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You'll soon be approaching the town of Big Horn, Wyoming. Big Horn is much smaller than the neighboring city of Sheridan. In fact, according to the 2010 U.S. Census, its population is only 490. It is located between Sheridan and Red Grade Road, the road to the Bighorn Mountain guest ranches where Ernest Hemingway stayed, the Folly and the Spear-O. Big Horn was founded in 1882, and some of its early inhabitants were wealthy sheep and cattle ranchers who included members of the British nobility and prominent American businessmen. Confusingly, the community of Big Horn is not located in present-day Big Horn County. Rather, it is in neighboring Sheridan County. Hemingway spent time in Big Horn and repeatedly visited both the Last Chance Saloon and the post office next to it, at the back of the Big Horn Mercantile Store. You'll see red flags marking these specific locations on your map. The Last Chance Saloon was known as a local speakeasy during Prohibition. Aptly named, it served as Hemingway's last chance to have a few drinks and stock up on spirits before heading up to the remote ranches of the Bighorn Mountains. It is now the Big Horn Smokehouse and Saloon, a lunch and dinner joint serving up steaks, barbecue, and other American fare. The nearby bar, which today goes by the name of Last Chance Saloon, was opened several years after the original saloon closed. The first record of Hemingway getting mail here was on August 11, 1928, when he received a registered letter from his wife, Pauline, postmarked from Piggott, Arkansas. Hemingway and Pauline had wed in May 1927. He converted to Catholicism in order to marry her. Pauline gave birth to their son, Patrick, less than two months before Hemingway received the letter at the Big Horn Post Office. It is said that Hemingway used Pauline's difficult labor with Patrick as the inspiration for Catherine Barkley's death at the end of A Farewell to Arms. Catherine, the female protagonist of the novel, dies after a long, painful delivery of a stillborn baby. Inquiring minds might wonder why Hemingway settled on this tragic ending out of the 40 to 47 endings that he reportedly wrote for A Farewell to Arms as he finished the novel in the isolated cabin at the Spear-O Ranch. *** If you want to detour from the main tour route to see Spear-O Ranch and nearby Folly Ranch -- also a Hemingway-related site -- from Big Horn, head southwest on WY-335 to Red Grade Road. The ranches are about 20 rugged miles from Big Horn.
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