In the Wild with President Roosevelt
September 5, 2013 8:19 AM   Subscribe

Go camping with President Roosevelt John Burroughs received a personal invite from President Theodore Roosevelt to go camping with him in 1903. Though what they call 'camping' we would probably call an 'expedition' today. What follows is an interesting look at the President out in the wild, exploring and reveling in the beauty of Yellowstone Park though the eyes of an invited guest.
posted by chambers (8 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
That's pretty cool but I did a double-take at Roosevelt being "the inventor of the national park." Ummm.... false? (Ken Burns' The National Parks was on last night.)
posted by scottatdrake at 8:25 AM on September 5, 2013

Yeah, that inaccuracy with the 'inventor' part stuck out to me, and I expected a call-out of it immediately, but I marked it off as an oversight due to the ecstatic enthusiasm of the author of the web article. Roosevelt's massive expansion of the National Park system and the creation of the Antiquities Act might make 'father of the national park system' a better choice for a title.
posted by chambers at 8:44 AM on September 5, 2013

The President himself is a good deal of a storm,—a man of
such abounding energy and ceaseless activity that he sets everything in motion around
him wherever he goes

This line from the full pdf struck me. Roosevelt must have been exhausting to hang out with.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 8:53 AM on September 5, 2013 [3 favorites]

Gore Vidal definitely paints TR as a ridiculous, exhausting buffoon every chance he gets.
posted by COBRA! at 9:02 AM on September 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

Roosevelt must have been exhausting to hang out with.

No kidding - he often would invite guests and staff of the White House to wrestle, box, or practice jujitsu with him. From this article:

In 1905, while boxing with a military aide, Roosevelt was punched in the left eye and permanently blinded. He never admitted this to anyone, however, until almost ten years later, in 1914, before undergoing another operation.

My favorite quote from the main link was:

The President was not in camp. In the morning he had stated his wish to go alone into the wilderness. Major Pitcher very naturally did not quite like the idea, and wished to send an orderly with him.

“No,” said the President. “Put me up a lunch, and let me go alone. I will surely come back.”

posted by chambers at 9:03 AM on September 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

Gore Vidal definitely paints TR as a ridiculous, exhausting buffoon every chance he gets.

That's always kind of bugged me - from what little I recall of Vidal's comments, to me Vidal's negative characterization of TR 'every chance he got' seemed more rooted in some past grudge against the archetype that TR represented more than TR himself. Not that I think TR is some shining ideal, the man certainly had his problems, but I think the level and frequency of criticism revealed more about Vidal than anything else.
posted by chambers at 9:20 AM on September 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

Roosevelt was doubtless exhausting, but a buffoon? Doubtful. Check out:

Roosevelt River - Wikipedia
'The River of Doubt': Cândido and Ted's Excellent Adventure [NY Times]
Theodore Roosevelt - The River of Doubt, Part 1 - [YouTube]
posted by 0rison at 7:54 PM on September 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

Yes, ‘inventor of the national park’ is extreme, but most people feel that TR did more for conservation than all of the presidents before him combined, and more than any president who has come after him.

To quote the Sierra Club: “During his presidency, Theodore Roosevelt signed into existence five national parks, 18 national monuments, 55 national bird sanctuaries and wildlife refuges, and 150 national forests.”

The National Park Service calls him “the father of conservation.”

Ken Burns, in his NPS film, calls the camping trip that TR took with John Muir, not with Burroughs, “the most significant... in conservation history.”

Obviously TR, like all of us, had his prejudices, his flaws, and he made some big mistakes, but to me he is (with the possible exception of Jefferson) by far the most interesting president. His life story is remarkable, and he addressed both his critics and his enthusiasms in a famous speech: “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly... if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

(Before another speech, TR got shot in the chest, and insisted on delivering his remarks before seeking medical attention. Is that buffoonery?)

Some years ago when I read Burroughs’s account of traveling in Yellowstone with TR, I was delighted/amazed by a section called Capturing a Mouse: “As we were riding along in our big sleigh toward the Fountain Hotel, the President suddenly jumped out, and, with his soft hat as a shield to his hand, captured a mouse that was running along over the ground near us. He wanted it for Dr. [Clinton] Merriam, on the chance that it might be a new species. While we all went fishing in the afternoon, the President skinned his mouse, and prepared the pelt to be sent to Washington. It was done as neatly as a professed taxidermist would have done it. This was the only game the President killed in the Park.”

Buffoonery? Unpresidential? Totally awesome?

p.s. TR on John Muir.
posted by LeLiLo at 11:15 PM on September 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

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