A Gathering of TR’s

Once a year, many people who portray Theodore Roosevelt gather in the place where Roosevelt himself called “The place where the romance of my life began” – Medora, North Dakota.  This was the second time of my attending the event. It can feel a bit like a mirror has been held up and you are seeing yourself!

The wonderful part of the event is that it is a Comraderie and not a competition.   We all come together to learn from each other. Some new people come that have only begun to explore being Teddy Roosevelt.  It is perhaps the most rewarding to see those people because you watch them blossom from being frightened to being enthusiastic!

The Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation is the organization that has been the brain child with creation of this event along with able guidance of the  famous Roosevelt reprisers Joe Weigand along with Larry and Julia Marple.   If you are fortunate enough to visit Medora this summer or next, these are the people you are seeing representing the famous President and our first lady.

This event is extremely valuable for people like me. It’s a chance to see how other people interpret Roosevelt and to learn about Roosevelt stories that we can share with others.   It also represents an opportunity to meet with local historians who are amazing in their ability to source additional local stories and information that we can share with  others.  Because of their generosity, we are able to strengthen our ability to understand the amazing man who is Teddy Roosevelt.

If you are a Roosevelt fan, I highly recommend that you go to Medora and experience what we all experience from our event, the beauty and the revigeration that comes from going there.  To understand Roosevelt requires a visit.

I would also like to invite you to attend the Gatherings of TR’s 5 which will happen in 2018. Find out more about this event by visiting http://www.Medora.com

I hope we can count on you being there!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Roosevelt Pursues the Boat Thieves
Theodore Roosevelt was particularly fond of retelling the story of his pursuit and capture of the boat thieves in the badlands. He put the story on paper in his 1888 book Ranch Life and the Hunting Trail. In early spring of 1886, just as the ice was beginning to break up on the Little Missouri River, three thieves cut Roosevelt’s boat from its mooring at the Elkhorn Ranch and took it downriver. Roosevelt, out of personal pride and duty as a Billings County Deputy Sheriff, chased after them with his ranch hands Bill Sewall and Wilmot Dow.

As you read the story, imagine the thrill of the entire event for Roosevelt. A spring flood is no trivial matter, and navigating a river jammed with ice and powerful currents is treacherous work. The weather was viciously cold. The men he was chasing were armed and dangerous. How might you have reacted to the theft of a replaceable boat when capturing the thieves was so time-consuming and dangerous? The story begins with the ice breaking up on the Little Missouri River at the Elkhorn Ranch in March, 1886:

“It moved slowly, its front forming a high, crumbling wall, and creaming over like an immense breaker on the seashore; we could hear the dull roaring and crunching as it ploughed down the river-bed long before it came in sight round the bend above us. The ice kept piling and tossing up in the middle, and not only heaped itself above the level of the banks, but also in many places spread out on each side beyond them, grinding against the cottonwood-trees in front of the ranch veranda….”

“At night the snowy, glittering masses, tossed up and heaped into fantastic forms, shone like crystal in the moonlight; but they soon lost their beauty, becoming fouled and blackened, and at the same time melted and settled down until it was possible to clamber out across the slippery hummocks.”
Ice on Little Missouri River
Ice jam on the Little Missouri River
NPS

“We had brought out a clinker-built boat especially to ferry ourselves over the river when it was high, and were keeping our ponies on the opposite side…. This boat had already proved very useful and now came in handier than ever, as without it we could take no care of our horses. We kept it on the bank, tied to a tree, and every day would carry it or slide it across the hither ice bank, usually with not a little tumbling and scrambling on our part, lower it gently into the swift current, pole it across to the ice on the farther bank, and then drag it over that…”

On the other side, Roosevelt discovered evidence of mountain lions hunting deer among the bluffs. He followed the trail, but, after losing the trail, he headed back, determined to hunt the mountain lions the next day.

“But we never carried out our intentions, for next morning one of my men, who was out before breakfast, came back to the house with the startling news that our boat was gone – stolen, for he brought with him the end of the rope with which it had been tied, evidently cut off with a sharp knife; and also a red woollen mitten with a leather palm, which he had picked up on the ice. ”

“We had no doubt as to who had stolen it; for whoever had done so had certainly gone down the river in it, and the only other thing in the shape of a boat on the Little Missouri was a small flat-bottomed scow in the possession of three hard characters who lived in a shack, or hut, some twenty miles above us, and whom we had shrewdly suspected for some time of wishing to get out of the country, as certain of the cattlemen had begun openly to threaten to lynch them. They belonged to a class that always holds sway during the raw youth of a frontier community, and the putting down of which is the first step toward decent government….”

“The three men we suspected had long been accused – justly or unjustly – of being implicated both in cattle-killing and in that worst of frontier crimes, horse-stealing; it was only by an accident that they had escaped the clutches of the vigilantes the preceding fall. Their leader was a well-built fellow named Finnigan, who had long red hair reaching to his shoulders, and always wore a broad hat and a fringed buckskin shirt. He was rather a hard case, and had been chief actor in a number of shooting scrapes. The other two were a half-breed, a stout, muscular man, and an old German, whose viciousness was of the weak and shiftless type….We had little doubt that it was they who had taken our boat…”

“Accordingly we at once set to work in our turn to build a flat-bottomed scow wherein to follow them….In any wild country where the power of law is little felt or heeded, and where every one has to rely upon himself for protection, men soon get to feel that it is in the highest degree unwise to submit to any wrong…no matter what cost of risk or trouble. To submit tamely and meekly to theft or to any other injury is to invite almost certain repetition of the offense, in a place where self-reliant hardihood and the ability to hold one’s own under all circumstances rank as the first of virtues.”

“Two of my cowboys, Sewall and Dow…set to work with a will, and, as by good luck there were plenty of boards, in two or three days they had turned out a first-class flat-bottom, which was roomy, drew very little water, and was dry as a bone; and though, of course, not a handy craft, was easily enough managed in going downstream. Into this we packed flour, coffee, and bacon enough to last us a fortnight or so, plenty of warm bedding, and the mess-kit; and early one cold March morning slid it into the icy current, took our seats, and shoved off down the river.”

Roosevelt had also brought along a copy of Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, and a camera to document the capture.
“There could have been no better men for a trip of this kind than my two companions, Sewall and Dow. They were tough, hardy, resolute fellows, quick as cats, strong as bears, and able to travel like bull moose.”

“For three days, the three men navigated the icy, winding river among the colorful clay buttes hoping to take the thieves captive without a fight. A shootout was a concern, for Roosevelt noted that “the extraordinary formation of the Bad Lands, with the ground cut up into cullies, serried walls, and battlemented hilltops, makes it the country of all others for hiding-places and ambuscades.” However, Roosevelt was certain that the thieves would not suspect that he was in pursuit, for they had stolen virtually the only boat on the river. Roosevelt, Sewall, and Dow battled against the elements, too, enduring temperatures down to zero degrees Fahrenheit. Along the way, they “passed a group of tepees,” the “deserted winter camp of some Gros-ventre Indians, which some of my men had visited a few months previously on a trading expedition.”
Through numbing cold, they continued their pursuit.

“Finally our watchfulness was rewarded, for in the middle of the afternoon of this, the third day we had been gone, as we came around a bend, we saw in front of us the lost boat, together with a scow, moored against the bank, while from among the bushes some little way back the smoke of a camp-fire curled up through the frosty air. We had come on the camp of the thieves. As I glanced at the faces of my two followers I was struck by the grim, eager look in their eyes. Our overcoats were off in a second, and after exchanging a few muttered words, the boat was hastily and silently shoved toward the bank. As soon as it touched the shore ice I leaped out and ran up behind a clump of bushes, so as to cover the landing of the other, who had to make the boat fast. For a moment we felt a thrill of keen excitement and our veins tingled as we crept cautiously toward the fire, for it seemed likely that there would be a brush…”

“The men we were after knew they had taken with them the only craft there was on the river, and so felt perfectly secure; accordingly , we took them absolutely by surprise. The only one in camp was the German, whose weapons were on the ground, and who, of course, gave up at once, his two companions being off hunting. We made him safe, delegating one of our number to look after him particularly and see that he made no noise, and then sat down and waited for the others. The camp was under the lee of a cut bank, behind which we crouched, and, after waiting an hour or over, the men we were after came in. We heard them a long way off and made ready, watching them for some minutes as they walked toward us, their rifles on their shoulders and the sunlight glinting on the steel barrels. When they were within twenty yards or so we straightened up from behind the bank, covering them with our cocked rifles, while I shouted to them to hold up their hands – an order that in such a case, in the West, a man is not apt to disregard if he thinks the giver is in earnest. The half-breed obeyed at once, his knees trembling for a second, his eyes fairly wolfish; then, as I walked up within a few paces, covering the centre of his chest so as to avoid overshooting, and repeating the command, he saw that he had no show, and, with an oath, let his rifle drop and held his hands up beside his head.”

Roosevelt kept watch over the captives as Sewall and Dow chopped firewood. “I kept guard over the three prisoners, who were huddled into a sullen group some twenty yards off, just the right distance for the buckshot in the double-barrel.” Unable to tie up their captives, for doing so meant, “in all likelihood, freezing both hands and feet off during the night,” the captives were made to remove their boots, “as it was a cactus country, in which a man could travel barefoot only at the risk of almost certainly laming himself for life.”
“By this time they were pretty well cowed, as they found out very quickly that they would be well treated so long as they remained quiet, but would receive some rough handling if they attempted any disturbance.”

“Next morning we started downstream, having a well-laden flotilla, for the men we had caught had a good deal of plunder in their boots, including some saddles…. Finnigan, who was the ringleader, and the man I was especially after, I kept by my side in our boat, the other two being put in their own scow, heavily laden and rather leaky, and with only one paddle. We kept them just in front of us, a few yards distant, the river being so broad that we knew…any attempt to escape to be perfectly hopeless.”

Upon reaching an impassable ice jam in the river, Roosevelt, Sewall, and Dow debated how to proceed. Unwilling to abandon their supplies, they chose to wait for the icy river began to flow again.
Theodore Roosevelt Guards Boat Thieves
“I kept guard over the three prisoners, who were huddled into a sullen group some twenty yards off, just the right distance for the buckshot in the double-barrel.”
Harvard College Library Theodore Roosevelt Collection

“The next eight days were as irksome and monotonous as any I ever spent: there is very little amusement in combining the functions of a sheriff with those of an arctic explorer. The weather kept as cold as ever.”

“We had to be additionally cautious on account of being in the Indian country, having worked down past Killdeer Mountains, where some of my cowboys had run across a band of Sioux – said to be Tetons – the year before. Very probably the Indians would not have harmed us anyhow, but as we were hampered by the prisoners, we preferred not meeting them; nor did we, though we saw plenty of fresh signs, and found, to our sorrow, that they had just made a grand hunt all down the river, and had killed or driven off almost every head of game in the country through which we were passing.”

“…If the time was tedious to us, it must have seemed never-ending to our prisoners, who had nothing to do but to lie still and read, or chew the bitter cud of their reflections…. They had quite a stock of books, some of a rather unexpected kind. Dime novels and the inevitable ‘History of the James Brothers’… As for me, I had brought with me ‘Anna Karénina,’ and my surroundings were quite grey enough to harmonize well with Tolstoï.”
Low on supplies by the time they reached the C Diamond ranch, Roosevelt, Sewall and Dow decided to split up; Sewall and Dow would continue downriver and Roosevelt would march the prisoners overland to Dickinson. Before Sewall and Dow proceeded downriver, Roosevelt borrowed a pony and rode to the nearest ranch, where he hired the settler to drive his prairie schooner with “two bronco mares.” The settler “could hardly understand why I took so much bother with the thieves instead of hanging them offhand.” Roosevelt “soon found the safest plan was to put the prisoners in the wagon and myself walk behind with the inevitable Winchester.”

“Accordingly I trudged steadily the whole time behind the wagon through the ankle-deep mud. It was a gloomy walk. Hour after hour went by always the same, while I plodded along through the dreary landscape – hunger, cold, and fatigue struggling with a sense of dogged, weary resolution….”

“So, after thirty-six hours’ sleeplessness, I was most heartily glad when we at last jolted into the long, straggling main street of Dickinson, and I was able to give my unwilling companions into the hands of the sheriff. Under the laws of Dakota I received my fees as a deputy sheriff for making the three arrests, and also mileage for the three hundred odd miles gone over – a total of some fifty dollars.”
That Roosevelt went to such lengths to bring these three criminals to justice was uncommon in his time and place. Such magnanimity was not overlooked by the captives. Writing to Roosevelt from prison some time later, Mike Finnigan closed a letter, “P.S. Should you stop over at Bismarck this fall make a call to the Prison. I should be glad to meet you.”

Theodore Roosevelt: The American Boy

In my work recreating Theodore Roosevelt, I have come to the belief that he looked upon his role as a leader as he did as a father.  His job, if done well, was to leave the world better for his family (which in his mind included the American people) and leave a good family name.    His own Father, Theodore Roosevelt was the man he admired most and trying to emulate him by his own actions would be consistent with his beliefs.

“My father, Theodore Roosevelt, was the best man I ever knew. He combined strength and courage with gentleness, tenderness, and great unselfishness. He would not tolerate in us children selfishness or cruelty, idleness, cowardice, or untruthfulness. As we grew older, he made us understand that the same standard of clean living was demanded the boys as for the girls; that what was wrong in a woman could not be right in a man. With great love and patience, and the most generous sympathy and consideration, he combined insistence on discipline. He never physically punished me but once, but he was the only man of whom I was ever really afraid. I do not mean that it was a wrong fear, for he was entirely just, and we children adored him.”

Roosevelt felt strongly that family was important and that we all held a responsibility as Americans to bring up children in a way that promoted the opportunity to be a solid citizen.  In an article he wrote in 1900 published in St Nicolas, he wrote:

“Of course, what we have a right to expect of the American boy is that he shall turn out to be a good American man. Now, the chances are strong that he won’t be much of a man unless he is a good deal of a boy. He must not be a coward or a weakling, a bully, a shirk, or a prig. He must work hard and play hard. He must be clean-minded and clean-lived, and able to hold his own under all circumstances and against all comers. It is only on these conditions that he will grow into the kind of American man of whom America can be really proud.”

What is the lesson we should learn from Roosevelt?  That each of us contributes to the fabric of our shared country, and that it starts with how we treat our children and our neighbors children.  We are the ones who help create the kind of men and women who have strong morals, strong ideals and ultimately, concern for one another.

Could we lose our National Parks and Monuments?

Speaking to the importance of our public lands

During my presentations, many are surprised by the loose protections of our public lands.  They should not be surprised – they should be alarmed!

President Roosevelt was a visionary who looked far ahead in the future and decided that he had a moral obligation to do his best to protect our wilderness areas so that future generations could enjoy them.  The first step was meeting with Congress to persuade them to expand our National Parks.  During his time, the number of Parks would double, but not all of those parks still exist.  In fact, 2 out of the 5 he signed into law no longer function as “National Parks” but rather have been reassigned to different categorization.  In fact, our 2nd National Park, Mackinaw Island, no longer exists as a National Park at all.  What Congress creates, they can take away.  They can, and given the chance, they will.  They will because they will look at the value not for it’s beauty but rather the resources under the grandeur.  The only people who can potentially stop it are the owners of the land – you and I.  The only way we can do so is by being vocal to our representatives.  They do listen.  It’s your vote that employs them.

Roosevelt understood that Congress wasn’t saving the land faster than those looking to grab the resources. Because of this, the Antiquities Act of 1906 allowed the President to declare certain land already owned by the government special status as a National Monument.  The idea was to protect them for all future generations.  This past week I was in Washington D.C. to listen to a group of lawyers, a Senator and Congressman who are fighting to undue the Antiquities Act.  It is a shame that these people cloak their actions on behalf of a privileged class into a fight to undue “Big Government”.

What we sometimes fail to understand about “Big Government” is that many times it became big because there are people who chose to either bend, test or break the rules. Each time that happened, new laws or nuance in the law needed to be created to curb the abuse. There will never be a lack of those who see their duty on earth to test the rules for their personal interests.   It is happening now, and your voice is needed if you cherish your public lands.

Do not be swayed by headlines.  Be swayed by your conscious to protect our public lands for the next generations. “For of all the questions that can come before our great nation, there is none that compares in importance to the great central task of leaving this land even a better land for our descendants than it is for us”  Theodore Roosevelt.

 

 

The Inauguration of a President

TR’s Address in 1905.  

My fellow-citizens, no people on earth have more cause to be thankful than ours, and this is said reverently, in no spirit of boastfulness in our own strength, but with gratitude to the Giver of Good who has blessed us with the conditions which have enabled us to achieve so large a measure of well-being and of happiness. To us as a people it has been granted to lay the foundations of our national life in a new continent. We are the heirs of the ages, and yet we have had to pay few of the penalties which in old countries are exacted by the dead hand of a bygone civilization.We have not been obliged to fight for our existence against any alien race;and yet our life has called for the vigor and effort without which the manlier and hardier virtues wither away. Under such conditions it would be our own fault if we failed; and the success which we have had in the past, the success which we confidently believe the future will bring, should cause in us no feeling of vainglory, but rather a deep and abiding realization of all which life has offered us; a full acknowledgment of the responsibility which is ours; and a fixed determination to show that under a free government a mighty people can thrive best, alike as regards the things of the body and the things of the soul.

Much has been given us, and much will rightfully be expected from us. We have duties to others and duties to ourselves; and we can shirk neither.We have become a great nation, forced by the fact of its greatness into relations with the other nations of the earth, and we must behave as beseems a people with such responsibilities. Toward all other nations, large and small, our attitude must be one of cordial and sincere friendship. We must show not only in our words, but in our deeds, that we are earnestly desirous of securing their good will by acting toward them in a spirit of just and generous recognition of all their rights. But justice and generosity in a nation, as in an individual, count most when shown not by the weak but by the strong. While ever careful to refrain from wrongdoing others, we must be no less insistent that we are not wronged ourselves. We wish peace,but we wish the peace of justice, the peace of righteousness. We wish i because we think it is right and not because we are afraid. No weak nation that acts manfully and justly should ever have cause to fear us, and no strong power should ever be able to single us out as a subject for insolent aggression.

Our relations with the other powers of the world are important; but still more important are our relations among ourselves. Such growth in wealth, in population, and in power as this nation has seen during the century and a quarter of its national life is inevitably accompanied by a like growth in the problems which are ever before every nation that rises to greatness. Power invariably means both responsibility and danger. Our forefathers faced certain perils which we have outgrown. We now face other perils, the very existence of which it was impossible that they should foresee. Modern life is both complex and intense, and the tremendous changes wrought by the extraordinary industrial development of the last half century are felt in every fiber of our social and political being. Never before have men tried so vast and formidable an experiment as that of administering the affairs of a continent under the forms of a Democratic republic. The conditions which have told for our marvelous material well-being, which have developed to a very high degree our energy, self-reliance, and individual initiative, have also brought the care and anxiety inseparable from the accumulation of great wealth in industrial centers. Upon the success of our experiment much depends, not only as regards our own welfare, but as regards the welfare of mankind. If we fail, the cause of free self-government throughout the world will rock to its foundations, and therefore our responsibility is heavy, to ourselves, to the world as it is to-day, and to the generations yet unborn. There is no good reason why we should fear the future, but there is every reason why we should face it seriously, neither hiding from ourselves the gravity of the problems before us nor fearing to approach these problems with the unbending, unflinching purpose to solve them aright.

Yet, after all, though the problems are new, though the tasks set before us differ from the tasks set before our fathers who founded and preserved this Republic, the spirit in which these tasks must be undertaken and these problems faced, if our duty is to be well done, remains essentially unchanged.We know that self-government is difficult. We know that no people needs such high traits of character as that people which seeks to govern its affairs aright through the freely expressed will of the freemen who compose it. But we have faith that we shall not prove false to the memories of the men of the mighty past. They did their work, they left us the splendid heritage we now enjoy. We in our turn have an assured confidence that we shall be able to leave this heritage unwasted and enlarged to our children and our children’s children. To do so we must show, not merely in great crises, but in the everyday affairs of life, the qualities of practica lintelligence, of courage, of hardihood, and endurance, and above all the power of devotion to a lofty ideal, which made great the men who founded this Republic in the days of Washington, which made great the men who preserved this Republic in the days of Abraham Lincoln.

The importance of positive influence

teddy_canal_cartoon

2016 has been a whirlwind year of presentations across the country on the wit, wisdom and leadership of Theodore Roosevelt.  As I have traveled during this turbulent political year, I have purposely focused on bringing a positive message to my audiences.

One of hope.

My emphasis has been on the importance of overcoming our obstacles in life (TR and his asthma).  I speak often on Roosevelt’s skill of making friends across a spectrum of interests, status and experience (TR had friends from Cowboys to Kings).  I stress the importance of a good handshake and an honest look in the eye.

We need positive inputs, because I believe we are being conditioned to react only to negative ones. If we believe as a society that the only way to progress is to beat down those next to us, we are missing the message that TR wanted us to learn: The idea that we all deserve a square deal in this country.

A square deal is one built on the positive.  Work hard, be honest and do your part – and in the end, you will live a good life and leave a good name. But it is larger than that.  In the end, if we all do it right, we leave behind a stronger country for our children and their children.

You have impact.  Your children are watching you and taking cues from how you behave towards others.  They watch your actions and will model what they see.  Do it right, and the reward will be large.  A legacy of great generations after you.

 

 

Presenting history while making history

Theodore Roosevelt laid the cornerstone to the building that would house the Lincoln cabin on Feb 12 1909, the 100th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s birth.  To celebrate this event, the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historic Park allowed me the honor of giving the speech that Roosevelt gave on that historic day.

To be part of the 100th Anniversary of the National Park service celebration and more specifically to be given this privilege  on the 100th birthday of the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historic Park, was an amazing experience.  Roosevelt’s words were as poignant today as they were then.

As I spoke, I was fortunate to have something Roosevelt did not – the memorial in front of me, the 56 steps leading to a magnificent building that holds a small log cabin that reminds us that great leaders come often from humble beginnings.  A tribute to a true leader who forever saved this nation.

I was fortunate to be joined with many great speakers that day, including an amazing FDR, Einsenhower, Lincoln and Mark Twain.    More importantly, I was assisted by a park staff that was passionate, committed and who truly love their jobs, their parks and their country.

I will be forever humbled by the opportunity to recreate history while becoming part of the history of this amazing place.   Thank you Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historic Park and the National Park Service.

 

America the Wonderful

Celebrating our heritage

Celebrating our heritage

The Declaration of Independence was a bold move by our forefathers to push forth an idea that has become an ideal across the globe.  Of course, jealousy of our system means that we must constantly defend it against those who would want to change it to their will.  This protection of our liberty is accomplished by brave men and women who serve our Country everyday. Elected officials and those who promise to protect and serve, both in the military and our police forces do an important job. Most importantly, by each of us, who are vigilant to remember that what we have is unique and worth saving and protecting.

This 4th of July, as you celebrate with family, food and fireworks, stop and take a moment to reflect on how truly fortunate you are.  America is an amazing place, and it is made up of mostly hard working people who care about their fellow man.  It is made of people of Character, who help those in need and celebrate differences.  It is made up of all colors and races and genders.  A common people who live, work and play together with an understanding that together we stand, divided we fall.

Celebrate your 4th with joy and appreciate America the Wonderful.

 

The future is ours to fix

teddy-roosevelt-bear-hunt

I was teaching at a school the other day about Roosevelt when I decided to ask them about their perception of the current political turmoil.  This is a pretty common discussion among my adult programs, but I had never brought it up to 3rd and 4th graders before.

I decided to get the conversation started by asking them what they thought made a good leader.  Like all classrooms,  hands shot into the air:

“Smart”

“Good at giving directions”

“Tells people what to do”

“Has a following”

The words were painfully shy of the words and concepts I teach when I do Corporate programs on Leadership:

“Honest”

“Reliable”

“Trustworthy”

“Looking out for other’s best interests”

It made me realize that we are not teaching our children the baseline of what is important – the skills that make each of us not only influencer’s in our small local world, but leaders the greater world.   It concerns me when Honesty is not on a child’s list of important attributes for a leader.  Shouldn’t we start there if we want to have the best future for our next generation?

We teach our children how to compete in almost everything they do – perhaps it is time we find a way to make honesty a competition instead of an anomaly.

 

Springtime comes to Teddy Roosevelt Camp

TR writing table

TR writing table

I have to admit that while I enjoy traveling by snowshoe or ski in the winter, I find myself daydreaming for the spring, so I can spend some days in camp.

My first TR Camp of the season is usually in Nebraska at an Outdoor Expo.  Here, local school children are bused in to explore activities that hopefully will excite them into a life time of outdoor pursuits. These include kayaking, archery, fishing, identifying animal tracks, camping, shooting and many more.  During the day, TR Camp gets very busy, with children visiting me and sharing their adventures of the day as I share mine of a lifetime. By the time they visit me they get an idea of how those experiences can come together to create a life-long adventure, which helps in the overall development of that wonderful attribute – Character.  I try to embody that lesson so that they understand how those elements came together to create the leader we appreciate as Roosevelt, and the importance he placed on the natural environment in doing so. Based on the feedback, thankfully that message is being well received.  But as much as I enjoy TR Camp during the hustle and bustle during the morning and afternoon, I appreciate it as much for its solitude at the end of the day.

When the crowd leaves, camp becomes eerily quiet. I am often the only one there, other than the occasional Park Ranger making sure everything is secure.

This time of year, it is not unusual for a storm cloud to pass over, quickly cooling the air and dropping rain that taps lightly on my canvas roof. The cool air finds me stoking the wood stove and settling by my writing desk to read or jot my notes from the day. The view out my door is a park – an open field or river that gurgles as I read or write.  Sometimes, spring winds whistle through the tree branches or if the sun peaks out it alerts the birds to squawk and explore.

The crowd, including the other exhibitors have left. Most are booked into a warm hotel room back in town with a bath, electricity and multiple television channels of nothing to watch.  When they come back in the morning they find me sitting by my fire with a hot cup of coffee.  Each seems shocked when I answer “yes” to their question “Do you sleep here”?  I have never questioned my sanity for “roughing it”.

I invite them into my warm tent and pour them a steaming cup of coffee and we talk for a bit about the day before and the day to come.  When they leave I pity them for missing the sunset the past evening or the amazing sunrise that morning or the squall that pulled at my tent pegs during the night.

I will let Roosevelt finish this best.   “Nowhere, not even at sea, does a man feel more lonely than when riding over the far-reaching, seemingly never-ending plains; and after a man has lived a little while on or near them, their very vastness and loneliness and their melancholy monotony have a strong fascination for him.”

The American Boy

One of my favorite Roosevelt speeches is entitled “The American Boy”.

Boy Scouts at Sagamore Hill

The American Boy speech supports the idea of raising young men of virtue and character.  It supports the idea that in order to be a good man, he must first be raised to be a good boy.

I suspect a great deal of the speech echos his father’s sentiments to young Thee.    His father was a true role model of manly virtues that provided a path for his son to later lead a nation.    I believe Roosevelt considered his job as President as akin to that of a father.   His role was to provide the best guidance as possible as the national grew.

“What we have a right to expect of the American boy is that he shall turn out to be a good American man.

The boy can best become a good man by being a good boy–not a goody-goody boy, but just a plain good boy.

I do not mean that he must love only the negative virtues; I mean that he must love the positive virtues also. ‘Good,’ in the largest sense, should include whatever is fine, straightforward, clean, brave and manly.

The best boys I know–the best men I know–are good at their studies or their business, fearless and stalwart, hated and feared by all that is wicked and depraved, incapable of submitting to wrongdoing, and equally incapable of being aught but tender to the weak and helpless.

Of course the effect that a thoroughly manly, thoroughly straight and upright boy can have upon the companions of his own age, and upon those who are younger, is incalculable.

If he is not thoroughly manly, then they will not respect him, and his good qualities will count for but little; while, of course, if he is mean, cruel, or wicked, then his physical strength and force of mind merely make him so much the more objectionable a member of society.

He can not do good work if he is not strong and does not try with his whole heart and soul to count in any contest; and his strength will be a curse to himself and to every one else if he does not have a thorough command over himself and over his own evil passions, and if he does not use his strength on the side of decency, justice and fair dealing.

In short, in life, as in a football game, the principle to follow is: Hit the line hard: don’t foul and don’t shirk, but hit the line hard.”