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Walking through a Winter Wonderland with Anna Karenina in Hand

Dec 17, 2014

Late in the North Dakota winter of 1886, Theodore Roosevelt’s boat was stolen. As deputy sheriff of Billings County, he couldn’t let the boat go without a fight and he had planned on using it on a cougar hunt the next day. Nobody tampers with a good hunting plan. With Bill Sewall and Wilmot Dow, his trusty companions, Roosevelt eventually caught up to the thieves. Being a man of honor, he decided to march them 45 miles through the Killdeer Mountains to the sheriff in Dickinson. During his trek, Roosevelt read Anna Karenina. Reading a Russian novel may not be the best choice when hiking through North Dakota in the late winter or early spring (those two seasons blend harmoniously in the Northern Plains). However, TR was the kind of person who read whatever was on hand.

Each day I walk about two miles each way to and from my position in the library. I will continue to do this even in the winter. After TR completed his own walk, I would wager that he knew those surroundings in a deeper and more intimate way. He learned where the most treacherous ice patches were, the steepest hills, where to pace himself and where he could breathe easy and think of Tolstoy. The same things are true of my own winter walks. I do have the added bonus of occasionally hearing wind chimes from a front porch and seeing snow quietly fall through the lights of the street. However, the rules are still the same. Whether you find yourself trekking through suburban neighborhoods or mountainous trails, here are a few guidelines to keep in mind:

  • Don’t fall. This is why they call it snow fall. If you’re lucky, you will fall on the most padded area of your body. If luck isn’t on your side, you could end up sadder than a Russian heroine with a broken bone or so.
  • Walk fast if you can. However, you can only do it so quickly. Snow hides ice. It can all be very deceptive. As you walk, learn to respect your surroundings.
  • Sometimes you might run into someone else on the road. Through the dense layers of facial coverings, always nod a hello. Being friendly is a good thing. Think of the Little House on the Prairie books. How often did that Ingalls family have to turn to a neighbor?
  • The sun is a tease. You go out on a bright and sunny day thinking it will be the kind of day where you can just wad your gloves up and squeeze them into a pocket. It’s not. Don’t do it. You will need every article of winter gear.
  • Enjoy it. Embrace the challenges. TR would have loved every minute of it.

boat thieves

Theodore Roosevelt and the boat thieves, 1886. From the Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace National Historic Site.

Posted by Pamela Pierce on Dec 17, 2014 in History  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)  |  Share this post

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