[Transcriber's note: Obvious printer's errors have been corrected, all other inconsistencies are as in the original. Author's spelling has been maintained.
Page 222: "Theodore Roosevelt, who used to was a great reformer" has been replaced by "Theodore Roosevelt, who used to be a great reformer".
Page 384: Part of the illustration caption was illegible.]
PUBLICATIONS OF THE ROOSEVELT MEMORIAL ASSOCIATION
I. ROOSEVELT IN THE BAD LANDS
COMMITTEE ON PUBLICATIONS ROOSEVELT MEMORIAL ASSOCIATION INC.
R. J. CUDDIHY Arthur W. PAGE Mark SULLIVAN E. A. van VALKENBURG
ROOSEVELT IN THE BAD LANDS
BY HERMANN HAGEDORN
BOSTON AND NEW YORK HOUGHTON MIFFLIN COMPANY The Riverside Press Cambridge 1921
COPYRIGHT, 1921, BY HERMANN HAGEDORN ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
TO WILLIAM BOYCE THOMPSON CAPTAIN OF INDUSTRY AND DREAMER OF DREAMS
It was still the Wild West in those days, the Far West, the West of Owen Wister's stories and Frederic Remington's drawings, the West of the Indian and the buffalo-hunter, the soldier and the cowpuncher. That land of the West has gone now, "gone, gone with lost Atlantis," gone to the isle of ghosts and of strange dead memories. It was a land of vast silent spaces, of lonely rivers, and of plains where the wild game stared at the passing horseman. It was a land of scattered ranches, of herds of long-horned cattle, and of reckless riders who unmoved looked in the eyes of life or death. In that land we led a free and hardy life, with horse and with rifle. We worked under the scorching midsummer sun, when the wide plains shimmered and wavered in the heat; and we knew the freezing misery of riding night guard round the cattle in the late fall round-up. In the soft springtime the stars were glorious in our eyes each night before we fell asleep; and in the winter we rode through blinding blizzards, when the driven snow-dust burnt our faces. There were monotonous days, as we guided the trail cattle or the beef herds, hour after hour, at the slowest of walks; and minutes or hours teeming with excitement as we stopped stampedes or swam the herds across rivers treacherous with quicksands or brimmed with running ice. We knew toil and hardship and hunger and thirst; and we saw men die violent deaths as they worked among the horses and cattle, or fought in evil feuds with one another; but we felt the beat of hardy life in our veins, and ours was the glory of work and the joy of living.
Theodore ROOSEVELT (Autobiography)
To write any book is an adventure, but to write this book has been the kind of gay and romantic experience that makes any man who has partaken of it a debtor forever to the Giver of Delights. Historical research, contrary to popular opinion, is one of the most thrilling of occupations, but I question whether any biographer has ever had a better time gathering his material than I have had. Amid the old scenes, the old epic life of the frontier has been re-created for me by the men who were the leading actors in it. But my contact with it has not been only vicarious. In the course of this most grateful of labors I have myself come to know something of the life that Roosevelt knew thirty-five years ago—the hot desolation of noon in the scarred butte country; the magic of dawn and dusk when the long shadows crept across the coulees and woke them to unexpected beauty; the solitude of the prairies, that have the vastness without the malignancy of the sea. I have come to know the thrill and the dust and the cattle-odors of the round-up; the warm companionship of the ranchman's dinner-table; such profanity as I never expect to hear again; singing and yarns and hints of the tragedy of prairie women; and, at the height of a barbecue, the appalling intrusion of death. I have felt in all its potency the spell which the "short-grass country" cast over Theodore Roosevelt; and I cannot hear the word Dakota without feeling a stirring in my blood.
It was Mr. Roosevelt himself who gave me the impulse to write this book, and it was the letters of introduction which he wrote early in 1918 which made it possible for me to secure the friendly interest of the men who knew most about his life on the ranch and the range. "If you want to know what I was like when I had bark on," he said, "you ought to talk to Bill Sewall and Merrifield and Sylvane Ferris and his brother Joe." I was writing a book about him for boys at the time, and again and again he said, "I want you to go out to Dakota!" On one occasion I referred to his life in the Bad Lands as "a kind of idyl." "That's it!" he exclaimed. "That's it! That's exactly what it was!"
The wish he had expressed, living, became in a sense a command after he was dead. The letters he had given me unsealed the lips of the men who, for thirty-five years, had steadily refused to reveal to "newspaper fellers" the intimate story of the romantic life they had shared with the man who became President of the United States. From Dickinson, North Dakota, came Sylvane Ferris; from Terry, Montana, came "Joe" Ferris; from Somers, Montana, came "Bill" Merrifield, and, on their old stamping-ground along the Little Missouri, unfolded, bit by bit, the story of the four years of Roosevelt's active ranching life. In the deserted bar-room of the old "Metropolitan Hotel" at Medora (rechristened the "Rough Riders"); on the ruins of the Maltese Cross cabin and under the murmuring cottonwoods at Elkhorn, they spun their joyous yarns. Apart from what they had to tell, it was worth traveling two thirds across the Continent to come to know these figures of an heroic age; and to sit at Sylvane Ferris's side as he drove his Overland along the trails of the Bad Lands and through the quicksands of the Little Missouri, was in itself not an insignificant adventure. Mrs. Margaret Roberts, at Dickinson, had her own stories to tell; and in the wilderness forty miles west of Lake McDonald, on the Idaho border, John Reuter, known to Roosevelt as "Dutch Wannigan," told, as no one else could, of the time he was nearly killed by the Marquis de Mores. A year later it was Schuyler Lebo who guided me in a further search for material, fifty miles south from Medora by buckboard through the wild, fantastic beauty of the Bad Lands. I doubt if there is any one I missed who had anything to tell of Roosevelt.
So far as any facts relating to Roosevelt or to the Western frontier can ever be described as "cold," it is a narrative of cold facts which I have attempted to tell in this book. The truth, in this case, is romantic enough and needs no embellishment. I have made every effort to verify my narrative, but, to some extent, I have had to depend, inevitably, on the character of the men and women who gave me my data, as every historical writer must who deals not with documents (which may, of course, themselves be mendacious), but with what is, in a sense, "raw material." One highly dramatic story, dealing with Roosevelt's defiance of a certain desperate character, which has at different times during the past twenty-five years been printed in leading newspapers and periodicals, told always by the same writer, I have had to reject because I could find no verification of it, though I think it may well be true.
In weaving my material into a connected narrative I have consciously departed from fact in only one respect. Certain names—a half-dozen or so in all—are fictitious. In certain cases, in which the story I had to tell might give needless offense to the actors in it still surviving, or to their children, and in which I was consequently confronted by the alternative of rejecting the story in question or changing the names, I chose the latter course without hesitation. It is quite unessential, for instance, what the real name was of the lady known in this book as "Mrs. Cummins"; but her story is an important element in the narrative. To those who may recognize themselves under the light veil I have thrown over their portraits, and may feel grieved, I can only say that, inasmuch as they were inhabitants of the Bad Lands when Theodore Roosevelt and the Marquis de Mores shaped their destinies there for good or ill, they became historical figures and must take their chances at the judgment seat of posterity with Nebuchadnezzar and Caesar and St. Augustine and Calamity Jane.
The Northwestern newspapers of the middle eighties contain much valuable material, not only about the Marquis and his romantic enterprises, which greatly interested the public, but about Roosevelt himself. The files of the Press of Dickinson, North Dakota, and the Pioneer of Mandan, have proved especially useful, though scarcely more useful than those of the Bismarck Tribune, the Minneapolis Journal, and the Dispatch and Pioneer Press of St. Paul. The cut of Roosevelt's cattle-brands, printed on the jacket, is reproduced from the Stockgrowers' Journal of Miles City. I have sought high and low for copies of the Bad Lands Cowboy, published in Medora, but only one copy—Joe Ferris's—has come to light. "'Bad-man' Finnegan," it relates among other things, "is serving time in the Bismarck penitentiary for stealing Theodore Roosevelt's boat." But that is a part of the story; and this is only a Preface.
Colonel Roosevelt's own books, notably "Hunting Trips of a Ranchman," "Ranch Life and the Hunting Trail," "The Wilderness Hunter," and the "Autobiography," have furnished me an important part of my material, giving me minute details of his hunting experiences which I could have secured nowhere else; and I am indebted to the publishers, Messrs. G. P. Putnam's Sons, Messrs. Charles Scribner's Sons, and the Century Company, for permission to use them. I am indebted to the following publishers, likewise, for permission to reprint certain verses as chapter headings: Messrs. Houghton Mifflin Company ("Riders of the Stars," by Henry Herbert Knibbs, and "Songs of Men," edited by Robert Frothingham); the Macmillan Company ("Cowboy Songs," edited by Professor John A. Lomax); and Mr. Richard G. Badger ("Sun and Saddle Leather," by Badger Clark). I am especially indebted to Mr. Roosevelt's sisters, Mrs. W. S. Cowles and Mrs. Douglas Robinson, and to the Honorable Henry Cabot Lodge for the opportunity to examine the unpublished letters of Colonel Roosevelt in their possession and to reprint excerpts from them. Through the courtesy of Mr. Clarence L. Hay I have been able to print a part of an extraordinary letter written by President Roosevelt to Secretary Hay in 1903; through the courtesy of Messrs. Harper and Brothers I have been permitted to make use of material in "Bill Sewall's story of T. R.," by William W. Sewall, and in "The Boys' Life of Theodore Roosevelt."
Partly from books and letters, partly from documents and old newspapers, I have gathered bit by bit the story of Roosevelt's life as a ranchman; but my main sources of material have been the men and women (scattered now literally from Maine to the State of Washington) who were Roosevelt's companions and friends. It is difficult to express adequately my gratitude to them for their unfailing helpfulness; their willingness to let themselves be quizzed, hour after hour, and to answer, in some cases, a very drumfire of importunate letters; above all for their resistance, to what must at times have been an almost overpowering temptation, to "string the tenderfoot." They took my inquisition with grave seriousness and gave me what they had without reserve and without elaboration.
There are five men to whom I am peculiarly indebted: to Mr. Sylvanus M. Ferris and Mr. A. W. Merrifield, who were Roosevelt's ranch-partners at the Maltese Cross Ranch, and to Mr. William W. Sewall, of Island Falls, Maine, who was his foreman at Elkhorn; to Mr. Lincoln A. Lang, of Philadelphia, who, having the seeing eye, has helped me more than any one else to visualize the men and women who played the prominent parts in the life of Medora; and to Mr. A. T. Packard, of Chicago, founder and editor of the Bad Lands Cowboy, who told me much of the efforts to bring law and order into Billings County. To Mr. Joseph A. Ferris and Mrs. Ferris; to Mr. William T. Dantz, of Vineland, New Jersey; to Mrs. Margaret Roberts and Dr. Victor H. Stickney, both of Dickinson, North Dakota; to Mr. George Myers, of Townsend, Montana; to Mr. John Reuter, to Mr. John C. Fisher, of Vancouver, British Columbia, and to Mr. John Willis, of Glasgow, Montana, Roosevelt's companion of many hunts, I am indebted to a scarcely less degree. Others who gave me important assistance were Mr. Howard Eaton, of Wolf, Wyoming, and Mr. "Pete" Pellessier of Sheridan, Wyoming; Mr. James Harmon, Mr. Oren Kendley, Mr. Schuyler Lebo, and Mr. William McCarty, of Medora, North Dakota; Mr. William G. Lang, of Baker, Montana; Mr. W. H. Fortier, of Spokane, Washington; Mr. Edward A. Allen and Mr. George F. Will, of Bismarck, North Dakota; Mr. J. B. Brubaker, of Terry; Mr. Laton A. Huffman and Mr. C. W. Butler, of Miles City, Montana; Dr. Alexander Lambert, of New York City; Dr. Herman Haupt, of Setauket, New York; the Reverend Edgar Haupt, of St. Paul, Minnesota; Mr. Alfred White, of Dickinson; Mr. Dwight Smith, of Chicago; Mrs. Granville Stuart, of Grantsdale, Montana; Mr. Frank B. Linderman, of Somers, Montana; Mr. C. R. Greer, of Hamilton, Ohio; Mrs. George Sarchet, of New England, South Dakota; and especially, my secretary, Miss Gisela Westhoff.
I have enjoyed the writing-man's rarest privilege—the assistance of wise and friendly critics, notably Professor Albert Bushnell Hart, of Harvard; President John Grier Hibben, of Princeton; and Professor William A. Dunning, of Columbia, who generously consented to serve as a committee of the Roosevelt Memorial Association to examine my manuscript; and Dr. John A. Lester, of the Hill School, who has read the proof and given me valuable suggestions.
To all these friendly helpers my gratitude is deep. My warmest thanks, however, are due Mr. William Boyce Thompson, President of the Roosevelt Memorial Association, whose quick imagination and effective interest made possible the collection of the material under the auspices of the Association.
H. H. FAIRFIELD, CONNECTICUT June 20, 1921
Introduction ................................................... xxv
Chapter I. Arrival — Little Missouri — A game country — Joe Ferris — The trail to Chimney Butte — The three Canadians — The buckskin mare ................................ 3
Chapter II. Gregor Lang — The Vine family — The buffalo hunt — The argonauts — Politics — The passing of the buffalo — Pursuit — The charge of the buffalo — Broken slumbers — Failure — "It's dogged that does it" — Roosevelt makes a decision — He acquires two partners — He kills his buffalo ............................................ 18
Chapter III. Jake Maunders — The "bad men" — Archie the precocious — County organization — The graces of the wicked ....................................................... 47
Chapter IV. Marquis de Mores — Founding of Medora — The machinations of Maunders result in bloodshed — The boom begins — The Marquis in business — Roosevelt returns East — The Marquis's idea — Packard — Frank Vine's little joke — Medora blossoms forth — The Marquis has a new dream — Joe Ferris acquires a store — Roosevelt meets disaster — Invasion — Roosevelt turns West ............................. 58
Chapter V. "I will not be dictated to!" — George Myers — Mrs. Maddox — The Maltese Cross — On the round-up — "Hasten forward quickly there!" — Trying out the tenderfoot — A letter to "Bamie" — The emerald biscuits ............... 89
Chapter VI. The neighbors — Mrs. Roberts — Hell-Roaring Bill Jones — A good man for "sassing" — The master of Medora — The Marquis's stage-line — The road to Deadwood — The Marquis finds a manager .............................. 108
Chapter VII. The gayety of Medora — Holocaust — Influence of the cowboy — Moulding public opinion — The "Bastile" — The mass meeting — The thieves — The underground railway — Helplessness of the righteous — Granville Stuart — The three argonauts ............................................. 123
Chapter VIII. The new ranch — The bully at Mingusville — The end of the bully — Dakota discovers Roosevelt — Stuart's vigilantes — Sewall and Dow — Mrs. Lang — Sewall speaks his mind — Enter the Marquis ........................ 148
Chapter IX. "Dutch Wannigan" — Political sirens — "Able to face anything" .............................................. 167
Chapter X. The start for the Big Horns — Roosevelt writes home — A letter to Lodge — Indians — Camp in the mountains — Roosevelt gets his bear ........................ 175
Chapter XI. Rumblings from the Marquis — The "stranglers" — The band of "Flopping Bill" — Fifteen marked men — Maunders the discreet — Sewall receives callers ............ 189
Chapter XII. "Medicine Buttes" — Roosevelt returns to Elkhorn — Maunders threatens Roosevelt — Packard's stage-line — The dress rehearsal — Another bubble bursts ................ 202
Chapter XIII. Bleak camping — Roosevelt "starts a reform" — The deputy marshal — Winter activities — Breaking broncos — A tenderfoot holds his own — Wild country — Mountain sheep — The stockmen's association ................ 215
Chapter XIV. Winter misery — Return to Medora — Illness and recovery — Mingusville — "He's drunk and on the shoot" — The seizure of Bill ...................................... 235
Chapter XV. The spring of 1885 — Swimming the Little Missouri — Ranching companions — Golden expectations — The boss of the Maltese Cross — The buttermilk — Hospitality at Yule — Lang's love of debate — Nitch comes to dine ..................................................... 248
Chapter XVI. Cattle torture — Trailing cattle — Roosevelt's horsemanship — Gentling the Devil — The spring round-up — The first encampment — The day's work — Diversions — Profanity — "Fight or be friends" ............ 266
Chapter XVII. The "mean" horse — Ben Butler — Dr. Stickney — Dinner with Mrs. Cummins — The stampede — Roping an earl's son — A letter to Lodge — Sylvane's adventure — Law ......................................................... 286
Chapter XVIII. Sewall's skepticism — Interview at St. Paul — The womenfolks — The Elkhorn "Outfit" — The Wadsworths' dog ......................................................... 305
Chapter XIX. Medora — "Styles in the Bad Lands" — The coming of law — The preachers — Packard's parson — Johnny O'Hara ...................................................... 318
Chapter XX. De Mores the undaunted — Genealogy of the Marquis — Roosevelt and the Marquis — Hostility — The first clash — Indictment of the Marquis — The Marquis's trial — The Marquis sees red — Peace ...................... 331
Chapter XXI. Red man and white — Roosevelt's adventure — Good Indian, dead Indian — Prairie fires — Sewall delivers a lecture — The testing of Mrs. Joe — Mrs. Joe takes hold ... 350
Chapter XXII. The theft of the boat — Redhead Finnegan — Preparations for pursuit — Departure — "Hands up!" — Capture of the thieves — Marooned — Cross country to jail — Arrival in Dickinson — "The only damn fool" ............. 365
Chapter XXIII. Medora's first election — The celebration — Miles City meeting — Roosevelt's cattle prospects — "His upper lip is stiff" — Completing "Benton" — The summer of 1886 — Influence over cowboys — "A Big Day" — Oratory — Roosevelt on Americanism — "You will be President" ......... 387
Chapter XXIV. A troop of Rough Riders — Premonitions of trouble — The hold-up — The Coeur d'Alenes — Hunting white goats — John Willis — Elkhorn breaks up — Facing east ........................................................ 412
Chapter XXV. The bad winter — The first blizzard — Destruction of the cattle — The spring flood — The boneyard .................................................... 429
Chapter XXVI. Roosevelt's losses — Morrill vs. Myers — Roosevelt takes a hand — A country of ruins — New schemes of the Marquis — The fading of Medora ...................... 440
Chapter XXVII. Bill Jones — Old friends — Seth Bullock — Death of the Marquis — Roosevelt's progress — Return as Governor — Medora celebrates — The "cowboy bunch" — Return as President — Death of Bill Jones — The Bad Lands to-day ...................................................... 453
Appendix ....................................................... 477
Index .......................................................... 483
Theodore Roosevelt on the Round-up, 1885 .......... Frontispiece Photograph by Ingersoll, Buffalo, Minnesota.
Maltese Cross Ranch-House ..................................... 16
View from the Door of the Ranch-House ......................... 16
The Prairie at the Edge of the Bad Lands ...................... 32 Photograph by Holmboe, Bismarck, N. D.
"Broken Country" .............................................. 32 Photograph by Holmboe.
Roosevelt in 1883 ............................................. 48
Medora in the Winter of 1883-84 ............................... 48
"Dutch Wannigan" and Frank O'Donald ........................... 64
Scene of the Killing of Riley Luffsey ......................... 64
Antoine de Vallombrosa, Marquis de Mores ...................... 76 By courtesy of L. A. Huffman, Miles City, Montana.
Sylvane Ferris ................................................ 92
A. W. Merrifield .............................................. 92
The Maltese Cross Ranch-House as it was when Roosevelt lived in it ....................................................... 92 Photograph by C. R. Greer, Hamilton, Ohio.
The Ford of the Little Missouri near the Maltese Cross ....... 108
A. T. Packard ................................................ 130
Office of the "Bad Lands Cowboy" ............................. 130
The Little Missouri just above Elkhorn ....................... 150
Elkhorn Bottom ............................................... 164
A Group of Bad Lands Citizens ................................ 176
Roosevelt's Brands ........................................... 190 From the Stockgrowers Journal, Miles City.
Fantastic Formation at Medicine Buttes ....................... 202
Medicine Buttes .............................................. 202
Poster of the Marquis de Mores's Deadwood Stage-Line ......... 212 By courtesy of the North Dakota Historical Society.
Theodore Roosevelt (1884) .................................... 236
Elkhorn Ranch Buildings from the River ....................... 252 Photograph by Theodore Roosevelt
Gregor Lang .................................................. 262
Mrs. Lang .................................................... 262
The Maltese Cross "Outfit" ................................... 276
The Maltese Cross "Chuck-Wagon" .............................. 276
The Scene of the Stampede .................................... 296
Elkhorn Ranch-House .......................................... 310 Photograph by Theodore Roosevelt.
Site of Elkhorn (1919) ....................................... 310
Hell-Roaring Bill Jones ...................................... 320
Bill Williams's Saloon (1919) ................................ 320
Hotel de Mores ............................................... 332
The Abattoir of the Marquis de Mores ......................... 332
The Bad Lands near Medora .................................... 346
Joseph A. Ferris ............................................. 360
Joe Ferris's Store ........................................... 360
Wilmot Dow and Theodore Roosevelt (1886) ..................... 370
The Piazza at Elkhorn ........................................ 370 Photograph by Theodore Roosevelt.
Dow and Sewall in the Boat ................................... 384 Photograph by Theodore Roosevelt.
Medora in 1919 ............................................... 402
Ferris and Merrifield on the Ruins of the Shack at Elkhorn ... 424
Corrals at Elkhorn ........................................... 424 Photograph by Theodore Roosevelt.
George Myers ................................................. 442
The Little Missouri at Elkhorn ............................... 442
Lincoln Lang ................................................. 456
William T. Dantz ............................................. 456
Margaret Roberts ............................................. 456
"Dutch Wannigan" ............................................. 456
Joe and Sylvane Ferris and Merrifield (1919) ................. 472
Rough Riders Hotel ........................................... 472
Photographs of Bad Lands scenes, unless otherwise indicated, were made by the author.
The end-paper map is from a drawing made for the book by Lincoln A. Lang. The town of Mingusville is indicated on it under its present name—Wibaux.
The trail-tracer of Theodore Roosevelt's frontier life has given the members of this Advisory Committee of Three of the Roosevelt Memorial Association the opportunity of a first reading of his book. The duty of considering the manuscript and making suggestions has been merged in the pleasure of the revealing account of that young man who forty years ago founded a personal College of the Plains in raw Dakota.
Three are the essentials of the good biographer—historic sense, common sense, and human sense. To the mind of the Committee, Mr. Hagedorn has put into service all three of these senses. Every writer of history must make himself an explorer in the materials out of which he is to build. To the usual outfit of printed matter, public records, and private papers, Mr. Hagedorn has added an unexpected wealth of personal memories from those who were part of Roosevelt's first great adventure in life. The book is a thorough-going historical investigation into both familiar and remote sources.
The common sense of the work is in its choice of the things that counted in the experience of the ranchman, hunter, and citizen of a tumultuous commonwealth. All the essential facts are here, and also the incidents which gave them life. Even apart from the central figure, the book reconstructs one of the most fascinating phases of American history.
That is not all that is expected by the host of Roosevelt's friends. They want the man—the young Harvard graduate and New York clubman who sought the broader horizon of the Far West in making, and from it drew a knowledge of his kind which became the bed-rock of his later career. The writer's personal affection for and understanding of Roosevelt have illuminated the whole story. He paints a true portrait of an extraordinary man in a picturesque setting.
William A. DUNNING Albert BUSHNELL HART John GRIER HIBBEN
ROOSEVELT IN THE BAD LANDS
My friends, I never can sufficiently express the obligations I am under to the territory of Dakota, for it was here that I lived a number of years in a ranch house in the cattle country, and I regard my experience during those years, when I lived and worked with my own fellow ranchmen on what was then the frontier, as the most important educational asset of all my life. It is a mighty good thing to know men, not from looking at them, but from having been one of them. When you have worked with them, when you have lived with them, you do not have to wonder how they feel, because you feel it yourself. Every now and then I am amused when newspapers in the East—perhaps, I may say, not always friendly to me—having prophesied that I was dead wrong on a certain issue, and then finding out that I am right, express acid wonder how I am able to divine how people are thinking. Well, sometimes I don't and sometimes I do; but when I do, it comes simply from the fact that this is the way I am thinking myself. I know how the man that works with his hands and the man on the ranch are thinking, because I have been there and I am thinking that way myself. It is not that I divine the way they are thinking, but that I think the same way.
Theodore ROOSEVELT Speech at Sioux Falls September 3, 1910.
ROOSEVELT IN THE BAD LANDS
Rainy dark or firelight, bacon rind or pie, Livin' is a luxury that don't come high; Oh, be happy and onruly while our years and luck allow, For we all must die or marry less than forty years from now!
The train rumbled across three hundred feet of trestle and came to a stop. A young man, slender, not over-tall, with spectacles and a moustache, descended the steps. If he expected that his foot, groping below the bottom step in the blackness for something to land on, would find a platform, he was doomed to disappointment. The "depot" at Little Missouri did not boast a platform. The young man pulled his duffle-bag and gun-case down the steps; somebody waved a lantern; the train stirred, gained momentum, and was gone, having accomplished its immediate mission, which was to deposit a New York "dude," politician and would-be hunter, named Theodore Roosevelt, in the Bad Lands of Dakota.
The time was three o'clock of a cool, September morning, and the place, in the language of the Bad Lands, was "dark as the inside of a caow." If the traveler from afar had desired illumination and a reception committee, he should have set his arrival not for September 7th, but for September 6th. Twenty-four hours previous, it happened, the citizens of Little Missouri had, in honor of a distinguished party which was on its way westward to celebrate the completion of the road, amply anticipated any passion for entertainment which the passengers on the Overland might have possessed. As the engine came to a stop, a deafening yell pierced the night, punctuated with pistol-shots. Cautious investigation revealed figures dancing wildly around a bonfire; and the passengers remembered the worst they had ever heard about Indians. The flames shot upward, setting the shadows fantastically leaping up the precipitous bluffs and among the weird petrifactions of a devil's nightmare that rimmed the circle of flaring light. A man with a gun in his hand climbed aboard the train and made his way to the dining-car, yelling for "cow-grease," and demanding, at the least, a ham-bone. It took the burliest of his comrades to transport the obstreperous one back to solid earth just as the train moved out.
There was nothing so theatrical awaiting Theodore Roosevelt. The "depot" was deserted. Roosevelt dragged his belongings through the sagebrush toward a huge black building looming northeastward through the night, and hammered on the door until the proprietor appeared, muttering curses.
The face that Roosevelt saw, in the light of a smoky lantern, was not one to inspire confidence in a tenderfoot on a dark night. The features were those of a man who might have been drinking, with inconsiderable interruptions, for a very long time. He was short and stout and choleric, with a wiry moustache under a red nose; and seemed to be distinctly under the impression that Roosevelt had done something for which he should apologize.
He led the way upstairs. Fourteen beds were scattered about the loft which was the second story of the Pyramid Park Hotel, and which, Roosevelt heard subsequently, was known as the "bull-pen." One was unoccupied. He accepted it without a murmur.
What the thirteen hardened characters who were his roommates said next morning, when they discovered the "Eastern punkin-lily" which had blossomed in their midst, is lost to history. It was unquestionably frank, profane, and unwashed. He was, in fact, not a sight to awaken sympathy in the minds of such inhabitants as Little Missouri possessed. He had just recovered from an attack of cholera morbus, and though he had written his mother from Chicago that he was already "feeling like a fighting-cock," the marks of his illness were still on his face. Besides, he wore glasses, which, as he later discovered, were considered in the Bad Lands as a sign of a "defective moral character."
It was a world of strange and awful beauty into which Roosevelt stepped as he emerged from the dinginess of the ramshackle hotel into the crisp autumn morning. Before him lay a dusty, sagebrush flat walled in on three sides by scarred and precipitous clay buttes. A trickle of sluggish water in a wide bed, partly sand and partly baked gumbo, oozed beneath steep banks at his back, swung sharply westward, and gave the flat on the north a fringe of dusty-looking cottonwoods, thirstily drinking the only source of moisture the country seemed to afford. Directly across the river, beyond another oval-shaped piece of bottom-land, rose a steep bluff, deeply shadowed against the east, and south of it stretched in endless succession the seamed ranges and fantastic turrets and cupolas and flying buttresses of the Bad Lands.
It was a region of weird shapes garbed in barbaric colors, gray-olive striped with brown, lavender striped with black, chalk pinnacles capped with flaming scarlet. French-Canadian voyageurs, a century previous, finding the weather-washed ravines wicked to travel through, spoke of them as mauvaises terres pour traverser, and the name clung. The whole region, it was said, had once been the bed of a great lake, holding in its lap the rich clays and loams which the rains carried down into it. The passing of ages brought vegetation, and the passing of other ages turned that vegetation into coal. Other deposits settled over the coal. At last this vast lake found an outlet in the Missouri. The wear and wash of the waters cut in time through the clay, the coal, and the friable limestone of succeeding deposits, creating ten thousand watercourses bordered by precipitous bluffs and buttes, which every storm gashed and furrowed anew. On the tops of the flat buttes was rich soil and in countless pleasant valleys were green pastures, but there were regions where for miles only sagebrush and stunted cedars lived a starved existence. Bad lands they were, for man or beast, and Bad Lands they remained.
The "town" of Little Missouri consisted of a group of primitive buildings scattered about the shack which did duty as a railroad station. The Pyramid Park Hotel stood immediately north of the tracks; beside it stood the one-story palace of sin of which one, who shall, for the purposes of this story, be known as Bill Williams, was the owner, and one who shall be known as Jess Hogue, the evil genius. South of the track a comical, naive Swede named Johnny Nelson kept a store when he was not courting Katie, the hired girl in Mrs. McGeeney's boarding-house next door, or gambling away his receipts under Hogue's crafty guidance. Directly to the east, on the brink of the river, the railroad section-foreman, Fitzgerald, had a shack and a wife who quarreled unceasingly with her neighbor, Mrs. McGeeney. At a corresponding place on the other side of the track, a villainous gun-fighter named Maunders lived (as far as possible) by his neighbors' toil. A quarter of a mile west of him, in a grove of cottonwood trees, stood a group of gray, log buildings known as the "cantonment," where a handful of soldiers had been quartered under a major named Coomba, to guard the construction crews on the railroad from the attacks of predatory Indians seeking game in their ancient hunting-grounds. A few huts in the sagebrush, a half-dozen miners' shacks under the butte to the south, and one or two rather pretentious frame houses in process of construction completed what was Little Missouri; but Little Missouri was not the only outpost of civilization at this junction of the railroad and the winding, treacherous river. On the eastern bank, on the flat under the bluff that six months previous had been a paradise for jackrabbits, a few houses and a few men were attempting to prove to the world, amid a chorus of hammers, that they constituted a town and had a future. The settlement called itself Medora. The air was full of vague but wonderful stories of a French marquis who was building it and who owned it, body and soul.
Roosevelt had originally been turned in the direction of the Bad Lands by a letter in one of the New York papers by a man from Pittsburgh named Howard Eaton and the corroborative enthusiasm of a high-spirited naval officer named Gorringe, whose appeals for an adequate navy brought Roosevelt exuberantly to his side. Gorringe was a man of wide interests and abilities, who managed, to a degree mysterious to a layman, to combine his naval activities with the work of a consulting engineer, the promotion of a shipyard, and the formation of a syndicate to carry on a cattle business in Dakota. He had gained international notice by his skill in bringing the obelisk known as "Cleopatra's Needle" from Alexandria to New York, and had six months previous flared before the public in front-page headlines by reason of a sharp controversy with the Secretary of the Navy, which had resulted in Gorringe's resignation.
Roosevelt had said that he wanted to shoot buffalo while there were still buffalo left to shoot, and Gorringe had suggested that he go to Little Missouri. That villainous gateway to the Bad Lands was, it seems, the headquarters for a motley collection of guides and hunters, some of them experts, the majority of them frauds, who were accustomed to take tourists and sportsmen for a fat price into the heart of the fantastic and savage country. The region was noted for game. It had been a great winter range for buffalo; and elk, mountain-sheep, blacktail and whitetail deer, antelope and beaver were plentiful; now and then even an occasional bear strayed to the river's edge from God knows whence. Jake Maunders, with his sinister face, was the center of information for tourists, steering the visitor in the direction of game by day and of Bill Williams, Jess Hogue, and their crew of gamblers and confidence men by night. Gorringe had planned to go with Roosevelt himself, but at the last moment had been forced to give up the trip. He advised Roosevelt to let one of the men representing his own interests find him a guide, especially the Vines, father and son.
[Footnote 1: Roosevelt tells, in his Hunting Trips of a Ranchman, of the most notable of these, a former scout and Indian fighter named "Vic" Smith, whose exploits were prodigious.]
Roosevelt found that Vine, the father, was none other than the crusty old party who had reluctantly admitted him at three o'clock that morning to the Pyramid Park Hotel. The Captain, as he was called, refused to admit that he knew any one who would undertake the ungrateful business of "trundling a tenderfoot" on a buffalo hunt; and suggested that Roosevelt consult his son Frank.
Frank Vine turned out to be far less savage than his father, but quite as bibulous, a rotund hail-fellow-well-met, oily as an Esquimau, with round, twinkling eyes and a reservoir of questionable stories which he tapped on the slightest provocation. The guidebook called him "the innkeeper," which has a romantic connotation not altogether true to the hard facts of Frank's hostelry, and spoke of him as "a jolly, fat, rosy-cheeked young man, brimming over with animal spirits." He habitually wore a bright crimson mackinaw shirt, tied at the neck with a gaudy silk handkerchief, and fringed buckskin trousers, which Roosevelt, who had a weakness for "dressing up," no doubt envied him. He was, it seemed, the most obliging soul in the world, being perfectly willing to do anything for anybody at any time except to be honest, to be sober, or to work; and agreed to find Roosevelt a guide, suggesting that Joe Ferris, who was barn superintendent for him at the Cantonment and occasionally served as a guide for tourists who came to see "Pyramid Park," might be persuaded to find him a buffalo.
Frank guided his "tenderfoot" to the Post store, of which he was manager. It was a long log building, one fourth used for trading and the rest for storage. Single window lights, set into the wall here and there, gave the place the air of perpetual dusk which, it was rumored, was altogether necessary to cloak Frank's peculiar business methods.
They found Joe Ferris in the store. That individual turned out to be as harmless a looking being as any "down-East" farmer—a short, stockily built young fellow of Roosevelt's own age, with a moustache that drooped and a friendly pair of eyes. He did not accept the suggestion that he take Roosevelt on a buffalo hunt, without debate. The "dude" from the East did not, in fact, look at first sight as though he would be of much comfort on a hunt. His large, round glasses gave him a studious look that to a frontiersman was ominous. Joe Ferris agreed at last to help the tenderfoot find a buffalo, but he agreed with reluctance and the deepest misgivings.
Ferris and Frank Vine, talking the matter over, decided that the camp of Gregor Lang on Little Cannonball Creek fifty miles up the river, was the logical place to use as headquarters for the hunt. Gregor Lang, it happened, had just left town homeward bound with a wagon-load of supplies. He was a Scotchman, who had been a prosperous distiller in Ireland, until in a luckless moment the wife of his employer had come to the conclusion that it was wicked to manufacture a product which, when taken in sufficient quantities, was instrumental in sending people to hell; and had prevailed on her husband to close the distillery. What Frank Vine said in describing Gregor Lang to Roosevelt is lost to history. Frank had his own reason for not loving Lang.
Ferris had a brother Sylvane, who was living with his partner, A. W. Merrifield, in a cabin seven or eight miles south of Little Missouri, and suggested that they spend the night with him. Late that afternoon, Joe and his buckboard, laden to overflowing, picked Roosevelt up at the hotel and started for the ford a hundred yards north of the trestle. On the brink of the bluff they stopped. The hammer of Roosevelt's Winchester was broken. In Ferris's opinion, moreover, the Winchester itself was too light for buffalo, and Joe thought it might be a good scheme to borrow a hammer and a buffalo-gun from Jake Maunders.
Jake was at home. He was not a reassuring person to meet, nor one of whom a cautious man would care to ask many favors. His face was villainous and did not pretend to be anything else. He was glad to lend the hammer and the gun, he said.
September days had a way of being baking hot along the Little Missouri, and even in the late afternoon the air was usually like a blast from a furnace. But the country which appeared stark and dreadful under the straight noon sun, at dusk took on a magic more enticing, it seemed, because it grew out of such forbidding desolation. The buttes, protruding like buttresses from the ranges that bordered the river, threw lengthening shadows across the grassy draws. Each gnarled cedar in the ravines took on color and personality. The blue of the sky grew soft and deep.
They climbed to the top of a butte where the road passed between gray cliffs, then steeply down on the other side into the cool greenness of a timbered bottom where the grass was high underfoot and the cottonwoods murmured and twinkled overhead. They passed a log ranch-house known as the "Custer Trail," in memory of the ill-fated expedition which had camped in the adjacent flat seven years before. Howard Eaton and his brothers lived there and kept open house for a continuous stream of Eastern sportsmen. A mile beyond, they forded the river; a quarter-mile farther on, they forded it again, passed through a belt of cottonwoods into a level valley where the buttes receded, leaving a wide stretch of bottom-lands dominated by a solitary peak known as Chimney Butte, and drew up in front of a log cabin.
Sylvane Ferris and Bill Merrifield were there and greeted Roosevelt without noticeable enthusiasm. They admitted later that they thought he was "just another Easterner," and they did not like his glasses at all. They were both lithe, slender young fellows, wiry and burnt by the sun, Sylvane twenty-four or thereabouts, Merrifield four years his senior. Sylvane was shy with a boyish shyness that had a way of slipping into good-natured grins; Merrifield, the shrewder and more mature of the two, was by nature reserved and reticent. They did not have much to say to the "dude" from New York until supper in the dingy, one-room cabin of cottonwood logs, set on end, gave way to cards, and in the excitement of "Old Sledge" the ice began to break. A sudden fierce squawking from the direction of the chicken-shed, abutting the cabin on the west, broke up the game and whatever restraint remained; for they all piled out of the house together, hunting the bobcat which had raided the roost. They did not find the bobcat, but all sense of strangeness was gone when they returned to the house, and settling down on bunks and boxes opened their lives to each other.
The Ferrises and Merrifield were Canadians who had drifted west from their home in New Brunswick and, coming out to the Dakota frontier two years previous because the Northern Pacific Railroad carried emigrants westward for nothing, had remained there because the return journey cost five cents a mile. They worked the first summer as section hands. Then, in the autumn, being backwoodsmen, they took a contract to cut cordwood, and all that winter worked together up the river at Sawmill Bottom, cutting timber. But Merrifield was an inveterate and skillful hunter, and while Joe took to doing odd jobs, and Sylvane took to driving mules at the Cantonment, Merrifield scoured the prairie for buffalo and antelope and crept through the underbrush of countless coulees for deer. For two years he furnished the Northern Pacific dining-cars with venison at five cents a pound. He was a sure shot, absolutely fearless, and with a debonair gayety that found occasional expression in odd pranks. Once, riding through the prairie near the railroad, and being thirsty and not relishing a drink of the alkali water of the Little Missouri, he flagged an express with his red handkerchief, stepped aboard, helped himself to ice-water, and rode off again, to the speechless indignation of the conductor.
The three men had prospered in a small way, and while Joe turned banker and recklessly loaned the attractive but unstable Johnny Nelson a hundred dollars to help him to his feet, Sylvane and Merrifield bought a few horses and a few head of cattle, took on shares a hundred and fifty more, belonging to an old reprobate of a ranchman named Wadsworth and a partner of his named Halley, and, under the shadow of the bold peak that was a landmark for miles around, started a ranch which they called the "Chimney Butte," and every one else called, after their brand, the "Maltese Cross." A man named Bly who had kept a hotel in Bismarck, at a time when Bismarck was wild, and had drifted west with the railroad, was, that season, cutting logs for ties a hundred and fifty miles south in the Short Pine Hills. He attempted to float the timber down the river, with results disastrous to his enterprise, but beneficial to the boys at Chimney Butte. A quantity of logs perfectly adapted for building purposes stacked themselves at a bend not an eighth of a mile from the center of their range. The boys set them on end, stockade-fashion, packed the chinks, threw on a mud roof, and called it "home."
Lang's cow-camp, which was to be the starting-point for the buffalo hunt, was situated some forty-five miles to the south, in the neighborhood of Pretty Buttes. Merrifield and the Ferrises had spent some months there the previous winter, staying with a half-breed named O'Donald and a German named Jack Reuter, known to the countryside as "Dutch Wannigan," who had built the rough log cabin and used it as their headquarters. Buffalo at that time had been plentiful there, and the three Canadians had shot them afoot and on horseback, now and then teasing one of the lumbering hulks into charging, for the excitement of the "close shave" the maddened beast would provide. If there were buffalo anywhere, there would be buffalo somewhere near Pretty Buttes.
Joe, who was of a sedentary disposition, decided that they would make the long trip south in the buckboard, but Roosevelt protested. He saw the need of the buckboard to carry the supplies, but he saw no reason why he should sit in it all day. He asked for an extra saddle horse.
The three declared they did not have an extra saddle horse.
Roosevelt pleaded. The three Canadians thereupon became suspicious and announced more firmly than before that they did not have an extra saddle horse.
Roosevelt protested fervidly that he could not possibly sit still in a buckboard, driving fifty miles.
"By gosh, he wanted that saddle horse so bad," said Joe a long time after, "that we were afraid to let him have it. Why, we didn't know him from Job's off ox. We didn't know but what he'd ride away with it. But, say, he wanted that horse so blamed bad, that when he see we weren't going to let him have it, he offered to buy it for cash."
That proposal sounded reasonable to three cautious frontiersmen, and, before they all turned into their bunks that night, Roosevelt had acquired a buckskin mare named Nell, and therewith his first physical hold on the Bad Lands.
It rains here when it rains an' it's hot here when it's hot, The real folks is real folks which city folks is not. The dark is as the dark was before the stars was made; The sun is as the sun was before God thought of shade; An' the prairie an' the butte-tops an' the long winds, when they blow, Is like the things what Adam knew on his birthday, long ago.
From Medora Nights
Joe in the buckboard and Roosevelt on his new acquisition started south at dawn.
The road to Lang's—or the trail rather, for it consisted of two wheel-tracks scarcely discernible on the prairie grass and only to be guessed at in the sagebrush—lay straight south across a succession of flats, now wide, now narrow, cut at frequent intervals by the winding, wood-fringed Little Missouri; a region of green slopes and rocky walls and stately pinnacles and luxuriant acres. Twenty miles south of the Maltese Cross, they topped a ridge of buttes and suddenly came upon what might well have seemed, in the hot mist of noonday, a billowy ocean, held by some magic in suspension. From the trail, which wound along a red slope of baked clay falling at a sharp angle into a witch's cauldron of clefts and savage abysses, the Bad Lands stretched southward to the uncertain horizon. The nearer slopes were like yellow shores jutting into lavender waters.
West of Middle Butte, that loomed like a purple island on their left, they took a short cut across the big Ox Bow from the mouth of Bullion Creek on the one side to the mouth of Spring Creek on the other, then followed the course of the Little Missouri southward once more. They met the old Fort Keogh trail where it crossed the river by the ruins of the stage station, and for three or four miles followed its deep ruts westward, then turned south again. They came at last to a crossing where the sunset glowed bright in their faces along the bed of a shallow creek that emptied into the Little Missouri. The creek was the Little Cannonball. In a cluster of hoary cottonwoods, fifty yards from the point where creek and river met, they found Lang's cabin.
Lang turned out to be stocky, blue-eyed, and aggressively Scotch, wearing spectacles and a pair of "mutton-chop" whiskers. He had himself just arrived, having come from town by the longer trail over the prairie to the west in order to avoid the uncertain river crossings which had a way of proving fatal to a heavily laden wagon. His welcome was hearty. With him was a boy of sixteen, fair-haired and blue-eyed, whom he introduced as his son Lincoln. The boy remembered ever after the earnestness of the tenderfoot's "Delighted to meet you."
* * * * *
Roosevelt talked with Gregor Lang until midnight. The Scotchman was a man of education with views of his own on life and politics, and if he was more than a little dogmatic, he was unquestionably sincere.
He had an interesting story to tell. A year or less ago Henry Gorringe, Abram S. Hewitt, of New York, and a noted London financier named Sir John Pender, who had been instrumental in laying the first successful Atlantic cable, had, in the course of a journey through the Northwest, become interested in the cattle business and, in May, 1883, bought the Cantonment buildings at Little Missouri with the object of making them the headquarters of a trading corporation which they called the Little Missouri Land and Stock Company. The details they left to the enterprising naval officer who had proposed the scheme. Gorringe had meanwhile struck up a friendship with Frank Vine. This was not unnatural, for Frank was the social center of Little Missouri and was immensely popular. What is almost incredible, however, is that, blinded evidently by Frank's social graces, he took the genial and slippery post-trader into the syndicate, and appointed him superintendent. It was possibly because he did not concur altogether in this selection that Pender sent Gregor Lang, who, owing to Lady Pender's scruples, was without employment, to report to Gorringe in New York and then proceed to Little Missouri.
What a somewhat precise Scotch Presbyterian thought of that gathering-place of the wicked, the Presbyterian himself did not see fit to divulge. He established himself at the Cantonment, set to work with European thoroughness to find out all there was to find out about the cattle business, and quietly studied the ways of Frank Vine. Those ways were altogether extraordinary. Where he had originally come from no one exactly knew. His father, whom the new superintendent promptly established as manager of the Pyramid Park Hotel, had been a Missouri steamboat captain and was regarded far and wide as a terror. He was, in fact, a walking arsenal. He had a way of collecting his bills with a cavalry saber, and once, during the course of a "spree," hearing that a great Irishman named Jack Sawyer had beaten up his son Frank, was seen emerging from the hotel in search of the oppressor of his offspring with a butcher-knife in his boot, a six-shooter at his belt, and a rifle in his hand. Frank himself was less of a buccaneer and was conspicuous because he was practically the only man in Little Missouri who did not carry arms. He was big-hearted and not without charm in his nonchalant disregard of the moralities, but there was no truth in him, and he was so foul-mouthed that he became the model for the youth of Little Missouri, the ideal of what a foul-mouthed reprobate should be.
"Frank was the darndest liar you ever knew," remarked, long after, a man who had authority on his side. "And, by jinx, if he wouldn't preface his worst lies with 'Now this is God's truth!'"
He had an older brother named Darius who was famous as "the champion beer-drinker of the West," having the engaging gift of being able to consume untold quantities without ever becoming drunk. In their way they were a notable family.
Gregor Lang, with the fortunes of his employer at heart, watched Frank's activities as storekeeper with interest. During the military regime, Frank had been post-trader, a berth which was an eminent article of barter on the shelves of congressional politicians and for which fitness seemed to consist in the ability to fill lonely soldiers with untold quantities of bad whiskey. Frank's "fitness," as the term was understood, was above question, but his bookkeeping, Lang found, was largely in his mind. When he received a shipment of goods he set the selling-price by multiplying the cost by two and adding the freight; which saved much calculating. Frank's notions of "mine" and "thine," Lang discovered, moreover, were elastic. His depredations were particularly heavy against a certain shipment of patent medicine called "Tolu Tonic," which he ordered in huge quantities at the company's expense and drank up himself. The secret was that Frank, who had inherited his father's proclivities, did not like the "Forty-Mile Red Eye" brand which Bill Williams concocted of sulphuric acid and cigar stumps mixed with evil gin and worse rum; and had found that "Tolu Tonic" was eighty per cent alcohol.
Seeing these matters, and other matters for which the term "irregularity" would have been only mildly descriptive, Gregor Lang sent Sir John a report which was not favorable to Frank Vine's regime. Sir John withdrew from the syndicate in disgust and ordered Lang to start a separate ranch for him; and Gorringe himself began to investigate the interesting ways of his superintendent. Why Lang was not murdered, he himself was unable to say.
Lang had made it his business to acquire all the information he could secure on every phase of the cattle industry, for Sir John was avid of statistics. Roosevelt asked question after question. The Scotchman answered them. Joe Ferris, Lincoln, and a bony Scotch Highlander named MacRossie, who lived with the Langs, had been asleep and snoring for three hours before Gregor Lang and his guest finally sought their bunks.
It was raining when they awoke next morning. Joe Ferris, who was willing to suffer discomfort in a good cause, but saw no reason for unnecessarily courting misery, suggested to Roosevelt that they wait until the weather cleared. Roosevelt insisted that they start the hunt. Joe recognized that he was dealing with a man who meant business, and made no further protest.
They left Lang's at six, crossing the Little Missouri and threading their way, mile after mile, eastward through narrow defiles and along tortuous divides. It was a wild region, bleak and terrible, where fantastic devil-carvings reared themselves from the sallow gray of eroded slopes, and the only green things were gnarled cedars that looked as though they had been born in horror and had grown up in whirlwinds.
The ground underfoot was wet and sticky; the rain continued all day long. Once, at a distance, they saw two or three blacktail deer, and a little later they came upon a single buck. They crept to within two hundred yards. Roosevelt fired, and missed. There was every reason why he should miss, for the distance was great and the rain made a clear aim impossible; but it happened that, as the deer bounded away, Joe Ferris fired at a venture, and brought him down. It was a shot in a thousand.
Roosevelt flung his gun on the ground. "By Godfrey!" he exclaimed. "I'd give anything in the world if I could shoot like that!"
His rage at himself was so evident that Joe, being tender-hearted, was almost sorry that he had shot so well.
They found no buffalo that day; and returned to Lang's after dusk, gumbo mud to the eyes.
Of the two, Ferris was the one, it happened, who wrapped himself in his buffalo robe immediately after supper and went to sleep. Roosevelt, apparently as fresh and vigorous as he had been when he started out in the morning, promptly set Gregor Lang to talking about cattle.
Lang, who had been starved for intellectual companionship, was glad to talk; and there was much to tell. It was a new country for cattle. Less than five years before, the Indians had still roamed free and unmolested over it. A few daring white hunters (carrying each his vial of poison with which to cheat the torture-stake, in case of capture) had invaded their hunting-grounds; then a few surveyors; then grading crews under military guard with their retinue of saloon-keepers and professional gamblers; then the gleaming rails; then the thundering and shrieking engines. Eastern sportsmen, finding game plentiful in the Bad Lands, came to the conclusion that where game could survive in winter and thrive in summer, cattle could do likewise, and began to send short-horned stock west over the railroad. A man named Wadsworth from Minnesota settled twenty miles down the river from Little Missouri; another named Simpson from Texas established the "Hash-Knife" brand sixty or seventy miles above. The Eatons and A. D. Huidekoper, all from Pittsburgh, Sir John Pender from England, Lord Nugent from Ireland, H. H. Gorringe from New York, came to hunt and remained in person or by proxy to raise cattle in the new-won prairies of western Dakota and eastern Montana. These were the first wave. Henry Boice from New Mexico, Gregor Lang from Scotland, Antoine de Vallombrosa, Marquis de Mores (very much from France)—these were the second; young men all, most under thirty, some under twenty-five, dare-devil adventurers with hot blood, seeing visions.
Roosevelt and Lang talked well into the night. The next morning it was still raining. Roosevelt declared that he would hunt, anyway. Joe protested, almost pathetically. Roosevelt was obdurate, and Joe, admiring the "tenderfoot" in spite of himself, submitted. They hunted all day and shot nothing, returning to the cabin after dark, covered with Dakota mud.
Again it was Joe who tumbled into his corner, and the "tenderfoot" who, after supper, fresh as a daisy, engaged his host in conversation. They talked cattle and America and politics; and again, cattle. The emphatic Scotchman was very much of an individual. The eyes behind the oval glasses were alert, intelligent, and not without a touch of defiance.
Gregor Lang was one of those Europeans to whom America comes as a great dream, long before they set foot on its soil. He felt sharply the appeal of free institutions, and had proved ready to fight and to suffer for his convictions. He had had considerable opportunity to do both, for he had been an enthusiastic liberal in an arch-conservative family, frankly expressing his distaste for any form of government, including the British, which admitted class distinctions and gave to the few at the expense of the many. His insistence on naming his son after the man who had been indirectly responsible for the closing of England's cotton-mills had almost disrupted his household.
He enjoyed talking politics, and found in Roosevelt, who was up to his eyes in politics in his own State, a companion to delight his soul. Lang was himself a good talker and not given as a rule to patient listening; but he listened to Theodore Roosevelt, somewhat because he wanted to, and somewhat because it was difficult for any one to do anything else in those days when Roosevelt once took the floor. Gregor Lang had known many reformers in his time, and some had been precise and meticulous and some had been fiery and eloquent, but none had possessed the overwhelming passion for public service that seemed to burn in this amazingly vigorous and gay-spirited American of twenty-four. Roosevelt denounced "boss rule" until the rafters rang, coupling his denunciation of corrupt politicians with denunciations of those "fireside moralists" who were forever crying against bad government yet raising not a finger to correct it. The honest were always in a majority, he contended, and, under the American Constitution, held in their hands the power to overcome the dishonest minority. It was the solemn duty of every American citizen, he declared, not only to vote, but to fight, if need be, for good government.
It was two in the morning before Gregor Lang and Theodore Roosevelt reluctantly retired to their bunks.
Roosevelt was up and about at dawn. It was still raining. Joe Ferris suggested mildly that they wait for better weather before plunging again into the sea of gumbo mud, but Roosevelt, who had not come to Dakota to twiddle his thumbs, insisted that they resume their hunt. They went and found nothing. The rain continued for a week.
"He nearly killed poor Joe," Lincoln remarked afterwards. "He would not stop for anything."
Every morning Joe entered his protest and Roosevelt overruled it, and every evening Joe rolled, nigh dead, into his buffalo robe and Roosevelt talked cattle and politics with Gregor Lang until one and two in the morning. Joe and the Highlander sawed wood, but the boy Lincoln in his bunk lay with wide eyes.
"It was in listening to those talks after supper in the old shack on the Cannonball," he said, a long time after, "that I first came to understand that the Lord made the earth for all of us and not for a chosen few."
Roosevelt, too, received inspiration from these nocturnal discussions, but it was an inspiration of another sort.
"Mr. Lang," he said suddenly one evening, "I am thinking seriously of going into the cattle business. Would you advise me to go into it?"
Gregor Lang was cautious. "I don't like to advise you in a matter of that kind," he answered. "I myself am prepared to follow it out to the end. I have every faith in it. If it's a question of my faith, I have full faith. As a business proposition, it is the best there is."
They said no more about the matter that night.
The weather cleared at last. Joe Ferris, who had started on the hunt with misgivings, had no misgivings whatever now. He confided in Lincoln, not without a touch of pride in his new acquaintance, that this was a new variety of tenderfoot, altogether a "plumb good sort."
They started out with new zest under the clear sky. They had, in their week's hunting, come across the fresh tracks of numerous buffalo, but had in no case secured a shot. The last great herd had, in fact, been exterminated six months before, and though the Ferrises and Merrifield had killed a half-dozen within a quarter-mile of the Maltese Cross early that summer, these had been merely a straggling remnant. The days when a hunter could stand and bombard a dull, panic-stricken herd, slaughtering hundreds without changing his position, were gone. In the spring of 1883 the buffalo had still roamed the prairies east and west of the Bad Lands in huge herds, but moving in herds they were as easy to shoot as a family cow and the profits even at three dollars a pelt were great. Game-butchers swarmed forth from Little Missouri and fifty other frontier "towns," slaughtering buffalo for their skins or for their tongues or for the mere lust of killing. The hides were piled high at every shipping point; the carcasses rotted in the sun. Three hundred thousand buffalo, driven north from the more settled plains of western Nebraska, and huddled in a territory covering not more than a hundred and fifty square miles, perished like cattle in a stockyard, almost overnight. It was one of the most stupendous and dramatic obliterations in history of a species betrayed by the sudden change of its environment.
Hunting buffalo on horseback had, even in the days of the great herds, been an altogether different matter from the methodical slaughter from a "stand," where a robe for every cartridge was not an unusual "bag," and where an experienced game-butcher could, without recourse to Baron Munchausen, boast an average of eighty per cent of "kills." There was always the possibility that the bison, driven to bay, might charge the sportsman who drove his horse close in for a sure shot. With the great herds destroyed, there was added to the danger and the privations of the wild country where the few remaining stragglers might be found, the zest and the arduousness of long searching. Roosevelt and Joe Ferris had had their full share of the latter.
They came on the fresh track of a buffalo two hours after their departure, that clear warm morning, from Lang's hospitable cabin. It was, for a time, easy to follow, where it crossed and recrossed a narrow creek-bottom, but became almost undiscernible as it struck off up the side of a winding coulee, where the soil, soaked as it had been by a week of September drizzle, was already baked hard by the hot sun. They rode for an hour cautiously up the ravine. Suddenly, as they passed the mouth of a side coulee, there was a plunge and crackle through the bushes at its head, and a shabby-looking old bull bison galloped out of it and plunged over a steep bank into a patch of broken ground which led around the base of a high butte. The bison was out of sight before they had time to fire. At the risk of their necks they sped their horses over the broken ground only to see the buffalo emerge from it at the farther end and with amazing agility climb up the side of a butte over a quarter of a mile away. With his shaggy mane and huge forequarters he had some of the impressiveness of a lion as he stood for an instant looking back at his pursuers. They followed him for miles, but caught no glimpse of him again.
They were now on the prairie far to the east of the river, a steaming, treeless region stretching in faint undulations north, east, and south, until it met the sky in the blurred distance. Here and there it was broken by a sunken water-course, dry in spite of a week of wet weather, or a low bluff or a cluster of small, round-topped buttes. The grass was burnt brown; the air was hot and still. The country had the monotony and the melancholy and more than a little of the beauty and the fascination of the sea.
They ate their meager lunch beside a miry pool, where a clump of cedars under a bluff gave a few square feet of shadow.
All afternoon they rode over the dreary prairie, but it was late before they caught another glimpse of game. Then, far off in the middle of a large plain, they saw three black specks.
The horses were slow beasts, and were tired besides and in no condition for running. Roosevelt and his mentor picketed them in a hollow, half a mile from the game, and started off on their hands and knees. Roosevelt blundered into a bed of cactus and filled his hands with the spines; but he came within a hundred and fifty feet or less of the buffalo. He drew up and fired. The bullet made the dust fly from the hide as it hit the body with a loud crack, but apparently did no particular harm. The three buffalo made off over a low rise with their tails in the air.
The hunters returned to their horses in disgust, and for seven or eight miles loped the jaded animals along at a brisk pace. Now and again they saw the quarry far ahead. Finally, when the sun had just set, they saw that all three had come to a stand in a gentle hollow. There was no cover anywhere. They determined, as a last desperate resort, to try to run them on their worn-out ponies.
The bison faced them for an instant, then turned and made off. With spurs and quirt, Roosevelt urged his tired pony forward. Night closed in and the full moon rose out of the black haze on the horizon. The pony plunged to within sixty or seventy yards of the wounded bull, and could gain no more. Joe Ferris, better mounted, forged ahead. The bull, seeing him coming, swerved. Roosevelt cut across and came almost up to him. The ground over which they were running was broken into holes and ditches, and the fagged horses floundered and pitched forward at every step.
At twenty feet, Roosevelt fired, but the pony was pitching like a launch in a storm, and he missed. He dashed in closer.
The bull's tail went up and he wheeled suddenly and charged with lowered horns.
The pony, panic-stricken, spun round and tossed up his head, striking the rifle which Roosevelt was holding in both hands and knocking it violently against his forehead, cutting a deep gash. The blood poured into Roosevelt's eyes.
Ferris reined in his pony. "All right?" he called, evidently frightened.
"Don't mind me!" Roosevelt shouted, without turning an instant from the business in hand. "I'm all right."
For an instant it was a question whether Roosevelt would get the buffalo or the buffalo would get Roosevelt. But he swerved his horse, and the buffalo, plunging past, charged Ferris and followed him as he made off over the broken ground, uncomfortably close to the tired pony's tail. Roosevelt, half-blinded, tried to run in on him again, but his pony stopped, dead beat; and by no spurring could he force him out of a slow trot. Ferris, swerving suddenly and dismounting, fired, but the dim moonlight made accurate aim impossible, and the buffalo, to the utter chagrin of the hunters, lumbered off and vanished into the darkness. Roosevelt followed him for a short space afoot in hopeless and helpless wrath.
There was no possibility of returning to Lang's that night. They were not at all certain where they were, but they knew they were a long way from the mouth of the Little Cannonball. They determined to camp near by for the night.
They did not mount the exhausted horses, but led them, stumbling, foaming and sweating, while they hunted for water. It was an hour before they found a little mud-pool in a reedy hollow. They had drunk nothing for twelve hours and were parched with thirst, but the water of the pool was like thin jelly, slimy and nauseating, and they could drink only a mouthful. Supper consisted of a dry biscuit, previously baked by Lincoln under direction of his father, who insisted that the use of a certain kind of grease whose name is lost to history would keep the biscuits soft. They were hard as horn. There was not a twig with which to make a fire, nor a bush to which they could fasten their horses. When they lay down to sleep, thirsty and famished, they had to tie their horses with the lariat to the saddles which were their pillows.
[Footnote 2: "I would start to make biscuits and as usual go about putting shortening into them, which father didn't like. We'd argue over it a little, and I would say, 'Good biscuits can't be made without grease.' Then he'd say, 'Well, use elbow grease.' I'd say then, 'Well, all right, I'll try it.' Then I'd go to work and knead the dough hard (on purpose), understanding, of course, that kneading utterly spoils biscuit dough, whether there is shortening in it or not. The result is a pan of adamantine biscuits which, of course, I blame on him."—Lincoln Lang.]
They did not go quickly to sleep. The horses were nervous, restless, alert, in spite of their fatigue, continually snorting or standing with their ears forward, peering out into the night, as though conscious of the presence of danger. Roosevelt remembered some half-breed Crees they had encountered the day before. It was quite possible that some roving bucks might come for their horses, and perhaps their scalps, for the Indians, who were still unsettled on their reservations, had a way of stealing off whenever they found a chance and doing what damage they could. Stories he had heard of various bands of horse-thieves that operated in the region between the Little Missouri and the Black Hills likewise returned to mind to plague him. The wilderness in which Roosevelt and Ferris had pitched their meager camp was in the very heart of the region infested by the bandits. They dozed fitfully, waking with a start whenever the sound of the grazing of the horses ceased for a moment, and they knew that the nervous animals were watching for the approach of a foe. It was late when at last they fell asleep.
They were rudely wakened at midnight by having their pillows whipped out from under their heads. They leapt to their feet. In the bright moonlight they saw the horses madly galloping off, with the saddles bounding and trailing behind them. Their first thought was that the horses had been stampeded by horse-thieves, and they threw themselves on the ground, crouching in the long grass with rifles ready.
There was no stir. At last, in the hollow they made out a shadowy, four-footed shape. It was a wolf who strode noiselessly to the low crest and disappeared.
They rose and went after the horses, taking the broad trail made by the saddles through the dewy grass.
Once Joe Ferris stopped. "Say, I ain't ever committed any crime deservin' that anything like this should happen!" he exclaimed plaintively. Then, turning straight to Roosevelt, evidently suspecting that he had a Jonah on his hands, he cried, in a voice in which wrath was mingled with comic despair, "Have you ever done anything to deserve this?"
"Joe," Roosevelt answered solemnly, "I never have."
"Then I can't understand," Joe remarked, "why we're runnin' in such luck."
Roosevelt grinned at him and chuckled, and Joe Ferris grinned and chuckled; and after that the savage attentions of an unkind fate did not seem so bad.
They found the horses sooner than they expected and led them back to camp. Utterly weary, they wrapped themselves in their blankets once more and went to sleep. But rest was not for them that night. At three in the morning a thin rain began to fall, and they awoke to find themselves lying in four inches of water. Joe Ferris expected lamentations. What he heard was, "By Godfrey, but this is fun!"
They cowered and shivered under their blankets until dawn. Then, soaked to the skin, they made breakfast of Lang's adamantine biscuits, mounted their horses, and were off, glad to bid good-bye to the inhospitable pool.
A fine, drizzling mist, punctuated at intervals by heavy downpours of rain, shrouded the desolate region and gathered them into a chilly desolation of its own. They traveled by compass. It was only after hours that the mist lifted, revealing the world about them, and, in the center of it, several black objects slowly crossing a piece of rolling country ahead. They were buffalo.
They picketed the horses, and crept forward on their hands and knees through the soft, muddy prairie soil. A shower of cold rain blew up-wind straight in their faces and made the teeth chatter behind their blue lips. The rain was blowing in Roosevelt's eyes as he pulled the trigger. He missed clean, and the whole band plunged into a hollow and were off.
What Joe Ferris said upon that occasion remains untold. It was "one of those misses," Roosevelt himself remarked afterwards, "which a man to his dying day always looks back upon with wonder and regret." In wet, sullen misery he returned with Joe to the horses.
The rain continued all day, and they spent another wretched night. They had lived for two days on nothing but biscuits and rainwater, and privation had thoroughly lost whatever charm it might have had for an adventurous young man in search of experience. The next morning brought sunlight and revived spirits, but it brought no change in their luck.
"Bad luck followed us," Joe Ferris remarked long after, "like a yellow dog follows a drunkard."
Joe's horse nearly stepped on a rattlesnake, and narrowly escaped being bitten; a steep bluff broke away under their ponies' hoofs, and sent them sliding and rolling to the bottom of a long slope, a pile of intermingled horses and men. Shortly after, Roosevelt's horse stepped into a hole and turned a complete somersault, pitching his rider a good ten feet; and he had scarcely recovered his composure and his seat in the saddle, when the earth gave way under his horse as though he had stepped on a trap-door, and let him down to his withers in soft, sticky mud. They hauled the frightened animal out by the lariat, with infinite labor. Altogether it was not a restful Sunday.
More than once Joe Ferris looked at Roosevelt quizzically, wondering when the pleasant "four-eyed tenderfoot" would begin to worry about catching cold and admit at last that the game was too much for him. But the "tenderfoot," it happened, had a dogged streak. He made no suggestion of "quitting."
"He could stand an awful lot of hard knocks," Joe explained later, "and he was always cheerful. You just couldn't knock him out of sorts. He was entertaining, too, and I liked to listen to him, though, on the whole, he wasn't much on the talk. He said that he wanted to get away from politics, so I didn't mention political matters; and he had books with him and would read at odd times."
Joe began to look upon his "tenderfoot" with a kind of awe, which was not diminished when Roosevelt, blowing up a rubber pillow which he carried with him, casually remarked one night that his doctors back East had told him that he did not have much longer to live, and that violent exercise would be immediately fatal.
They returned to Lang's, Roosevelt remarking to himself that it was "dogged that does it," and ready to hunt three weeks if necessary to get his buffalo.
If Lang had any notion that the privations of the hunt had dampened Roosevelt's enthusiasm for the frontier, Roosevelt himself speedily dispelled it.
Roosevelt had, for a year or more, felt the itch to be a monarch of acres. He had bought land at Oyster Bay, including an elevation known to the neighbors as Sagamore Hill, where he was building a house; but a view and a few acres of woodland could not satisfy his craving. He wanted expanses to play with, large works to plan and execute, subordinates to inspire and to direct. He had driven his uncles, who were as intensely practical and thrifty as Dutch uncles should be, and his sisters, who were, at least, very much more practical in money matters than he was, nearly frantic the preceding summer by declaring his intention to purchase a large farm adjoining the estate of his brother-in-law, Douglas Robinson, in the Mohawk Valley; for his kin knew, what he himself failed to recognize, that he was not made to be a farmer and that he who loved to be in the center of the seething world would explode, or burn himself out, in a countryside a night's run from anywhere. They knew also that farming was not a spiritual adventure, but a business, and that Theodore, with his generous habit of giving away a few thousands here and a few thousands there, was not exactly a business man. He had yielded to their abjurations; but his hankering for acres had remained.
Here in Dakota were all the acres that any man could want, and they were his for the asking.
To this vague craving to be monarch of all he surveyed (or nearly all), another emotion which Roosevelt might have identified with business acumen had during the past year been added. Together with a Harvard classmate, Richard Trimble, he had become interested in a ranching project known as the Teschmaker and Debillier Cattle Company, which "ran" some thousands of head of cattle fifty or sixty miles north of Cheyenne; and he had invested ten thousand dollars in it. Commander Gorringe, seeking to finance the enterprise in which he was involved, in the course of his hunting accounts doubtlessly spoke glowingly to Roosevelt of the huge profits that awaited Eastern dollars in the Bad Lands. Roosevelt, it appears, asked his uncle, James Roosevelt, his father's elder brother and head of the banking firm of Roosevelt and Son, whether he would advise him to invest a further sum of five thousand dollars in cattle in Dakota.
Uncle James, to whom, as investments, cattle ranches were in a class with gold mines, emphatically informed Theodore that he would not at all advise him to do anything of the kind. How deeply Roosevelt was impressed by this information subsequent events clearly indicate.
Roosevelt and Lang sat at the table long after Lincoln had cleared it that night. Joe and the Highlander were asleep, but Lincoln heard the two men talking and, years after, remembered the conversation of that momentous September night.
"Mr. Lang," said Roosevelt abruptly, "I have definitely decided to go into the cattle business. I want somebody to run cattle for me on shares or to take the management of my cattle under some arrangement to be worked out. Will you take charge of my cattle?"
The Scotchman, who was naturally deliberate, was not prepared to meet such precipitancy. He told Roosevelt that he appreciated his offer. "Unfortunately," he added reluctantly, "I am tied up with the other people."
Roosevelt's regret was evident. He asked Lang whether there was any one he would recommend. Without hesitation, Lang suggested Sylvane Ferris and Bill Merrifield. Early the next morning Lincoln Lang was dispatched to the Maltese Cross.
Meanwhile Roosevelt and Joe continued the pursuit of the elusive buffalo. But again luck was far from them. For two days they hunted in vain. When they returned to Lang's the second dusk, Sylvane and Merrifield were there waiting for them.
That evening, after supper, Roosevelt sat on a log outside Lang's cabin with the two ranchmen and asked them how much in their opinion it would cost adequately to stock a cattle-ranch.
"Depends what you want to do," answered Sylvane. "But my guess is, if you want to do it right, that it'll spoil the looks of forty thousand dollars."
"How much would you need right off?" Roosevelt went on.
"Oh, a third would make a start."
"Could you boys handle the cattle for me?"
"Why, yes," said Sylvane in his pleasant, quiet drawl, "I guess we could take care of 'em 'bout as well as the next man."
"Why, I guess so!" ejaculated Merrifield.
"Well, will you do it?"
"Now, that's another story," said Sylvane. "Merrifield here and me is under contract with Wadsworth and Halley. We've got a bunch of cattle with them on shares. I guess we'd like to do business with you right enough, Mr. Roosevelt, but there's nothing we can do until Wadsworth and Halley releases us."
"I'll buy those cattle."
"All right," remarked Sylvane. "Then the best thing for us to do is to go to Minnesota an' see those men an' get released from our contract. When that's fixed up, we can make any arrangements you've a mind to."
"That will suit me."
Roosevelt drew a checkbook from his pocket, and there, sitting on the log (oh, vision of Uncle James!) wrote a check, not for the contemplated five thousand dollars, but for fourteen, and handed it to Sylvane. Merrifield and Sylvane, he directed, were to purchase a few hundred head of cattle that fall in addition to the hundred and fifty head which they held on shares for Wadsworth.
"Don't you want a receipt?" asked Merrifield at last.
"Oh, that's all right," said Roosevelt. "If I didn't trust you men, I wouldn't go into business with you."
They shook hands all around; whereupon they dropped the subject from conversation and talked about game.
"We were sitting on a log," said Merrifield, many years later, "up at what we called Cannonball Creek. He handed us a check for fourteen thousand dollars, handed it right over to us on a verbal contract. He didn't have a scratch of a pen for it."
"All the security he had for his money," added Sylvane, "was our honesty."
The man from the East, with more than ordinary ability to read the faces of men, evidently thought that that was quite enough.
The next dawn Roosevelt did not go hunting as usual. All morning he sat over the table in the cabin with Lang and the two Canadians laboring over the contract which three of them were to sign in case his prospective partners were released from the obligation which for the time bound them. It was determined that Ferris and Merrifield should go at once to Minnesota to confer with Wadsworth and Halley. Roosevelt, meanwhile, would continue his buffalo hunt, remaining in the Bad Lands until he received word that the boys from the Maltese Cross were in a position to "complete the deal." The wheels of the new venture having thus, in defiance of Uncle James, been set in motion, Roosevelt parted from his new friends, and resumed the interrupted chase.
The red gods must have looked with favor on Roosevelt's adventurous spirit, for luck turned suddenly in his favor. Next morning he was skirting a ridge of broken buttes with Joe Ferris, near the upper waters of the Little Cannonball west of Lang's camp over the Montana line, when suddenly both ponies threw up their heads and snuffed the air, turning their muzzles toward a coulee that sloped gently toward the creek-bottom they were traversing. Roosevelt slipped off his pony and ran quickly but cautiously up the side of the ravine. In the soft soil at the bottom he saw the round prints of a bison's hoof.
He came upon the buffalo an instant later, grazing slowly up the valley. Both wind and shelter were good, and he ran close. The bull threw back his head and cocked his tail in the air.
Joe Ferris, who had followed close at Roosevelt's heels, pointed out a yellow spot on the buffalo, just back of the shoulder. "If you hit him there," he whispered, "you'll get him right through the heart."
It seemed to Joe that the Easterner was extraordinarily cool, as he aimed deliberately and fired. With amazing agility the buffalo bounded up the opposite side of the ravine, seemingly heedless of two more bullets aimed at his flank.
Joe was ready to throw up his hands in despair. But suddenly they saw blood pouring from the bison's mouth and nostrils. The great bull rushed to the ridge at a lumbering gallop, and disappeared.
They found him lying in the next gully, dead, as Joe Ferris remarked, "as Methusalem's cat."
Roosevelt, with all his intellectual maturity, was a good deal of a boy, and the Indian war-dance he executed around the prostrate buffalo left nothing in the way of delight unexpressed. Joe watched the performance open-mouthed.
"I never saw any one so enthused in my life," he said in after days, "and, by golly, I was enthused myself for more reasons than one. I was plumb tired out, and, besides, he was so eager to shoot his first buffalo that it somehow got into my blood; and I wanted to see him kill his first one as badly as he wanted to kill it."
Roosevelt, out of the gladness of his heart, then and there presented him with a hundred dollars; so there was another reason for Joe to be happy.
They returned to Lang's, chanting paeans of victory. Early next day Roosevelt returned with Joe to the place where they had left the buffalo and with endless labor skinned the huge beast and brought the head and slippery hide to camp.
The next morning Roosevelt took his departure.
Gregor Lang watched the mounted figure ride off beside the rattling buckboard. "He is the most extraordinary man I have ever met," he said to Lincoln. "I shall be surprised if the world does not hear from him one of these days."
Some came for lungs, and some for jobs, And some for booze at Big-mouth Bob's, Some to punch cattle, some to shoot, Some for a vision, some for loot; Some for views and some for vice, Some for faro, some for dice; Some for the joy of a galloping hoof, Some for the prairie's spacious roof, Some to forget a face, a fan, Some to plumb the heart of man; Some to preach and some to blow, Some to grab and some to grow, Some in anger, some in pride, Some to taste, before they died, Life served hot and a la cartee— And some to dodge a necktie-party.
From Medora Nights
Roosevelt remained in Little Missouri to wait for news from Merrifield and Sylvane, who had departed for Minnesota a day or two previous. Possibly it occurred to him that a few days in what was said to be the worst "town" on the Northern Pacific might have their charm.
Roosevelt was enough of a boy rather to relish things that were blood-curdling. Years after, a friend of Roosevelt's, who had himself committed almost every crime in the register, remarked; in commenting in a tone of injured morality on Roosevelt's frank regard for a certain desperate character, that "Roosevelt had a weakness for murderers." The reproach has a delightful suggestiveness. Whether it was merited or not is a large question on which Roosevelt himself might have discoursed with emphasis and humor. If he actually did possess such a weakness, Little Missouri and the boom town were fully able to satisfy it.
"Little Missouri was a terrible place," remarked, years after, a man who had had occasion to study it. It was, in fact, "wild and woolly" to an almost grotesque degree, and the boom town was if anything a little cruder than its twin across the river. The men who had drifted into Medora after the news was noised abroad that "a crazy Frenchman" was making ready to scatter millions there, were, many of them, outcasts of society, reckless, greedy, and conscienceless; fugitives from justice with criminal records, and gunmen who lived by crooked gambling and thievery of every sort. The best of those who had come that summer to seek adventure and fortune on the banks of the Little Missouri were men who cared little for their personal safety, courting danger wherever it beckoned, careless of life and limb, reticent of speech and swift of action, light-hearted and altogether human. They were the adventurous and unfettered spirits of hundreds of communities whom the restrictions of respectable society had galled. Here they were, elbowing each other in a little corner of sagebrush country where there was little to do and much whiskey to drink; and the hand of the law was light and far away.