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In His Own Words: Return to the Badlands

Jul 11, 2013

Theodore Roosevelt recalls his return to Dickinson and Medora, North Dakota, during a 1903 tour of western states in a long letter to Secretary of State John Hay.

Should auld acquaintance be forgot?

"Should auld acquaintance be forgot?" - Pres. Roosevelt and his friends in Town Hall, Medora, N.D., [July 28, 1903?]. From the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs collection.

“As soon as I got west of the Missouri I came into my own former stamping-ground. At every station there was somebody who remembered my riding in there when the Little Missouri roundup went down to the Indian reservation and then worked north across the Cannon Ball and up Knife and Green Rivers; or who had been an interested and possibly malevolent spectator when I had ridden east with other representatives of the cow men to hold a solemn council with the leading grangers on the vexed subject of mavericks; or who had been hired as a train hand when I had been taking a load of cattle to Chicago, and who remembered well how he and I at the stoppages had run frantically down the line of the cars and with our poles jabbed the unfortunate cattle who had lain down until they again stood up and thereby gave themselves a chance for their lives; and who remembered how when the train started we had to clamber hurriedly aboard and make our way back to the caboose along the tops of the cattle cars. At Mandan who of my old cow hands, Sylvane and Joe Ferris, joined me. At Dickinson all of the older people had known me and the whole town turned out with wild and not entirely sober enthusiasm. It was difficult to make them much of a speech as there were dozens of men each earnestly desirous of recalling to my mind some special incident. One man, how helped me bring in my cattle to ship, and how a blue roan steer broke away leading a bunch which it took him and me three hours to round up and bring back; another, how seventeen years before I had come in a freight train from Medora to deliver the Fourth of July oration; another, a gray-eyed individual named Paddock, who during my early years at Medora had shot and killed an equally objectionable individual named Livingstone, reminded me how just twenty years before, when I was on my first buffalo hunt, he loaned me the hammer off his Sharp’s rifle to replace the broken hammer of mine; another recalled the time when he and I worked on the roundup as partners, going with the Little Missouri outfit from the head of the Box Alder to the mouth of the Big Beaver, and then striking over to represent the Little Missouri brands on the Yellowstone roundup; yet another recalled the time when I as deputy sheriff of Billings County had brought in three cattle thieves named Red Finnigan, Dutch Chris, and the Half Breed to his keeping, he being then sheriff in Dickinson, etc., etc., etc. At Medora, which we reached after dark, the entire population of the Bad Lands down to the smallest baby had gathered to meet me. This was formerly my home station. The older men and women I know well; the younger ones had been wild towheaded children when I lived and worked along the Little Missouri. I had spent nights in their ranches. I still remembered meals which the women had given me when I had come from some hard expedition, half famished and sharpest as a wolf. I had killed buffalo and elk, deer and antelope with some of the men. With others I had worked on the trail, on the calf roundup, on the beef roundup. We had been together on occasions which we still remembered when some bold rider met his death in trying to stop a stampede, in riding a mean horse, or in the quicksand of some swollen river which he sought to swim. They all felt I was their man, their old friend; and even if they had been hostile to me in the old days when we were divided by the sinister bickering and jealousies and hatreds of all frontier communities, they now firmly believed they had always been my staunch friends and admirers. They had all gathered in the town hall, which was draped for a dance – young children, babies, everybody being present. I shook hands with them all and almost each one had some memory of special association with me which he or she wished to discuss. I only regretted that I could not spend three hours with them. When I left them they were starting to finish the celebration by a dance.”


Posted by Grant Carlson on Jul 11, 2013 in History  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)  |  Share this post

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