Quintessential America

Of Days Gone By

When Lifelong Friendship Transcended Fame and Genius, with Quiet Roots
in View of the Valley

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by Barbara L. Benson

When the JourneyCare Foundation holds its annual summer gala on June 24, 2017, the theme will be “An Evening in the Hamptons” thanks to the style of the residence which will provide the backdrop for the event. But for those who might want to look beyond architecture and design, there is a story that begins in the early years of the 20th century, when two young men joined 120 others, sailing in 1918 to war-torn Europe to become Red Cross Ambulance drivers in Italy.

During the 10-day crossing, William Dodge (Bill) Horne and Ernest Hemingway began a friendship that would end only when the younger man found the burdens of genius and fame too much to bear. For over 40 years, through correspondence, shared vacations, war and revolution, personal turmoil, world travels, and several marriages for the one—and a long and happy marriage, with a traditional family life for the other—there was a special bond that survived the tumultuous years of the mid-20th century.

There were other acquaintances of Hemingway on that war-time mission. He had left a cub reporter’s job at the Kansas City Star to join up, and Horne, working in advertising, and unable to join the regular forces because of his poor eyesight, saw an opportunity to serve his country. Travelling across Europe to the Red Cross Ambulance Headquarters in Milan, Bill and Ernie, and Ernie’s friends, were put in Section IV which became known as the Schio Country Club. Asked to volunteer closer to the action at Bassano, eight of them went along. Getting restless, Ernie borrowed a bicycle and got to an advanced listening post when the Austrians discovered it and sent over a mine. One man was killed, another severely wounded, as was Ernie with hundreds of shell fragments in his leg and ankle. Nonetheless, he hoisted his wounded companion on his shoulders and made it back to the trenches. He was stiff-legged for the rest of his life from his wounds. He was unidentified in the field hospital until another of his fellow Red Cross drivers came along, whereupon Ernie was returned to Milan.

He remained there recuperating from his wounds and illness long after his fellow drivers had sailed for home. Released from hospital, he wired Bill Horne to meet him when he arrived in New York early in 1919.

They travelled together, caroused with their friends, and led the lives of carefree bachelors. Ernie was heartbroken when Agnes von Kurowsky, the nurse he had fallen in love with in Milan, had broken off their engagement after he returned to America, but in 1922, he fell in love again and married Hadley Richardson from St. Louis. Their hearts were set on Europe, on joining that brilliant and cosmopolitan set that included American writers, artists, and socialites in Paris.

Through the late ‘20s, even as their lives diverged, Ernie, restless, brilliant, now a confident personality; Bill an erudite, sociable, advertising man, rooted in the Midwest, kept in touch through letters and occasional meetings. One of the most significant times in their lives came in 1928. Ernie and his second wife, Pauline Pfeiffer, were planning a trip to the west, and invited Bill to join them. Invitations included visits to the Donnelly Family’s Folly Ranch, where Eleanor Donnelly was entertaining a group of her Bryn Mawr classmates, among them Frances “Bunny” Thorne. Bunny kept a log of that summer of the story telling, card-playing, and songs-around-the-piano convivial evenings. A year later, she and Bill Horne were married.

In the early 1930s, the Hornes moved to the Barrington countryside, purchasing a section of J.V. Watson’s Valley View Farm at 260 Otis Road, and engaging the Milwaukee architects Eschweiler and Eschweiler to make improvements to a shingle style house built in the latter years of the First World War. The log books of Eschweiler’s work were found by the present owners in the basement, together with invoices for the purchase of plant materials from Watson’s Nursery then located south of Barrington.

They had four children, and remained anchored in the idyllic countryside northwest of Chicago. Both Bunny and Bill were prominent in community affairs. Occasionally there were visits to the Hemingways, especially at their houses in Cuba and later, Key West.

On one memorable occasion Bill and Bunny had visited Bill’s parents in Cuba, and came back to Key West by way of the Havana Ferry. The Hemingways were not at Key West, but had decamped to the Dry Tortugas. Invited to join them, a boat was procured and the Hornes set out for these uninhabited cays 40 miles to the west. For the next few days they fished, visited the bird sanctuaries, cooked, ate on the boats, and slept in sleeping bags in the shed.

The last time that Bill and Bunny saw Ernie and his then wife, Mary, was in 1958, when they took two of their sons for an Easter vacation in Cuba. Hemingway had established residence years before at the Finca Vigia, San Francisco de Paula. Staying nearby, the Horne family was welcomed daily chez Hemingway. Ernie was keeping an ascetic pace starting work at 6 a.m. without breakfast, writing well into the early afternoon. Mary was very protective of him. By then he was “Papa”, with a beard, and all ladies were “daughters”. The letters exchanged following that visit reveal the warmth of this long friendship (see next page).

It was the year that Fidel Castro came to power in Cuba, and there was fighting at the eastern end of the island. The Hemingways closed the house and moved to their residence in Ketchum, Idaho. From there, on July 1, 1961, news came to Bill Horne, ironically attending a reunion of the old Section IV friends in Glencoe, Ill., that their friend Ernie had decided that his time in an increasingly troubled life was over.

Bill and Bunny flew out to Idaho, where Bill was an Honorary Pallbearer at the mountainside Catholic service, on a day of blue skies with the Sawtooth Mountains in the background. For all his flaws, this magnificent man was mourned by the friends he in turn held close. In 1979 Bill Horne would say: “…we were always very dear friends. We respected each other, regarded each other, loved each other in a way. Bunny is my pride and joy, and Ernie, they are the two great things in my life.”

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Barbara L. Benson grew up in Kent, England, and later moved to New York. She settled in Barrington and has walked with our history since she first arrived here in 1980.

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Quintessential America™ is a recurring series of stories reflecting American values and community achievement. Some will be big stories. Some will be small. They’ll all be about Americans doing what we do best — sharing, helping, living.