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THEodoRE RoosevelT As A RANCHMAN AND HUNTER IN THE BAD LANDs — BRINGING Down HIS FIRST BUFFALO – RATTLESNAKES, AND A WILD GOOSE
THEODoRE RoosFVELT had now published his “ Naval History of the War of 1812,” and it had created a decidedly favorable opinion among those critics who were best able to judge of the production. It is an authoritative work, and is to-day in the library of nearly every American warship afloat, as well as in numerous government libraries in this country, as at Washington, West Point, and Annapolis, and also in leading libraries of England.
Being out of politics the young author thought of taking up his pen once more. But he was restless by nature, and the loss of his wife and his mother still weighed heavily upon him. So he took himself to the West, to where the Little Missouri River flows in winding form through what are called the Bad Lands of North Dakota. Here, on the edge of the cattle country, Theodore Roosevelt had become possessed of two ranches, one called the Elkhorn and the other Chimney Butte. Both were located by the river, which during the dry season was hardly of any depth at all, but which during the heavy rains, or during the spring freshets, became a roaring torrent.
At one of these ranches Theodore Roosevelt settled down for the time being, to rough it in hunting and raising cattle. When the weather would not permit of his going abroad, or when the mood of the author seized him, he wrote. As a result of these experiences he has given us a delightful work called “The Hunting Trips of a Ranchman,” first published in 1885, giving his adventures among the cattle and while on the hunt, sometimes alone and sometimes in company with the rude but honest cow punchers and plainsmen who surrounded him.
Mr. Roosevelt has described the ranch at which he lived for the greater part of his time as a long, low, story-high house of hewn logs, clean and neat, and with many rooms. It faced the river, and in front was a long, low veranda, where one might idle on a clear, warm day to his heart's content. Inside, the main room contained a shelf full of the owner's favorite outdoor books and the walls half-a-dozen pet pictures. Rifles and shot-guns stood handy in corners, and on pegs and deer horns hung overcoats of wolf or coon skin and gloves of otter or beaver. That Theodore Roosevelt was a close observer of all that occurred around him is proved by his writings. With great minuteness he has described his life at the ranch home and while in the saddle, both in winter and summer, telling of his experiences while rounding up cattle and while bringing down waterfowl and larger game of various kinds. He likewise describes the trained hunters he has met at different seasons of the year, and tells of what they have done or were trying to do. At this time his favorite horse was a steed called Manitou. But when on a round-up of cattle, many ponies were taken along, so that a fresh mount could be had at any time. It was a breezy, free life, and to it our President undoubtedly owes the rugged constitution that he possesses to-day.
His observations led him to make many investigations concerning the smaller wild animals near his ranches and the larger beasts to be found farther off. The tales which were told to him by other ranchmen and hunters he always took “with a grain of salt,” and he soon reached the conclusion that many of the so-styled mighty hunters were only such in name, and had brought down quantities of game only in years gone by when such game was plentiful and could be laid low without much trouble. Once when a man told him he had brought down a certain beast at four hundred yards, Roosevelt measured the distance and found it to be less than half that.
“You couldn't fool him on much,” said one of the persons who met him about that time. “He would take precious little for granted. He wanted to know the how of everything, and he wasn't satisfied until he did know.”
Regarding his own powers as a hunter at that time, Mr. Roosevelt is very modest. He says his eyesight was rather poor, and his hand not over steady, so that “drawing a bead” on anything was not easy. Yet he