It was something of a Christmas ritual at Hunter S. Thompson’s Colorado cabin, Owl Farm. Every year, his secretary Deborah Fuller would take down the Christmas tree and leave it on the front porch rather than dispose of it entirely. That’s because Hunter, more often than not, wanted to set it on fire. In 1990, Sam Allis, a writer for then formidable TIME magazine, visited Thompson’s home and watched the fiery tradition unfold. He wrote:
I gave up on the interview and started worrying about my life when Hunter Thompson squirted two cans of fire starter on the Christmas tree he was going to burn in his living-room fireplace, a few feet away from an unopened wooden crate of 9-mm bullets. That the tree was far too large to fit into the fireplace mattered not a whit to Hunter, who was sporting a dime-store wig at the time and resembled Tony Perkins in Psycho. Minutes earlier, he had smashed a Polaroid camera on the floor.
The wooden mantle above the fireplace apparently still has burn marks on it today.Hunter had decided to videotape the Christmas tree burning, and we later heard on the replay the terrified voices of Deborah Fuller, his longtime secretary-baby sitter, and me off-camera pleading with him, “NO, HUNTER, NO! PLEASE, HUNTER, DON’T DO IT!” The original manuscript of Hell’s Angels was on the table, and there were the bullets. Nothing doing. Thompson was a man possessed by now, full of the Chivas Regal he had been slurping straight from the bottle and the gin he had been mixing with pink lemonade for hours.
When I burn our old trees, I do it outside, and perch bottle rockets in the branches for extra excitement. There are, however, no movies of this fun. No need to create evidence the police will see.