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CHAPTER IV

Among the Cowboys and in the Hunting Field

W

E do not know if the spirit of adventure and the love of wild

life is innate in the Roosevelt blood, or if Theodore Roose

velt got these traits from the Scotch-Irish strain of his mother's race. What we do know is that he has them implanted in the very fibre of his being. Civilized life and the strife of politics are persistent in their demands, but they have never been strong enough to hold him a close prisoner. He has broken away from them at frequent intervals for a bout in the hunting field, and did so decidedly after his three years of legislative life at Albany, seeking 'a region wide enough for him to breathe in freely on the vast plains of the wide West.

Shaking the mire of legislative life from his feet, he sought a new field of activity in the frontier region of Dakota, where he spent several years in the enjoyment of unadulterated nature, hunting, fishing, ranching and roughing it in true Western style, while gathering an ample supply of that buoyant health that has stood him in such good stead since. He started and ran a cattle ranch of his own, living in a rough log house partly the work of his own hands. It was so far in the wilderness that he had the experience of shooting a deer from his own front door.

He had his own herds to care for and did so in true cowboy style. Dressed in a flannel shirt and rough overalls tucked into alligator boots, he would help his men in rounding up the cattle, riding with the best of them and keeping in the saddle to the end. Then he would go home, tingling with the spice of wild outdoor life, to sleep off his fatigue in bearskins and buffalo robes, the former wearers of which may have fallen under his own rifle. It was a rough and ready life, but Roosevelt seemed to the manner born, and enjoyed it as thoroughly as if he had never known what luxury and ease meant.

His ranch lay on both sides of the Little Missouri, in Dakota Territory, that section of it which is now the State of North Dakota. He lived here in the open, making friends with the undisciplined ranchmen and frontiersmen, taking part in all the duties

of the ranch, and varying this with hunting excursions for big game in the surrounding plains and on the not distant flanks of the Rocky Mountains.

Vignettes of his life here stand out picturesquely. Thus he tells us, not without a sense of exultation, of being thirty-six hours in the saddle as one of a party, dismounting only to change horses and to eat. Again we behold him with one cowboy keeping night guard over a herd of a thousand cattle in a dry camp, spending the whole night on horseback in

strenuous efforts to keep el.

the thirsty cattle from

stampeding in search of THEODORE ROOSEVELT IN HIS HUNTING COSTUME

water. More interesting still is the story of the round-up of a herd of some two thousand in the midst of a driving blizzard, with pouring rain that stretched out in stinging level sheets before the wild wind. With this were blinding lightning flashes and terrific thunder which maddened the frightened animals, rendering it next to impossible to hold them. It reads like the story of a Homeric battle. Round and round rode Roosevelt and his men, wheeling and swaying, galloping

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AMONG THE COWBOYS AND IN THE HUNTING FIELD

him. The rough, well primed with whisky, faced him with a revolver in each hand and with a curse bade him treat, enforcing his demand by an exhibition of “gun-play.” Around sat a roomful of men, none of them friends of Roosevelt, who was a stranger in the town.

It was a case in which common sense counseled obedience, and the seeming tenderfoot rose as if to obey. The next instant his left hand went out with one of his old Harvard hits and the bully crashed against the wall and measured his length on the floor, his pistols exploding in the air. When he came to his wits he looked up to see what sort of an elephant had trodden on him, and found the tenderfoot standing over him, with battle in his eyes.

, “Served him right," was the decision of the crowd and the astounded rough incontinently surrended and gave up his guns. This was Roosevelt's only experience of this kind.

Not unlike it, however, is the story of the sheriff who favored some cattle thieves, letting them escape. At least there was reason to believe that he sided with the outlaws and a meeting of ranch owners was held to consider the case. The sheriff was present, and in the midst of the meeting Mr. Roosevelt arose and squarely accused this official with aiding the cattle thieves. He told him that he and his fellows believed the charges to be true. He was unarmed, while from the pockets of the rough westerner peeped the handles of two big revolvers. And the reputation of the man was such that few of the ranchmen would have dared to face him with such charges.

But the keen unflinching gaze of the inquisitor cowed the fellow. The ranchmen sitting around awaited his reply. None came. By his silence he acknowledged the truth of the accusation.

Then there is the story of the Marquis de Mores, a queer Frenchman who had a ranch near Roosevelt's. Some trouble had arisen between their cowboys and the Marquis was offended by something Roosevelt was reported to have said. Without waiting to inquire into its truth he sent Roosevelt a challenge, writing that "there was a way for gentlemen to settle their differences.

Roosevelt's reply was that the story set afloat was a lie, that the Marquis had no business to believe it upon such evidence as he had, and that he would follow his note in person within the hour. He

AMONG THE COWBOYS AND IN THE HUNTING FIELD

39

madly round the stampeding herd, at times checking their horses so sharply as to bring them to their haunches or even throw them to the ground, until finally they got the beasts corralled and made a mad break for the wagons.

“Though there is much work and hardship, rough fare and monotony and exposure connected with the round-up," writes Mr. Roosevelt, “yet there are few men who do not look forward to it and back to it with pleasure. It is superbly health-giving and is full of excitement and adventure, calling for the exhibition of pluck, selfreliance, hardihood and daring horsemanship; and of all forms of physical labor the easiest and pleasantest is to sit in the saddle.”

Certainly the late legislator found exhilaration and enjoyment in it, and when he came back from this wild life to New York it was with a fresh stock of sturdy health.

When winter came life on the plains lost much of its attraction. Grim desolation replaced the genial summer climate. From the north blew furious gales, driving blinding snows before them. Or if the howling winds ceased for a season, a merciless cold hooded over the land, turning the earth to stone, the rivers to sheets of crystal ice. In this season there was less work for the ranchmen. The horses shifted for themselves and needed no care. The cattle demanded some looking after, but much of the time was spent in the ranch-house before the huge fireplaces filled with blazing logs. During this period Roosevelt spent much time with his pen, describing his experience in his “Hunting Trips of a Ranchman.” Another book dealing with this period of his life was his "Ranch Life and Hunting Trail.” About this time also he wrote two works of biography, “Life of Thomas Hart Benton” and “Life of Gouverneur Morris."

As may well be supposed, a man of Theodore Roosevelt's character made himself felt in the West as he had done in the East. The cowboys looked on him as a true comrade, a man who led instead of following, who could ride and shoot with the best of them and gave no sign of considering himself better than they. Certain anecdotes of his doings are among the fireside lore of the plains.

Here is the story of the frontier “bad man," who took the "foureyed” stranger for a tenderfoot and set out to have some sport with

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started out, but before reaching the town where the Marquis was he met the messenger returning with a second note in which the Frenchman apologized and cordially invited Roosevelt to dine with him.

The most exciting of Roosevelt's adventures was that of his winter hunt for a gang of cattle thieves, down a stream filled with pack ice. He got them, three of them, and held them prisoner by making them take off their boots. It was a cactus country, through which no one would dare to go unshod. The nearest wagon was fifteen miles away, but Roosevelt went for it, leaving his assistants on guard over the thieves. The settler loaned it, though he swore that he could not understand why so much trouble was taken with thieves who might be hanged off hand.

With his three prisoners in the wagon Roosevelt set out for Dickinson, the nearest town. The roads were very bad and it took two days and a night to make the journey. His two assistants having to leave him, he had nobody but himself and the driver, of whom he knew nothing, to guard the three "bad men.”

Putting them in the wagon, he walked behind, a Winchester across his shoulder to use in case of need. The road was ankle deep in icy mud. The night passed in a frontier hut, in which the self-appointed guard sat wide awake all night against the cabin door and watched his cowed captives.. Late the next day he handed over his prisoners to the sheriff of Dickinson. Nothing could show better the dogged determination of Theodore Roosevelt when he had made up his mind to do a thing

Such are the current anecdotes of Roosevelt's ranch life in the West. But there was another side to this life, the hunting one, which calls for some attention. The Indians of the West at that time were fairly quiet, though he did have one adventure with the “noble red'man” in which a ready show of his rifle prevented something worse. But there was big game in abundance, the grizzly bear, the elk, the mountain sheep, the deer and antelope, and even the bison, which as yet had not been quite exterminated.

Of the several tales of his hunting life much the most thrilling is that of an encounter he had with a grizzly, at a time when he was hunting alone in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. Having made his

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