‘Hunting Trips of a Ranchman’ & ‘The Wilderness Hunter’ by Theodore Roosevelt
You likely already know of Theodore Roosevelt as the 26th US President, the one who overcame a sickly early life to become a paragon of masculinity and eventually went down in history as one of our greatest presidents — even earning a spot on the iconic Mount Rushmore. But did you know he was also a prolific author?
One of Roosevelt’s greatest passions in life was the conservation of natural resources. Two books he wrote, Hunting Trips of a Ranchman and The Wilderness Hunter (published in 1885 and 1893, respectively), show that love of the wild through the lens of hunting and ranching experiences he had during his pre-presidential days as a cattleman in the Dakota Badlands.
He had a real knack for writing about the natural beauty around him:
“My home ranch-house stands on the river brink. From the low, long veranda, shaded by leafy cotton-woods, one looks across sand bars and shallows to a strip of meadowland, behind which rises a line of sheer cliffs and grassy plateaus. This veranda is a pleasant place in the summer evenings when a cool breeze stirs along the river and blows in the faces of the tired men, who loll back in their rocking-chairs (what true American does not enjoy a rocking-chair?), book in hand–though they do not often read the books, but rock gently to and for, gazing sleepily out at the weird-looking buttes opposite, until their sharp outlines grow indistinct and purple in the after-glow of the sunset.”
Had these two books alone been the extent of Roosevelt’s legacy, it still would have been a full and important life! There is obviously a lot in here (lots of dead animals) that will turn off non-hunters or animal activists but I hope they can see past the fact that this was a very different time and enjoy what is truly incredible writing. Roosevelt did plenty for conservation–more than just about anyone. The writing also gives one a full sense of just how wild this country was even as late as the beginning of the 20th century.
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