Theodore Roosevelt was suffering from ill health during the first half of 1883 and was ordered to relax by the family doctor. Roosevelt and his wife, Alice Lee, traveled by buggy to the Catskill Mountains for some rest and relaxation at a Richfield Springs, New York, hotel. The journey was less than idyllic at some points, especially for Roosevelt’s horse, Lightfoot, as TR described in a letter to his sister, Corinne.
“The drive up was very pleasant – in spots. In spots it wasn’t. On the first day, about half way up Overlook Mountain (3200 feet high, the ascent made in 4 miles) which was so steep I had to walk, I was struck by the extraordinary breathing of the horse, and then I for the first time remembered that a year ago he had been, as Burke said ‘uncommon bad with the heaves’; and the heaves he had, with a vengeance, thanks chiefly to his persisting in trotting up all the mountains, until I had to adopt the plan of leading him up each hill. When he recovered the jolting of the buggy made Alice sick; and when she got well the wheels began to squeak in a way that was simply soul harrowing. I had them oiled, and the horse immediately ‘hove’ again, and then, as we left civilization, Alice mildly but firmly refused to touch the decidedly primitive food of the aborigenes [sic], and led a starving existence on crackers which I toasted for her in the greasy kitchens of the grimy inns. But, on the other hand, the scenery was superb; I have never seen grander views than among the Catskills, or a more lovely country than that we went through afterwards; the horse, inspite of his heaves, throve wonderfully, and nearly ate his head off; and Alice, who reached Cooperstown very limp indeed, displayed her usual marvelous powers of forgetting past woe, and in two hours time, after having eaten till she looked like a little pink boa constrictor, was completely herself again. By the way, having listened with round eyed interest to one man advising me to 'wet the feed and hay' of Lightfoot, for his heaves, at the next place she paralyzed the ostler by a direction to 'wet his feet and hair' for the same benevolent object.”
Detail, Letter from Theodore Roosevelt to Corinne Roosevelt Robinson, July 1, 1883, MS Am 1540 (42), Theodore Roosevelt Collection, Houghton Library, Harvard University. Electronic copy sponsored by the Theodore Roosevelt Center at Dickinson State University. For reproduction or publication permission, contact the Theodore Roosevelt Collection, Houghton Library.