Theodore Roosevelt’s initial trip to Western Dakota Territory’s badlands was a rollicking adventure of hunting, frustration, and awe for the young New Yorker in his early twenties. In mere days TR was entranced by the beauty and the desolation of gnarled, stunted cedars, miles of plateaus, running rivers, scoria, sandstone and clay.
He made up his mind to try his hand as a rancher, hoping to become a working gentleman cattle ranger – who would mark his name as a beef bonanza new-Westerner. He would drop a $14,000 check, without care of a receipt, to his new partners to set a new course in life … a life in the saddle.
“It had been raining hard for some time. I got off my horse and leaned against a tree, but before long the infernal cattle started on again, and I had to ride after them. Dawn came soon after this. After a while I came upon a cowboy on foot carrying his saddle on his head. He was my companion of the previous night. His horse had gone full speed into a tree and killed itself, the man, however, not being hurt. I could not help him, as I had all I could do to handle the cattle. When I got them to the wagon, most of the other men had already come in and the riders were just starting on the long circle. One of the men changed my horse for me while I ate a hasty breakfast and then we were off for the day’s work.
By this time I had been nearly forty hours in the saddle, changing horses five times, and my clothes had thoroughly dried on me, and I fell asleep as soon as I touched the bedding. Fortunately, some men who had gotten in late in the morning had had their sleep during the daytime, so that the rest of us escaped night guard and were not called until 4:00 next morning. Nobody ever gets enough sleep on a round-up.”
Dakota Datebook: Remembering Theodore Roosevelt is written and performed by Steve Stark. Funding provided by the Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation.