"Myths and legends die hard in America. We love them for the extra dimension they provide, the illusion of near-infinite possibility to erase the narrow confines of most men's reality. Weird heroes and mold-breaking champions exist as living proof to those who need it that the tyranny of 'the rat race' is not yet final."
—Hunter S. Thompson, The Great Shark Hunt
For quite a number of years Jay Cowan was a friend of Thompson’s and a former tenant/caretaker of Owl Farm, which Cowan describes as “equal parts Animal Farm, funny farm, ‘Maggie’s Farm,’ and Walden pond with guns.” This relationship and their mutual vices allowed Cowan access to the man behind the myth not seen by many, which is likely why Thompson told Cowan he “could never write about him until after he died.” Now four years after Thompson committed suicide that fateful 16th of February, Cowan has compiled a memoir of their shared experience and a seemingly balanced assessment of Thompson.
They first met in 1969 while Cowan was still a senior in high school during a meeting about getting attorney Joe Edwards elected as mayor of Aspen. Thompson asked Cowan about the kids voting for Edwards and a bond formed as Cowan was interested in being a writer. He also worked on Thompson’s campaign to be sheriff of Aspen, which Thompson did not want to win. A few years later, Cowan moved into a shack on Owl Farm and also got married there in 1978, as evidenced by an included photo.
Living in such close proximity, family situations naturally spilled over. Thompson’s first wife Sandy left with their son Juan, and she told Cowan where she was going and made him promise not to reveal it, which caused a strain when Thompson found out. But Thompson could be a good friend, allowing Cowan to come back to Owl Farm after his divorce and helping out when Cowan’s father got cancer.