As many of you surely know, Jim Harrison passed away on Saturday, March 26. While most may know him from Legends of the Fall or from that time he was on No Reservations with Anthony Bourdain, there was much more to the man. The American literary tradition is left richer for his life and poorer for his absence. Many compared him to Hemingway, and while that may be true to some extent in the way he lived, it sells far short his talent.
While I realize this is not directly related to the mission or subject of this little publication of ours, it seems necessary to recognize an author who spoke to so many of us. He was a hunter, a fisherman, a drinker, a smoker, and a writer. He was a cautionary tale and a role model. He was what the young American male wanted to become and what the old American male wished he had been.
There is an oft-played game in which one is asked which five historical figures, living or dead, one would invite to dinner. There is another variation of this game that I prefer, however. Say you owned a bar, a dark and smoky sort of place where good wine was served alongside cheap whiskey and where muddy boots and shiny loafers alike were welcome. Which historical figures would you like to have as regulars?
I can’t picture that scene without Jim Harrison enveloped in smoke, three bottles of Cote de Brouilly deep and holding court on the virtues of a good bird dog, commanding the attention and envy of anyone else you could imagine into that room.
Larson’s Holstein Bull
by Jim Harrison
Death waits inside us for a door to open.
Death is as patient as a dead cat.
Death is a doorknob made of flesh.
Death is that angelic farm girl
gored by the bull on her way home
from school, crossing the pasture
for a shortcut. In the seventh grade
she couldn’t read or write. She wasn’t a virgin.
She was “simpleminded,” we all said.
It was May, a time of lilacs and shooting stars.
She’s lived in my memory for sixty years.
Death steals everything except our stories.