In the digital library, there are several items regarding Edward Kemeys, an American sculptor. Many of these items are letters of introduction or letters making arrangements for Kemeys’s sculptures to be exhibited. One letter is not quite as commonplace, however. This letter was written from Edward Kemeys to Theodore Roosevelt on Christmas Eve in 1902.
Letter from Edward Kemeys to Theodore Roosevelt, December 25, 1902. From the Library of Congress Manuscript division.
My dear Colonel,
Just a line to send you my greeting and a happy holiday tide for you.
On this Christmas Eve we had as usual our illuminated festival to the wild sheep which I tracked and shot just twenty-one years ago in the Big Horn Mountains.
Knowing such things to be one of the bonds of sympathy between us I venture to send you some lines I made and read to the big horned head over my mantel.
Kemeys sculpted animals, and he preferred to see them in their habitat. Therefore, he often traveled to view these animals and, apparently, to kill some of them so that he could learn how to sculpt them well. We discovered the poem that Kemeys wrote that Christmas Eve, in which he waxes eloquent upon the life and death of the big horn sheep above his mantel.
Poem to the wild sheep, December 24, 1902. From the Library of Congress Manuscript division.
To the Wild Sheep
Hail Cimarron, once again all hail!
This time ‘tis one and twenty years since I
The fateful bullet sped that spilled thy life
Yet still thou’st here on Christmas Eve
As on that day on the cañon’s side
By times unsparing tryst we met
And though thy bones be bleaching
Mid the Big Horn snows, thy spirit lives today
And thy grand form in bronze is made perpetuate
Thou died that thou might’st live
Then hail anew, again I bid thee hail!
Isn’t it fascinating that he mentions their “illuminated festival?” The poem does make one wonder what else was involved in this “usual” festival. In fact, the letter and enclosure suggest a very unusual method of celebrating Christmas Eve.