Page images
PDF
EPUB

prises, with the exception that the interior of his ranch house bore some evidences of a taste and training, some reminders of another environment, which were almost unknown in the homes of cattle men in the Bad Lands. His house—the one chosen and occupied as his residence—stood on the brink of the Little Missouri river. From the low, long veranda, shaded by leafy cottonwoods, one could look across sand-bars and shallows to a strip of meadow land, behind which rose a line of sheer cliffs and grassy plateaus. The veranda was a pleasant place in the summer evenings, when a cool breeze stirred along the river, and blew in the faces of the tired men. The one-story house of hewn logs was clean and neat, with many rooms, so that each member of the household might be alone if he wished it. The nights, even in summer, were cool and pleasant, and there were plenty of bearskins and buffalo robes, many of them trophies of Mr. Roosevelt’s own skill with the rifle; and with these one might bid defiance even to the bitter cold of winter. In all seasons, when at the ranch, he was visited by friends from the East; and in winter the long evenings were spent sitting around the great fireplace where the pine logs roared and crackled. Rifles stood in the corners of the room, or rested across elk antlers which jutted from over the fireplace. Heavy overcoats of wolf-skin or coon-skin, and caps and gauntlets made from the fur of otter or beaver, hung from deer horns ranged along the wall, or thrust into beams and rafters. The traveler across those plains, which seemed like desolate wastes, would expect no entertainment further than food and lodging, even at the most pretentious of ranches. But in this home of the Harvard man there were books of the best, magazines from Eastern cities, and newspapers from every capital in Europe. The mail-carrier did not come daily, and was not entirely certain to arrive within the interval of a week. But when he did come, he was very certain to bring letters from prominent men in every section of the nation; the freshest product of the great publishers, and pictures that could enlighten the gloom of any home. “Rough board shelves,” says Mr. Roosevelt, in his charming “Hunting Trips of a Ranchman,” “hold a number of books without which some of the evenings would be long indeed. No ranchman who loves sport”—and nearly every one of them does— “can afford to be without Van Dyke's ‘Still Hunter,” Dodge’s ‘Plains of the Great West,” or Caton's ‘Deer and Antelope of America’; and Coues’ ‘Birds of the Northwest’ will be valued if he cares at all for natural history. As for Irving, Hawthorne, Cooper, Lowell, and the other standbys, I suppose no man, either East or West, would willingly be long without them. And for lighter reading there are dreamy Ik Marvel, Burroughs’ breezy pages, and the quaint, pathetic character sketches of the Southern writers—Cable, Craddock, Macon, Joel Chandler Harris, and sweet Sherwood Bonner. And when one is in the Bad Lands, he feels as if they somehow look just exactly as Poe's tales and poems sound.” There is a picture of the inner life of the man while engaged in a vocation that seems little related to the finer sensibilities. It may be this home was not typical of the ranches in general; and yet, since the men engaged in business there were for the most part men of means, who had been accustomed to refinements of life elsewhere, it is likely this view of Chimney Butte in some fair measure typifies the domestic provision of the ranchmen in general. But it accentuates this fact: A man carries his character with him. And it seems to have been impossible for this man to leave behind him at any time the bond that holds the true American to the interests and activities of the nation. An effect of it was that when he returned to the East, it was by no means the coming from the banishment that his friends there imagined. They had little of importance to tell him. He had kept pace with events, as they had; and even the comment of the world was in his possession. It may have been a wise dispensation of Providence which denied large financial returns to the men who risked such fortunes, and expended such effort in developing the cattle country of the Northwest. There is just a possibility that much prosperity would have diverted Mr. Roosevelt, at least for some years, from these public labors in his native State which came to make up so much of his subsequent life. But, in any event, neither the distance from the center of government nor the exactions of ranch life left a void in his career. He must have been an exceedingly industrious man; for in the years while there in the Bad Lands, he did much of the writing which has proved him a master of composi

[graphic][merged small][merged small]
« PreviousContinue »