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“My home ranch lies on both sides of the Little Missouri, the nearest ranchman above me being about twelve, and the nearest below me about ten miles distant. The general course of the stream here is northerly, but, while flowing through my ranch, it takes a great westerly reach of some three miles, walled in, as always, between chains of steep, high bluffs, half a mile or more apart. The stream twists down through the valley in long sweeps, leaving oval wooded bottoms, first on one side and then on the other; and in an open glade among the thick growing timber stands the long, low house, of hewn logs.
"Just in front of the ranch veranda is a line of old cottonwoods that shade it during the fierce heats of summer, rendering it always cool and pleasant. But a few feet beyond these trees comes the cut off bank of the river, through whose broad, sandy bed the shallow stream winds as if lost, except when a freshet fills it from brim to brim with foaming yellow water. The bluffs that wall in the river valley curve back in semi-circles, rising from its alluvial bottom generally as abrupt cliffs, but often as steep, grassy slopes that lead up to great level plateaus; and the line is broken every mile or two by the entrance of a coulee, on dry creek, whose head branches may be twenty miles back. Above us, where the river comes round the bend, the valley is very narrow, and the high buttes bounding rise sheer and barren, into scalped hill peaks and naked knife-blade ridges. The other buildings stand in the same open glade with the ranch house, the dense growth of cottonwoods and matted, thorny underbrush making a wall all about, through which we have chopped our wagon roads and trodden out our own bridle paths. The cattle have now trampled down this brush a little, but deer still lie in it, only a couple of hundred yards from the house; and from the door sometimes in the evening one can see them peer out into the open, or make their way down, timidly and cautiously to drink at the river. The stable, sheds and other out-buildings, with the hayricks and the pens for such cattle as we bring in during winter, are near the house; the patch of fenced garden land is on the edge of the woods; and near the middle of the glade stands the high, circular horse corral, with a snubbing post in the centre, and a wing built out from one side of the gate entrance, so that the saddle band can be driven in without trouble.”
The first guide of President Roosevelt in a buffalo hunt, has mentioned it. His name is Ferris, and tells of Roosevelt's railroad arrival, 1883, on a September day, and the buffalo ranges were fifty miles away, over a badly broken country. He describes Roosevelt as a “thin young man, plainly dressed.” “It meant hard work to get a buffalo at that time, and whether the thin young man could stand the trip was a question, but Roosevelt was on horseback and he rode better than I did, and could stand just as much knocking about as I could.
"On the first night out, when we were twenty-five or thirty miles from a
settlement, we went into camp on the open prairie, with our saddle blankets over us, our horses picketed and the picket ropes tied about the horns of our saddles, which we used for pillows. In the middle of the night there was a rush, our pillows were swept from under our heads and our horses went tearing off over the prairie, frightened by wolves.
“Roosevelt was up and off in a minute after the horses.
"On the fourth or fifth day out, I think it was, our horses pricked up their ears and I told Roosevelt there was a buffalo close at hand. We dismounted and advanced to a big 'washout' near, peered over its edge, and there stood a huge buffalo bull, calmly feeding and unaware of our presence.
“ 'Hit him where that patch of red shows on his side,' said I, 'and you've got him.'
“Roosevelt was cool as a cucumber, took a careful aim and fired. Out came the buffalo from the washout, with blood pouring from his mouth and nose. "You've shot him,' I shouted, and so it proved, for the buffalo plunged a few steps and fell.”
One of the early and useful friends of Roosevelt in the Wild West among the Rough Riders, was Colonel Cody, the famous Buffalo Bill, and many a wild ride they had. One of the most fearless and tireless of riders, Roosevelt was never fond of breaking the bucking bronchos, as seen in the shows of his friend on horseback. There were better ways of expending strength, and his plan of life was the useful investment of all his resources.
He went into the cattle business, and started with five hundred steers, and his guide remarks: "He worked for a part of a season as a cowboy. He had his own 'string' of horses and they were as ugly and ill-tempered as the majority of cow-horses. He was not a broncho-breaker, as he has been pictured to be, and he took no unnecessary chances in mounting or endeavoring to tame an especially ugly horse. But he did not shrink from riding his own horses when they cut up the customary capers of mustangs, and although he was sometimes thrown and on one or two occasions pretty badly bruised and hurt, he stuck to his mounts until he had mastered them.”
President Roosevelt is not only the hero of a great number of the Bear stories of the country—for bear stories are a literature by themselves—but he tells the stories of others' adventures with big bears in a captivating way. He is death on bears with a rifle, and brings them to life with his pen. He says:
“In 1872, near Fort Wingate, New Mexico, two soldiers of a cavalry regiment came to their death at the claws of a grizzly bear. The army surgeon who attended them told me the particulars, as far as they were known. The men were mail carriers, and one day did not come in at the appointed time. Next day, a relief party was sent out to look for them, and after some search found the bodies of both as well as that of one of the horses. One of the men showed
signs of life; he came to his senses before dying and told the story. They had seen a grizzly and pursued it on horseback, with their Spencer rifles. On coming close, one had fired into its side, when it turned with marvelous quickness for so large and unwieldy an animal, and struck down the horse, at the same time inflicting a ghastly wound on the rider. The other man dismounted and came up to the rescue of his companion. The bear then left the latter and attacked the other. Although hit by the bullet, it charged home and threw the man down, and then lay on him and deliberately bit him to death, while his groans and cries were frightful to hear. Afterward it walked off into the bushes without again offering to molest the already mortally wounded victim of its first assault.
“Any one of the big bears we killed on the mountains would, I should think, have been able to make short work of either a lion or a tiger; for the grizzly is greatly superior in bulk and muscular power to either of the great cats, and its teeth are as large as theirs, while its claws, though blunter, are much longer; nevertheless, I believe that a lion or a tiger would be fully as dangerous to a hunter or other human being, on account of the superior speed of its charge, the lightning-like rapidity of its movements, and its apparently sharper senses.
“A hunter at the foot of the Bighorn Mountains had chased a large bear and finallywounded him. The animal turned at once and came straight at the man, whose second shot missed. The bear then closed and passed on, after striking only a single blow; yet that one blow, given with all the power of its thick, immensely muscular forearm, armed with nails as strong as so many hooked steel spikes, tore out the man's collar-bone and snapped through three or four ribs. He never recovered from the shock and died that night.
“A neighbor of mine has a small ranch on the Little Missouri. He was out on a mining trip, and was prospecting with two other men near the headwater of the Little Missouri, in the Black Hills country. They were walking down along the river, and came to a point of land, thrust out into it, which was densely covered with brush and fallen timber. Two of the party walked round by the edge of the stream; but the third, a German, and a very powerful fellow, followed a well beaten game trail, leading through the bushy point. When they were some forty yards apart the two men heard an agonized shout from the German, and at the same time the loud coughing growl, or roar, of a bear. They turned just in time to see their companion struck a terrible blow on the head by a grizzly, which must have been roused from its lair by his almost stepping on it; so close was it that he had no time to fire his rifle, but merely held it up over his head as a guard. Of course it was struck down, the claws of the great brute at the same time shattering his skull like an egg-shell.”
The reputation of the President for believing himself to be an uncommonly