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- Theodore Roosevelt - 2/19 -
spree" with his sister and buy two shillings worth of rock-candy, did he enjoy himself in Europe.
His sister knew what he thought about the things one is supposed to see in Europe, and in her diary set it down:
"I am so glad Mama has let me stay in the butiful hotel parlor while the poor boys have been dragged off to the orful picture galary."
These experiences are funny enough now, but probably they were tragic to him at the time. In a church in Venice there were at least some moments of happiness. He writes of his sister "Conie":
"Conie jumped over tombstones spanked me banged Ellies head &c."
But in Paris the trip becomes too monotonous; and his diary says:
November 26. "I stayed in the house all day, varying the day with brushing my hair, washing my hands and thinking in fact having a verry dull time."
November 27. "I did the same thing as yesterday."
They all came back to New York and again he could study and amuse himself with natural history. This study was one of his great pleasures throughout life and when he was a man he knew more about the animals of America than anybody except the great scholars who devoted their lives to this alone.
It started with a dead seal that he happened to find laid out on a slab in a market in Broadway. He was still a small boy, but when he heard that the seal had been killed in the harbor, it reminded him of the adventures he had been reading about in Mayne Reid's books. He went back to the market, day after day, to look at the seal, to try to measure it and to plan to own it and preserve it. He did get the skull, and with two cousins started what they gave the grand name of the "Roosevelt Museum of Natural History"!
Catching and keeping specimens for this museum gave him more fun than it gave to some of his family. His mother was not well pleased when she found some young white mice in the ice-chest, where the founder of the "Roosevelt Museum" was keeping them safe. She quickly threw them away, and her son, in his indignation, said that what hurt him about it was "the loss to Science! The loss to Science!" Once, he and his cousin had been out in the country, collecting specimens until all their pockets were full. Then two toads came along,--such novel and attractive toads that room had to be made for them. Each boy put one toad under his hat, and started down the road. But a lady, a neighbor, met them, and when the boys took off their hats, the toads did what any sensible toads would do, hopped down and away, and so were never added to the Museum.
The Roosevelt family visited Europe again in 1873, and afterwards went to Algiers and Egypt, where the air, it was hoped, would help the boy's asthma. This was a pleasanter trip for him, and the birds which he saw on the Nile interested him greatly.
His studies of natural history had been carried on in the summers at Oyster Bay on Long Island, on the Hudson and in the Adirondacks. They soon became more than a boy's fun, and some of the observations made when he was fifteen, sixteen or seventeen years old have found their way into learned books. When the State of New York published, many years afterwards, two big volumes about the birds of the state, some of these early writings by Roosevelt were quoted as important. A friend has given me a four- page folder printed in 1877, about the summer birds of the Adirondacks "by Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., and H. D. Minot." Part of the observations were made in 1874 when he was sixteen. Ninety- seven different birds are listed.
When he was fifteen and had returned a second time from Europe, he began to study to enter Harvard. He was ahead of most boys of his age in science, history and geography and knew something of German and French. But he was weak in Latin, Greek and mathematics. He loved the out-of-doors side of natural history, and hoped he might be a scientist like Audubon.
Roosevelt entered the Freshman class of Harvard University in 1876. It is worth while to remember that this man who became as much of a Westerner as an Easterner, who was understood and trusted by the people of the Western States, was born on the Atlantic coast and educated at a New England college.
The real American, if he was born in the East, does not talk with contempt about the West; if he is a Westerner he does not pretend that all the good in the world is on his side of the Mississippi. Nor, wherever he came from, does he try to keep up old quarrels between North and South. Theodore Roosevelt was an American, and admired by Americans everywhere. Foolish folk who talk about the "effete East," meaning that the East is worn out and corrupt, had best remember that Abraham Lincoln did not believe that when he sent his son to the same college which Theodore Roosevelt's father chose for him.
At Harvard he kept up his studies and interest in natural history. In the house where he lived he sometimes had a large, live turtle and two or three kinds of snakes. He went in to Boston and came back with a basket full of live lobsters, to the consternation of the other people in the horse-car. He held a high office in the Natural History Society, and took honors, when he graduated, in the subject. His father had encouraged his desire to be a professor of natural history, reminding him, however, that he must have no hopes of being a rich man. In the end he gave up this plan, not because it did not lead to money, for never in his life did he work to become wealthy, but because he disliked science as it was then taught. One of the bad things the German universities had done to the American colleges was to make them worship fussy detail, and so science had become a matter of microscopes and laboratories. The field-work of the naturalist was unknown or despised.
He took part in four or five kinds of athletics. He seems never to have played baseball, perhaps because of poor eyesight which made him wear glasses. But he practiced with a rifle, rowed and boxed, ran and wrestled. In his vacations he went hunting in Maine. Boxing was one of his favorite forms of sport,--for two reasons. He thought a boy or a man ought to be able to defend himself and others, and he enjoyed hard exercise.
It is important to know what he thought and did about self-defense and fighting. Many people dodge this, and other difficult subjects, when they are talking to boys. It was not Roosevelt's way to hide his thoughts in silence because of timidity, and then call his lack of action by some such fine name as "tact" or "discretion." When there was good reason for speaking out he always did so. Since a boy who is forever fighting is not only a nuisance, but usually a bully, some older folk go to the extreme and tell boys that all fighting is wrong.
Theodore Roosevelt did not believe it. When he was about fourteen, and riding in a stage-coach on the way to Moosehead Lake, two other boys in the coach began tormenting him. When he tried to fight them off, he found himself helpless. Either of them could handle him, could hit him and prevent him from hitting back. He decided that it was a matter of self-respect for a boy to know how to protect himself and he learned to box.
Speaking to boys he said later:
"One prime reason for abhorring cowards is because every good boy should have it in him to thrash the objectionable boy as the need arises."
"The very fact that the boy should be manly and able to hold his own, that he should be ashamed to submit to bullying, without instant retaliation, should in return, make him abhor any form of bullying, cruelty, or brutality."
[Footnote: These two quotations from essay called "The American Boy" in "The Strenuous Life," pp. 162, 164]
When he was teaching a Sunday School class in Cambridge, during his time at college, one of his pupils came in with a black eye. It turned out that another boy had teased and pinched the first boy's sister during church. Afterwards there had been a fight, and the one who tormented the little girl had been beaten, but he had given the brother a black eye.
"You did quite right," said Roosevelt to the brother and gave him a dollar.
But the deacons of the church did not approve, and Roosevelt soon went to another church.
Meanwhile he was learning to box. In his own story of his life he makes fun of himself as a boxer, and says that in a boxing match he once won "a pewter mug" worth about fifty cents. He is honest enough to say that he was proud of it at the time, "kept it, and alluded to it, and I fear bragged about it, for a number of years, and I only wish I knew where it was now."
His college friends tell a different story of him. He was never one of the best boxers, they say, and he was at a disadvantage because of his eyesight. But he was plucky enough for two, and he fought fair. He entered in the lightweight class in the Harvard Gymnasium, March 22, 1879. He won the first match. When time was called he dropped his hands, and his opponent gave him a hard blow on the face. The fellows around the ring all shouted "Foul! Foul!" and hissed. But Roosevelt turned toward them, calling "Hush! He didn't hear!"
In the second match he met a man named Charlie Hanks, who was a little taller, and had a longer reach, and so for all Roosevelt's pluck and willingness to take punishment, Hanks won the match.
He was a member of three or four clubs,--the Institute, the Hasty Pudding and the Porcellian. He was one of the editors of the
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