The Romance of My Life
Theodore Roosevelt entered the West at 2 in the morning on September 8, 1883, stepping down from a train in the heart of Dakota Territory.
A 24-year-old New York assemblyman with a reputation as a reformer -- near-sighted, Harvard-educated, asthmatic -- he seemed the quintessential dude as he set out to shoot a buffalo before the species disappeared.
Still, despite freezing rains so fierce that even his seasoned guide urged him to abandon the chase, Roosevelt got what he had come for -- and fell in love with the West as well.
Like all Americans, I like big things: big prairies, big forests and mountains, big wheat-fields, railroads and herds of cattle, too.... I am, myself, at heart as much a Westerner as an Easterner.
Like many others, Roosevelt saw the prospect of quick riches on the Dakota plains, where cattle could graze freely, fattening from $5 calves into $45 heads of beef at virtually no expense. European fortune-seekers and American magnates like Marshall Field, William K. Vanderbilt and Joseph Glidden were investing in cattle herds, and before he left, Roosevelt himself bought a Dakota ranch.
But the West would become more than another source of income to Theodore Roosevelt. In 1884, when both his young wife and his mother died within hours of one another, the West became his refuge from despair.
else does one feel so far off from mankind; the plains stretch out in
deathless and measureless expanse, and . . . will for many miles be lacking
in all signs of life.... Black care rarely sits behind a rider whose pace
is fast enough.
Over three summers of ranching, Roosevelt transformed himself, driving cattle, chasing rustlers, hunting and camping across the rugged landscape. "Here," he said later, "the romance of my life began."
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