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- Theodore Roosevelt - 5/19 -


Roosevelt hunted geese and ducks, deer, mountain sheep, elk and grizzly bear during his stay in the West. It was still possible to find buffalo, although most of the great herds had vanished. The prairie was covered with relics of the dead buffalo, so that one might ride for hundreds of miles, seeing their bones everywhere, but never getting a glimpse of a live one. Yet he managed, after a hard hunt of several days, to shoot a great bull buffalo.

An encounter with a grizzly bear is much more exciting, and he was nearly killed by one bear. In later years Roosevelt killed almost every kind of large and dangerous game that there is on the earth,--lions, elephants, the African buffalo, and the rhinoceros. The Indian tiger is perhaps the only one of the large savage animals which he never encountered. Yet after meeting all these and having some close shaves, especially with a wounded elephant in Africa, he said that his narrowest escape was with this grizzly bear.

It was when he had returned to the West and was on a hunt in Idaho. He had had trouble with his guide, who got drunk, so they parted company, and Roosevelt was alone. Looking down into a valley, from a rocky ridge, he saw a dark object, which he discovered was a large grizzly bear. He fired, and the bear giving a loud grunt, as the bullet struck, rushed forward at a gallop into a laurel thicket. Roosevelt paused at the edge of the thicket and peered within, trying to see the bear, but knowing too much about them to go into the brush where he was.

When I was at the narrowest part of the thicket, he suddenly left it, directly opposite, and then wheeled and stood broadside to me on the hillside, a little above. He turned his head stiffly towards me; scarlet strings of froth hung from his lips; his eyes burned like embers in the gloom.

I held true, aiming behind the shoulder, and my bullet shattered the point or lower end of his heart, taking out a big nick. Instantly the great bear turned with a harsh roar of fury and challenge, blowing the bloody foam from his mouth, so that I saw the gleam of his white fangs; and then he charged straight at me, crashing and bounding through the laurel bushes, so that it was hard to aim. I waited until he came to a fallen tree, raking him as he topped it with a ball, which entered his chest and went through the cavity of his body, but he neither swerved nor flinched, and at the moment I did not know that I had struck him. He came steadily on, and in another second was almost upon me. I fired for his forehead, but my bullet went low, entering his open mouth, smashing his lower jaw and going into the neck. I leaped to one side almost as I pulled the trigger; and through the hanging smoke the first thing I saw was his paw as he made a vicious side blow at me. The rush of his charge carried him past. As he struck he lurched forward, leaving a pool of bright blood where his muzzle hit the ground; but he recovered himself and made two or three jumps onwards, while I hurriedly jammed a couple of cartridges into the magazine, my rifle holding only four, all of which I had fired. Then he tried to pull up, but as he did so his muscles seemed suddenly to give way, his head drooped, and he rolled over and over like a shot rabbit. Each of my first three bullets had inflicted a mortal wound. [Footnote: "The Wilderness Hunter," pp. 305-6.]

There were, once, near Mr. Roosevelt's ranch, three men who had been suspected of cattle-killing and horse-stealing. The leader was a tall fellow named Finnegan, who had long red hair reaching to his shoulders, and always wore a broad hat and a fringed buckskin shirt. He had been in a number of shooting scrapes. The others were a half-breed, and a German, who was weak and shiftless rather than actively bad. They had a bad reputation, and were trying to get out of the country before the Vigilance Committee got them.

About the only way to travel--it was early in March and the rivers were swollen--was by boat down the river. So when the cowboys on Mr. Roosevelt's ranch found that his boat was stolen, they were sure who had taken it. As it is every man's duty in a half-settled country to bring law-breakers to justice, and as Roosevelt was, moreover, Deputy Sheriff, he decided to go after the three thieves. Two of his cowboys, Sewall and Dow from Maine, in about three days built another boat. In this, with their rifles, food enough for two weeks, warm bedding and thick clothes, Roosevelt, Sewall and Dow set out down the Little Missouri River.

There had been a blizzard, the weather was still bitterly cold, and the river full of drifting ice. They shot prairie fowl and lived on them, with bacon, bread and tea. It was cold work poling and paddling down the river, with the current, but against a head wind. The ice froze on the pole handles. At night where they camped the thermometer went down to zero. Next day they shot two deer, for they needed meat, as they were doing such hard work in the cold.

On the third day they sighted smoke,--the campfire of the three thieves. Two boats, one of them the stolen one, were tied up to the bank. It was an exciting moment, for they expected a fight. As it turned out, however, it was a tough job, but not a fighting one. The German was alone in camp, and they captured him without trouble. The other two were out hunting. When they came back an hour or two later, they were surprised by the order to hold up their hands. The half-breed obeyed at once, Finnigan hesitated until Roosevelt walked in close, covering him with a rifle, and repeated the command. Then he gave up.

But this was only the beginning of a long, hard task. It was often the way to shoot such men at once, but Sheriff Roosevelt did not like that. He was going to bring them back to jail. At night the thieves could not be tied up, as they would freeze to death. So Roosevelt, Sewall and Dow had to take turns in watching them at night. After they started down river again, they found the river blocked by ice, and had to camp out for eight days in freezing weather. The food all but gave out, and at last there was nothing left but flour. Bread made out of flour and muddy water and nothing else, is not, says Mr. Roosevelt, good eating for a steady diet. Besides they had to be careful of meeting a band of Sioux Indians, who were known to be in the region.

At last they worked back to a ranch, borrowed a pony, on which Roosevelt rode up into the mountains to a place where there was a wagon. He hired this, with two broncos and a driver. Sewall and Dow took the boats down the river, while Roosevelt set out on a journey which took two days and a night, walking behind the wagon, and guarding the three men. The driver of the wagon was a stranger.

At night they put up at a frontier hut, and the Deputy Sheriff had to sit up all night to be sure the three prisoners did not escape. When he reached the little town of Dickinson, and handed the men over to the Sheriff, he had traveled over three hundred miles. He had brought three outlaws to justice, and done something for the cause of better government in the country where he lived.

CHAPTER V

TWO DEFEATS

Although he was still under twenty-five when he left the New York Assembly, Roosevelt was favorably known throughout the State. He had been heard of, by those who keep up with politics, all over the country. In 1884, the year of a Presidential election, he was one of the four delegates-at-large from New York to the Republican convention at Chicago. The leader for the Presidential nomination was James G. Blaine, a brilliant man who had many warm admirers. Also, there were many in his own party, who distrusted him, who thought that in the past he had not been strictly honest. Good men differed on this question and differ still.

Roosevelt favored Senator Edmunds of Vermont, but he had agreed beforehand, with other young Republican delegates, that they would support for the election the man named by the convention. Since, in later years, Roosevelt refused to abide by the decision of a party convention, and led one of the most extraordinary "bolts" in the history of American politics, it is important to consider for a moment the question of political parties and the attitude a man may take toward them.

Because parties are responsible for a good many small, mean, and sometimes dishonorable acts, we often hear parties and partisanship denounced. People express the wish that there might be an end to "party politics" and to "partisanship," and that "all good men might get together" for the good of the whole country. This may happen when there is Heaven on earth, but not before. Even the good and honest men continue to differ about which is the wisest way to do things, and so the people who think the same way about most matters get together in a party. The suggestion, by the way, that people should give up "partisanship" often comes from people who do not by any means intend to give up their own partisanship,--they wish other folk to come over to their own way of thinking. We are all apt to wish that others would only be reasonable enough to agree with US.

Nor is it at all sure that everything would be fine if there were no parties. Countries which have tried to do without parties, have not made a great success of it. There must be some organized group to hold responsible if men in office do badly; some people to warn that the things they are doing are not approved by the majority of the people.

With parties in existence, as they have been for almost all of our history as a nation, there are in the main, four ways in which a man may act toward them. He may be a hidebound party man, always voting the party ticket, and swallowing the party platforms whole. Such persons often get into the newspapers when they are elderly, as having voted for every candidate on this or that party ticket for fifty or sixty or seventy years. It simply means, of course, that these men are proud of the fact that they let other people do their thinking for them.

Or, a man may look upon a party as the means through which he may secure better government. He is proud of its wise and good acts, and is willing to forgive its mistakes, because he knows that no large group of men can be perfect. He believes in remaining loyal to his party as long as possible, but he does not set it above his country, nor agree to follow it when it goes absolutely wrong, or falls into the hands of men who hold party welfare above patriotism. Roosevelt was a party man of this kind

Furthermore, a man may be an Independent, one who will not join


Theodore Roosevelt - 5/19

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