In many ways, Hunter S. Thompson was the archetypal 20th century American. His wild and reckless journey through life in the land of the free took him to some of the most important places in time for him to be able to trailblaze his loose form of reporting. This style was eventually coined as Gonzo journalism by the editor of The Boston Globe, Bill Cardoso, in a 1970 description of Thompson’s article, The Kentucky Derby Is Decadent and Depraved. Cardoso described the article as “pure Gonzo journalism”.
Thompson was a fearless journalist, and he got the best out of his stories by throwing himself into the thick of it, whether it was turning up to police anti-drug conferences high on psychedelics or cruising with the Hells Angels.
In February 2005, Thompson committed suicide ostensibly just as a means of calling it a day. His suicide note read: “17 years past 50. 17 more than I needed or wanted.” His body was found at his “fortified compound,” named Owl Farm in Woody Creek, Colorado. Following his death, his friend Johnny Depp – who had played the part of Raoul Duke, the semi-fictionalised portrayal of Thompson, in the film adaption of his book, Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas – kept a promise he had made to fire Thompson from a cannon on his farm.
Depp kept his end of the deal and spent $3 million on the dramatic endeavour. “All I’m doing is trying to make sure his last wish comes true,” said Depp at the time. “I just want to send my pal out the way he wants to go out.”
The eccentric Thompson was particularly fond of his peaceful nook in Colorado. While it was a tranquil and secluded setting and conflict with neighbours seemed improbable, Thompson did, on one occasion, find himself in quite the high calibre dispute with a neighbour a few fields away.
A few years ago, footage was released from an infamous shootout between Thompson and his neighbour. The gunfire exchange was allegedly started following a dispute regarding livestock. “If this son of a bitch wants to bitch about his cows over here and shoot at me, well… it’s our country. It’s not theirs. It’s not a bunch of used car dealers from southern California,” Thompson can be heard yelling.
In the clip, Thompson can also be heard in a voiceover stating a relevant aspect of his political philosophy. “The people who did this Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were, uh, good people, and it’s a good place. Here we are in the middle of it, up on the mountain,” Thompson can be heard saying. He justifies his reckless actions as a right as a libertarian defender of the constitutional rights laid out by America’s Founding Fathers. He concludes with the statement: “In a democracy, you have to be a player.”
Watch the footage from Hunter S. Thompson’s neighbourly dispute below.