbbing pain of this ghastly rejection had begun to subside last week when I was set upon by a pack of lesbians and bludgeoned half to death. As a result of these two disasters, my faith in women has been set back an untold number of years and my once-cheerful disposition has become as foul as rancid butter. Oh cruel woman that you are, you have ruptured my soul and I know that I shall never smile again.



While writing for the
Command Courier
Playground News
Thompson discovered the acerbic H. L. Mencken. Devouring the collected works of the arch commentator, Thompson began raging against the American Puritanical tradition in the style of “the sage of Baltimore.”

June 6, 1957
Eglin AFB
Fort Walton Beach, Florida

Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Robert Rutan
Headquarters, Air Proving Ground Command


Naturally, I cannot be expected to dignify your wild accusations [of drunkenness] of June 4 with a defense of any type. However, I located the following quotation in “the Fourth Book of Mencken” last night and felt that it may be of some interest to you: my most abject apologies if I'm wrong.

“The theory that the clergy belong to a class of educated men, once well supported in fact, has persisted into our own time, though it has not been true for nearly a century. Even Protestants are commonly willing to admit that Catholic priests are what they call highly educated men. They are, of course, nothing of the sort. Nine-tenths of the knowledge they are stuffed with is bogus, and they have very little grounding in what is really true. Since
The Origin of the Species,
clergymen have constituted a special class of uneducated persons. Catholic and Protestant alike.

If they happen to be naturally smart fellows, they may pick up a good deal of worldly wisdom, but even that is not common. The average clergyman
is a kind of intellectual eunuch, comparable to a pedagogue, a Rotarian, or an editorial writer.”

—H. L. Mencken—

In hopes that you may find as much pleasure in Mencken's wit as I have,

                              I remain,

                                  most cordially,

                                      Hunter Stockton Thompson


Thompson made a habit of joining book and record clubs, then not paying his bill. This time a collection agency tracked him down with a threat of legal action. Deciding to cough up the money owed the Book of the Month Club, Thompson wrote the collection agency this Menckenesque riposte.

June 26, 1957
Eglin AFB
Fort Walton Beach, Florida

L. J. Dale


A Private Collecting Agency

Wilmington, Delaware

Mr. Dale,

Although a wild and lengthy court battle might have proved stimulating indeed, I decided after lengthy consultation with my compatriots that it might be best to clear this debt (840-865-S) and go on to greener fields. And so, by by-passing the opportunity to spice my dull existence with a violent legal struggle, I am enclosing a money order for $13.58, hoping that it will put an end to this stream of crude letters which it has been my privilege to receive from your hallowed halls.

Before closing, allow me to say that your letters have shown neither originality nor wit. They have convinced me that the collecting business is a haven for dullards and habitual misers, devoid of humor and incapable of interesting correspondence. You have my most sincere condolences.

We cannot, however, escape the obvious fact that you have accomplished your intended purpose—that of prying $13.58 out of these grasping hands by fair means or foul. Congratulations.

Most cordially,
Hunter S. Thompson
Command Courier
3201 AB Wing
Eglin AFB, Fla.


Thompson had met Haselden when both were in junior high school. Because of his reputation as a “thug,” Haselden's parents forbade her to see him, so they carried on a passionate, secret dalliance. This is the first of many letters in which Thompson declares himself “the new F. S. Fitzgerald.”

June 29, 1957
Eglin AFB
Fort Walton Beach, Florida

Dear Susan,

This will be short, due to the fact that I have stopped short in the midst of a creative seizure in order to write it. After beating out a few lines, I shall return to my story, which I am counting on to bring me fame, fortune, and recognition as the new F. S. Fitzgerald. Another explanation—you have my apology for typing a personal letter. I have typed all my letters, personal or otherwise, for the past year—primarily because it's easier and not as messy.

The main reason I'm writing is to inform you that I am horribly frustrated because I have no pools and no one to swim with me at night—at least no one worth a damn. And more than that, I have too much work to do and nothing but idiots to talk to. All in all; I am sad, Susan, sad. You and Owl Creek
spoiled me and now I am not satisfied with my beautiful Gulf.

Usually I find that every letter I write a girl becomes community property almost immediately. Now, starting with my next letter, I intend to make them either completely impersonal or incredibly lewd. In the former case, I won't care who sees them, and in the latter, I feel sure that they will be kept under lock and key or burned immediately. In your case however, I'm not sure that you wouldn't get a kick out of receiving a steady stream of lewd letters—pleasantly lewd ones, of course.

Another thing—I am literally covered from head to toe with insect bites of some sort. I feel sure that it must have been the grass on that damn golf course, where you detained me. Whenever I think about it, I first kick myself and then wonder what sort of explanation you conjured up upon entering the house at that hour in a state of apparent disarray. Naturally, no one will believe that we were hunting for night crawlers. Yes, I always kick myself when I walk right past a really delightful night crawler without realizing that he's there. You know how it is though; you can't always see them from the surface. Next time, however, I will look more carefully. […]

Things here are as prosaic as ever, the same blood-curdling routine week after week, nothing but idiots everywhere, uniforms, foul food, and ugly women. Just as soon as I sell a novel or two, I will buy a plot of land and build a small hut and a large swimming pool on it. Then I will fence the whole thing off and operate a small scale nudist colony where I can have nightly orgies and not be bothered by the world and its idiots. Maybe I'll let you come and handle my correspondence. Until then, or until I hear from you, I remain;



Thompson's fondness for Fitzgerald is evident again in both statement and style.

July 13, 1957
Eglin AFB
Fort Walton Beach, Florida


Dear Fallen,

If your thighs ever become as hard as a clipboard, I don't think you'll ever have to worry about men again—old men, little boys, or in-betweens. Admittedly, there is something novel about dating a girl with a thigh as hard as a clipboard, but it's just not the type of thing too many people would go for. However, I'd probably still let you handle my correspondence.

Another thing; I was taken aback by your implication that you would be a grandmother before I become the new Fitzgerald (ref: “I'll show them—my letters—to my grandchildren when you become the new Fitzgerald.”) Actually, I am already the new Fitzgerald: I just haven't been recognized yet.

As for the color of this ink and the frequent mistakes in the use (or misuse) of this machine, I am sick. The red ink matches the color of my eyes—the same color they've been since the night of July third, the jumping off date for the “great orgy.” It is now 1:30 pm on Saturday afternoon. That would seem to make about nine or ten days. Actually, the high point came on July fifth, when I made an unfortunate attempt to convert a goodly portion of Tower Beach into a nudist colony. (This letter may ramble and jump. I'm trying to clear my mind so I can get on with this story I must finish by Monday morning.) I spent $15 last night and didn't even
begin paying for my drinks until 10:00 p.m. All I can remember now is buying a huge round of drinks for a raucous group at the Indian Mound Saloon. The Indian Mound is the only bar in town which is allowed to stay open all night. Thusly, a savage and unnatural orgy occurs almost every 24 hours within its confines. Last night was no different. Some young thing in gauze shorts did the “dog hunch” with three winos from New York. It was weird. I have spent the past ten days with a pilot who never seems to work. I manage to get something done occasionally, making my deadlines and such, but most of the time has been spent at a beach house belonging to some degenerate woman from D'mapolis, Alabama. I was over there yesterday afternoon and suddenly the house was full of degenerate people from D'mapolis, Alabama. Some man ripped the commode out of the floor and took it out to his car where he passed out with it. His wife, meanwhile, whiled the hours away by tearing live crabs limb from limb. Some drunken fool smashed his boat into the pier at Sea Gull and almost killed me. As it was, I dropped my drink and had four heart flutters. Although I have dedicated myself to the task of completing this story before Monday morning, I have a feeling in my womb that I will not get much done tonight. Banks (the pilot)
will call any minute and weaken me with proposals of a lustful and lecherous nature. Then too, I can't afford to buy dinner and I can see no alternative but to eat with the degenerates from D'mapolis again. They eat well, but very rarely. I woke up this morning, totally unclothed, on a sand dune overlooking a semi-crowded beach. Seeing Banks in the same condition, I remembered that we had come out for a pre-dawn swim in the phosphorus-filled water. Whenever you move around in the water, your whole body lights up and flashes all around. Not your body. It's really the phosphorus in the water, but I like to think it's a weird omen from the crabs—hailing me as the new Messiah. Banks was in a rage this morning when he learned that he had not been named the Aga Kahn. I had my usual “morning after” breakfast of filleted snapper and tomato juice, while Banks gave the waitress a hard time for not calling him the new Aga Kahn. These damn waitresses always laugh when I order snapper for breakfast (“Pardon me for laughing, but it just sounds funny”) but they usually stop when I smack 'em in the head once or twice.

BOOK: Proud Highway:Saga of a Desperate Southern Gentleman
13.52Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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