by Keith Stroup
On the wall of my office, directly across from my desk, hangs an amazing photograph, a treasured possession presented to me by my dear friend, the late Dr. Hunter S. Thompson, in appreciation of the small role I played in keeping him out of prison as the 1980s came to a close. The photo captures the Good Doctor, shotgun in hand, getting knocked on his talented ass by a gargantuan lick of flame while the spectral image of Ronald Reagan laughs from the sidelines.
You see, for a time Doc dabbled in art. He’d set up framed black-and-white posters of his enemies (Reagan, Nixon et al.) at the far end of the shooting range behind his house, and would then proceed to fire high-powered weapons at pressurized cans of red paint strategically placed nearby. The paint-splattered posters, signed and numbered by the artist, sold for big bucks in the chi-chi art galleries of downtown Aspen, CO. On this one occasion, however, there was obviously too much pressure in the cans and probably too much Wild Turkey in the artist. Whatever the equation, the result was an immense blowback that sent a 40-foot fireball in Hunter’s direction. Like so many incidents in his life, you have to wonder how he survived.
The photo is made even more extraordinary by its handwritten inscription, a flourish in gold which now has the echoes of an epitaph: “To Keith, Owl Farm, Thanksgiving Day, 1991—The Wicked Accuse! The Godly Defend! The Death of Dr. Thompson!”