Wine of Wyoming #ThisWeekInWYHistory

On Oct. 27, 1933, Earnest Hemingway published Winner Take Nothing, which included the short story, “Wine of Wyoming.”

It’s not one of his more well-known stories, owing to the fact much of the dialogue is in French. At the time, it was much more common for people in the U.S. to know a bit of French, but today, the French dialogue makes the story difficult for most people on this side of the pond to access.

The story explores the interactions of Americans with a kind French couple who immigrated to the United States. Whereas the couple is very clean, cultured, and orderly, they clash with the Americans of the Old West, who are much more crass and insensitive.

The story is set during Prohibition and involves a lot of bootleg drinking. While the cultured French enjoy making illegal beer and selling it to the Americans, they can’t understand how the cowboys drink it to get drunk, rather than for the taste. The Americans even pour whiskey into the beer to make it stronger, ruining the brew in the French couple’s eyes.

While the French are eager for wine, it’s not quite ready yet. The French wife insists the narrator, who must leave the French ranch, return the following night to try the wine. Being too tired to make the trip back, the narrator breaks the promise to the French couple that he would return that night. By the time he does return, the French husband had drunk it all.

--Advertisement--
Story Continues Below

So, the narrator leaves without ever getting a taste of the wine of Wyoming.

Hemingway had a long love affair with Wyoming—in addition to love affairs with multiple women—beginning in 1928, when he arrived at the Folly Ranch in July 1928. It was in Sheridan that he ate and drank wine with the Moncini family, who were immigrants from France. They would serve as the models for the characters in “Wine of Wyoming.”

After he finished A Farewell to Arms, considered by most to be his most accomplished work, he spent some time in Yellowstone and Casper, before settling down for a time at the L Bar T Ranch in Cody. He left shortly after the start of World War II.

--Advertisement--
Story Continues Below

He traveled the world and, in 1953, won a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for “Old Man and the Sea.” He won the Nobel Prize the next year, but his health was declining. He was unable to travel to Sweden to accept the award.

Hemingway returned to Wyoming, this time to Casper, in 1961. It was just a stopover for repairs to the aircraft, but a friend who was with him said he tried to walk into a moving propeller.

By this time, he was battling severe depression, even getting shock treatments for it. He also suffered from high blood pressure and liver disease due to his years of hard drinking.

By the time he moved to Ketchum, Idaho,his electroshock treatments had caused memory loss and an inability to string words together. On July 2, 1961, Hemingway put a gun to his forehead and took his own life.

Originally from New Mexico, Killough began his career writing freelance for a weekly magazine in Albuquerque while completing his undergraduate degree. In addition to reporting on uranium mining in western New Mexico, he spent three years reporting in western North Dakota during the height of the oil boom. He can be reached at kevin@county17.com or 701-641-6603.