Theodore Roosevelt’s first step into Dakota Territory was not to western cowboy country, but to Fargo-Moorhead. His first tangle with wildlife was with birds, not bison.
And when 21-year-old Theodore and his 20-year-old brother Elliott left the Red River Valley after ten days of hunting with new shotguns, the area was minus 208 critters – prairie chickens, ducks, plovers, coots, grebes and more. That was acceptable hunting style in September 1880.
The next month he would marry Alice. And over the next few years, Roosevelt became the youngest man elected to the New York State Assembly, published his first book The Naval War of 1812, and shot his first bison in the Badlands.
“We started off…..driving straight across country….nearly getting mired in a slough….killed several ducks from the wagon and finally hid behind some wheat sheaves and shot two geese out of a flock which flew overhead.
Before we had risen in the morning….we were roused by the whistle-of-wings, as a flock of ducks flew by along the course of the stream….lying in our blankets we could plainly hear all the motions. First of all, the whistle-whistle of their wings; then the long-drawn splash-plump; and then a low, conversational quacking. It was too dark to shoot, but we got up and ready, and strolled down along the bank of the river opposite where we could hear them; and as soon as we could see, gave them four barrels and picked up half a dozen scaup ducks.
We have had great fun on this trip; I have never had a better hunt; but I am awfully homesick for Alice, and shall be too delighted to see her again.”
Dakota Datebook: Remembering Theodore Roosevelt is written and performed by Steve Stark. Funding provided by the Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation.