TR’s Cowboy camp at a history event

TR Camp at Fort Kearny Outdoor Expo

TR Camp at Fort Kearny Outdoor Expo

I wrote this back in 2013 and stumbled upon it.  I decided it needed to be shared.  Enjoy!

Over the past almost two weeks I have been living a lucky cowboy’s life, sans cattle. I have slept each night in a canvas wall tent; dined by a chuck wagon; sang hymns and music of the times and have been surrounded by people who, like me, were dressed in clothes of a bye gone era.

My mornings started by stoking the stove in my tent, then dressing in layers that could be adjusted to the day. A fire would be built under my canvas tarp to cook my breakfast and I would stare out at the other camps around me, smoke billowing out of chimneys of the nearby tents and teepee’s. I would see the outline of a cowboy sitting by a fire with a large pot of coffee hanging over, licked by flames. The bacon would start to sizzle in my cast iron pan as I strolled to say hello for the day and beg a cup of their strong black eye-opener. We would talk of the night before, the day ahead and the weather expected and other gentle small talk that friendly neighbors do. Occasionally there might be a hot donut bubbling in oil on the fire, or a dutch oven full of fresh buttermilk biscuit’s eager to be shared.

During the day I shared Mr. Roosevelt.  People in modern clothes would ask me about my life as they tried to comprehend living in the past. In the evening, the crowds would leave and our makeshift village would once again slow to a normal pace. The blacksmith would deliver the goods he made for us; eggs would be traded for a loaf of bread; children would beg chores in exchange for money to buy candy from the store. We would sit together and share our food and eat until beyond full and then visit on about the day. Each step back to my camp would provide invitation into a camp to help them finish what they had cooked. I began to understand how my great-great grandfather the blacksmith of the town and a founder of the Vasa Lutheran church connected to a community.

My lungs have never ingested so much smoke. The clothes I wore smelled of it along with sweat and sweet earthen mud. Sometimes I was so cold that no amount of layers seemed to warm me when I was away from the fire. For three days everything I owned was wet from a storm that would not leave, my “fish skins” ( water proof duster ) doing all it could to keep me dry  – but the dampness working its magic to send shivers. The next moment I would be so hot as to not be able to control the perspiration. I would sponge myself with a wet cloth when I could using a handmade lavender soap given to me by a store keeper for telling him a story that made him laugh. Each day I sat at the end of the day and watched the sunset, just like I had watched the sunrise, and felt blessed to enjoy another day.

This morning I woke up in my own bed at home and soaked in a bath as a television blared in the background. The washing machine hums even now as I write this on my computer, a device of which for almost two weeks I did not touch.

My experience taught me that although the past was a tough life – in many ways, it was simpler. I chopped and hauled wood each day for my fire; gathered and hauled water by the river; and cooked slow meals made from pure ingredients. I boiled clothes when they got dirty. I worked hard each day and when the crowds had left, I stopped and read a book, the pages new and crisp and untouched for far too long. I learned from others skills I knew I should know, and facts that I never really appreciated – until I was able to not be distracted by modern life and could truly listen.

The switches that make it easy to change light from dark in my house were appreciated last night when I finally got home. But that campfire aglow and a song wafting down along the grass into my camp, for me, trumps any convenience that I have today.

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President Roosevelt and the Christmas tree

Roosevelt-family-in-1895

You may have heard that President Roosevelt banned Christmas trees from the White House during his Presidency because he was worried about deforestation.    Did you know that his children however were not as enthralled with the idea!

In 1902, Roosevelt’s two youngest sons, Archie and Quentin, went outside and cut down a smallish tree right there on the White House grounds, snuck back into the White House, and hid it in a closet. The two boys decorated the tree in secret and even enlisted the help of an electrician on staff at the White House to help decorate it with lights. When Christmas morning came, Archie gathered his family outside the closet, turned on the switch, and opened the door to reveal the tree decorated with gifts for the entire family.

Roosevelt later described the incident in a letter to a friend:

“Yesterday Archie got among his presents a small rifle from me and a pair of riding boots from his mother. He won’t be able to use the rifle until next summer, but he has gone off very happy in the riding boots for a ride on the calico pony Algonquin, the one you rode the other day. Yesterday morning at a quarter of seven all the children were up and dressed and began to hammer at the door of their mother’s and my room, in which their six stockings, all bulging out with queer angles and rotundities, were hanging from the fireplace. So their mother and I got up, shut the window, lit the fire (taking down the stockings of course), put on our wrappers and prepared to admit the children. But first there was a surprise for me, also for their good mother, for Archie had a little birthday tree of his own which he had rigged up with the help of one of the carpenters in a big closet; and we all had to look at the tree and each of us got a present off of it. There was also one present each for Jack the dog, Tom Quartz the kitten, and Algonquin the pony, whom Archie would no more think of neglecting that I would neglect his brothers and sisters. Then all the children came into our bed and there they opened their stockings.”

Roosevelt was a devout Christian who also doted on his children.  That Christmas morning was undoubtedly a lesson for everyone!

A special thank you to the www.ncregister.com/blog/matthew-archbold for additional insight into this event!

Roosevelt in Ireland

The Stag's Head

The Stag’s Head

I just returned from a week in Ireland for my “real job”.  While there, I took a few days to tour the Dublin area and see the sights.  Two events lead to discussions about Teddy Roosevelt – even though I never told them about my work back in America as the great man.

The first came when I was touring a castle north of Dublin and as we toured we entered a child’s bedroom with a stuffed bear on a chair.  I asked her what they call that kind of bear in Ireland and she just looked at me sort of perplexed.  “You mean the Teddy Bear?” she pondered.  I asked her if she knew who the bear was named after and she said “I am not sure of how to pronounce it – but Roooooooooooosavelt”?

The second came at the famous Stag Head Pub in Dublin.   I was speaking with the Gentleman behind the bar about a place with a similar name back in the states.  (the Buckhorn exchange in Denver).  I mentioned The Buckhorn hosted both Buffalo Bill and Roosevelt frequently because the owner was a hunting guide.  When I told him this, he started speaking of Roosevelt and his accomplishments.  We had a lively discussion about history, Roosevelt and hunting general.

I never once mentioned my connection to representing the man, only listened and fixed facts when needed.

The Buckhorn Exchange

The Buckhorn Exchange

It reinforced to me the impact Roosevelt made during his life and of course in the history books.  His accomplishments truly reach across the globe.

Roosevelt’s animals in the White House

Quentin Roosevelt on his pony

Quentin Roosevelt on his pony

Theodore Roosevelt was always fascinated with nature and animals. His legacy can still be seen today through specimens collected for museums. That love of animals is something he passed down to his six children who had among them snakes, dogs, cats, a badger, birds, a bear, guinea pigs, ponies, a hyena and five dogs!

When Roosevelt’s son Archie got the measles, his brother Quentin thought a visit from the family pony might cheer Archie up. Quentin put the animal on the White House elevator and brought him to Archie’s upstairs room. Roosevelt had to hold back laughter as he scolded Quentin. But, Quentin’s animal adventures didn’t end there. Once he borrowed a bunch of snakes from a pet store. Running to show his father, Quentin interrupted an important meeting and dropped the snakes all over his father’s desk.

Alice, Roosevelt’s 17-year-old daughter (and one of the prettiest girls in Washington), had a pet snake as well named Emily Spinach. She took great joy in hiding the snake in a covered dinner plate during large White House banquets, and waiting for the shriek from guests when Emily appeared.

The Theodore Roosevelt Family

The Theodore Roosevelt Family

Roosevelt’s bull terrier, Pete was a beloved member of the First Family but was not a hit with visitors. Pete once attacked the French ambassador. After much commotion he was found to be uninjured but the same couldn’t be said for his pants. Pete had shredded one entire pant-leg.

Among the White House pets were a guinea pig named Father O’Grady and of course the snake named Emily Spinach. Roosevelt himself had a Bull Dog named Pete and a Chesapeake Retriever named Sailor Boy. He also had a small bear named Jonathan. (not the Teddy Bear, that’s a different story!)