The 100th Anniversary of our National Parks and Teddy

Teddy R and Adam Lindquist

Teddy R and our National Parks

There are many celebrations occurring cross the country this year for the 100th anniversary of our National Parks.   I, along with several of my TR friends, will be contributing to these events, partly because many mistakenly believe Roosevelt created the National Parks.  Here is where you might need to pull out your history books for a refresher.

The first National Park was Yellowstone, established in 1872, well before Roosevelt’s time.  During his Presidency,  Roosevelt doubled the number of National Parks  from 1901-1909.  So that begs the question, why is 2016 the 100th Anniversary?  Because it wasn’t until Woodrow Wilson that the creation of the National Park Service occurred.

So why is Teddy often credited with the parks creation?  Because it was Roosevelt’s contribution to conservation and wildlife preservation that resulted in a national awareness of the need to continue to preserve the American Landscape.  Three major contributions of Roosevelt led to this: His doubling the number of National Parks while President; The creation of Wildlife Refuges and; the Antiquities Act of 1906 which created our National Monuments.  We must also remember that it was Roosevelt who hired Gifford Pinchot as the first Chief of the United States Forest Service to help manage our forest resources.  During his Presidency, Roosevelt would help protect 230 Million acres of land.  There is a very real reason he is called the conservation President!

As part of my mission for 2016 and hopefully beyond, I encourage you to take this year to explore this amazing land.  Take your children and their children on the real kind of adventure.   One where electronic devices are used only to record the sights and sounds to remind us of our experience.  An adventure where our conversations revolve around the amazing landscape that surrounds us.  Our parks, local, state and National are our real treasures.   Preserved because you enjoy them – but enjoy them you must to keep their preservation.

Seeing Theodore Roosevelt National Park in Roosevelt’s eyes

Living the experience

Living the experience

“It was a land of vast silent spaces, of lonely rivers and  plains, where the wild game stared at the passing horseman”. – TR

It’s one thing to visit Theodore Roosevelt National Park as a tourist taking in the sites.  It’s a whole different experience trying to visit as Roosevelt, attempting to absorb and understand Roosevelt’s experience and his metamorphosis into a ranch man.

I found myself waking up early and stepping outside to just listen to the wind blowing the tree tops; song birds calling out, seeking their mates.  I watched the colors of the buttes change as the sun painted them or clouds dusted them with shadow.  The key thing I did differently on this visit unlike past visits, was I tried to imagine what Roosevelt was thinking, feeling –  as he sorted out his future without a wife or a mother.  How this land must have looked to him, the quiet solitude so different from a life of fast-paced politics and a growing New York city.

If he was looking for a place that he could hide, to contemplate his future, I can think of no better.

Once down by the Little Missouri, you are surrounded by multi-color canyon walls that isolate you while thirsty cottonwoods shade you.  Birds fill the trees, and the slow gurgle of the water lulls you slightly as you just listen to nature work her wonders.  The air is dry, the ground crunching under you as you step forward, the scent of the sage plants adding a spiritual aroma to the experience.

I thought of TR in his rocking chair on the porch, reading a book but also taking careful inventory in his mind of the animals he could observe.  His memory only slowly eroded of the tragedy of losing his beloved on the same day.  I could imagine sorrow being replaced with hard, rugged work.  The kind of work that is not for a paycheck, but real, honest survival.   This is a harsh land, unforgiving to fools who dare cross it without knowledge: Rattle snakes, quick sand and loose gravel near cliff edges lay in wait to reach out and grab the passerby.    This is the perfect place to find your strength – to test your mettle and push your abilities.   There was little room for error.  If you went out alone without the skills you needed, there was a significant reality that you might never return.  Do or die.

Roosevelt was in mourning.  He was in the right kind of environment that if he wanted to “give up” – the land would gladly accommodate him.  But it is also the kind of place that awakens you as well and thankfully, this is what it did for him.  The challenge for survival was embraced by him and he took it head-on.  Roosevelt would take this lesson and apply it each day for the rest of his life.

He would later say of the experience:  “I would never have become President, if it were not for my time in the Dakota’s”

The badlands are a place each American should visit, and especially those who are interested in Theodore Roosevelt.  They, like him, are rugged, unique and inspiring.

 

 

 

Questions and Answers – The fun of presenting to live audiences

Teddy Roosevelt presents at The Kaleidoscope Factory

Teddy Roosevelt presents at The Kaleidoscope Factory

Often after a presentation as Theodore Roosevelt, I open the floor to questions.  Events that hire me often comment about the fact that people ask me questions by starting with “Mr. President”.  They are also intrigued by the fact that after all these years of study, I can field almost any question an audience asks.

Recently, I did an event at a history center where people were asked to show up with “stump the President” questions.  They told me about it when I arrived I was very concerned about what they might ask.  Most of them were much easier questions than the ones I was given back when I competed in contests.

The “doozey” questions still come up from time to time and I enjoy searching through my memory bank or doing research for the answer when they can stump me.  Some questions are rather subjective, and I have to literally take off my “Roosevelt hat” and answer as myself.  I thought you might be interested in some more recent questions – the answer I gave and the research I did after with the most common answer.

“When you shot an elephant on Safari – what gun and caliber did you use?”  The answer I gave: “Winchester .405 I believe, but my memory is not perfect so don’t quote me!”  Correct answer: Some experts say it was the Winchester .405 but others say it was the Holland 500-450.  My gut tells me that the Holland would have been a better choice and was probably what he used.

“What is your IQ?” The answer I gave: “Enough to get by. I am not the smartest man but I read a book a day so at least I can feel that way”  Correct answer:  Current estimates place Roosevelt’s IQ at 146.5

“How would you life have been different if your first wife had not died?”  I had to remove my hat for this one.  “We all have points in our lives where there is a “fork in the road” and we must choose our path.  Roosevelt said “I would have never become President if it were not for my time in the Dakotas”, which happened because his wife passed away and he went west to regroup himself.  From his perspective, our nation would have never benefited from his perspective on building a better country if his wife had not died  (maybe).  Correct answer: unanswerable.

“Who was the man with the shot off finger?” I still have yet to figure out this question and who the man is.  (I would appreciate any insights anyone has on this one).

The question and answer period is a great chance to connect further and have people get to the questions they wished they could ask Roosevelt.  I relate it to the idea “If you could sit down for a beer with someone from history, who would it be?”.  I can’t replace the real Roosevelt in that dream, but at least I can be a reasonable facsimilie.  (Unlike Roosevelt, I would actually drink the beer!)

 

 

 

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.

Never be afraid to try

TR riding in a Wright Flyer

TR riding in a Wright Flyer

“It is hard to fail, but it is worse never to have tried to succeed.”
― Theodore Roosevelt

As children we are often carefree and not afraid to stumble and fall. That first time we are laughed at by another (when we don’t laugh at ourselves for our failure but instead shrink inside with embarrassment) is our first real point where our personal risk taking changes. The reality is that We all live each day with risk – driving our cars requires a certain amount of acceptance of risk that the other driver’s on the road are paying attention. Eating food that was sourced from across the globe requires an acceptance of risk that it was raised in a healthy way. Each day, we take risks without even thinking about it.

So why is it that we place such constraints on ourselves when it comes to how we are perceived by others? So many have engrained their lives with fear to fail, that they fail to live.

Roosevelt was a man who lived his life often without much fear of failure. His intelligence and knowledge of history allowed him to weigh risk carefully in the decisions he made. There are not many of us who could reference both the Roman empire and Greek Mythology to decide if a law made sense for the short and long-term. Roosevelt could. But with his intelligence came a child-like fascination with life that would find him doing things that others would be afraid to do or be laugh at for doing. He was a risk taker, He loved to try new things. He was the first President to fly in an airplane, but not the comfortable Air Force One. His flight was in an airplane that was known for its danger! He was the first President to dive in a submarine. The list is extensive!

Roosevelt was not afraid to be laughed at. He would often stand motionless under a tree in the Whitehouse lawn for hours on end. The Secret Service only stared in amazement, laughing at him trying to figure out what he was doing! Roosevelt was perhaps one of the most knowledgeable bird watchers on the Hemisphere – and this was a form of learning and relaxation for him. Many of his acts on conservation were thought of under that tree!

Today, Roosevelt is regarded as one of our best Presidents. He should be regarded as well on someone never afraid to fail.