Chapter 7 - American Boy's Life of Theodore Roosevelt by Edward Stratemeyer

Runs for Mayor of New York City—Marriage to Edith Kermit Carew—Hunting in the Bighorn Mountains—A Wild Chase after Three Elk

Although Theodore Roosevelt was devoting himself to ranching, hunting, and literary work in North Dakota he had by no means given up his residence in New York or at Oyster Bay. More than this, he still continued his connection with the Republican party in spite of the set-back at the last National Convention.

In 1886, while Grover Cleveland was still President of the United States, there was an exceedingly sharp and bitter fight in New York City over the office of mayor. There was great discontent both in the Republican and the Democratic party, and nobody could tell what was going to happen on election day.

"Let us put up Teddy Roosevelt," said some of the Republicans, and shortly after this Theodore Roosevelt was nominated for mayor of New York. His regular opponent was Abram Hewitt, while the Independents put up Henry George, the "single tax" man, well known as the author of a book entitled "Progress and Poverty."

From the very start the campaign was an exceedingly hot one, and there was a good deal of parading and speech-making. Many clubs were organized in behalf of Theodore Roosevelt, and clubs were likewise formed to support the other candidates. The supporters of Henry George came from both regular parties, so political matters became very much mixed up.

"There is no show for Roosevelt unless George withdraws," said more than one old politician.

"And George won't withdraw," added others. And so it proved. Henry George was exceptionally strong with the poorer classes, and on election day he polled over 68,000 votes; 90,552 votes were cast for Hewitt, while Roosevelt received 60,435 votes.

It was certainly a disheartening defeat, and many a man would have retired from the political field, never to show himself again. But Theodore Roosevelt was made of sterner stuff. He held his ground and went his way as before, resolved to do his duty as it should present itself.

It was about this time that his intimacy with Miss Edith Kermit Carew was renewed. It will be remembered that she had been his playmate during his earlier days around Union Square. In the years that had followed she had been graduated from a young ladies' seminary and had travelled abroad, visiting London, Paris, and other large cities. Now she was home again, and on December 2, 1886, she became Mr. Roosevelt's wife.

Mr. Roosevelt's second marriage has been a very happy one. Mrs. Roosevelt is a loving wife and a gracious mistress of the White House. Five children have come to bless their union, of which more will be said later. Mrs. Roosevelt at once took Mr. Roosevelt's daughter Alice to her heart, and from that time to this the two have been as mother and daughter.

Theodore Roosevelt had already produced his "Naval War of 1812" and his "Hunting Trips of a Ranchman," both spoken of in previous pages. A short while after he was married the second time he brought out a "Life of Thomas Benton," and a year later a "Life of Gouverneur Morris." In addition to this he wrote a number of articles for the magazines, and also some short stories for young folks. All were well received and added not a little to his literary reputation.

But the desire to be out in the open, to roam the prairie and to hunt, was in his veins, and again and again he visited his ranches in the Bad Lands, and took hunting trips in other directions. Sometimes he cared little or nothing for the game brought down, and at others he went on the hunt with great deliberation, for "something worth while," as he expressed it.

How careful he could be on the latter occasions is shown by his printed views on hunting, in which he discusses the best rifles, shot-guns, and pistols to use, the best knives to carry, how to dress with comfort, and how to follow up game, on horseback and on foot, in the open and when in the woods or in the short brush. He has also told us much about the habits of the beasts and birds that he has hunted, showing that he followed the sport intelligently and not in the haphazard fashion of many who go out merely to get a big bagful of game.

Hunting was not all fun in those days. We have already related how Theodore Roosevelt was caught in a heavy hailstorm. At another time he and his companions were caught in a three-days' rain-storm, during which the wind blew a hurricane. They were miles away from the ranch home, and it was utterly impossible to move in any direction.

"Reckon we are booked to stay here," said one of the cowboys, a fellow from the South. "It's a right smart storm, and it's going to stay by us." And stay by them it did, until the party were almost out of provisions. They got what shelter they could in something of a hollow overhung with trees and brush, but this was not very satisfactory, and all were soaked to the skin, and the blankets in which they rolled themselves at night were both wet and muddy.

"Teddy Roosevelt didn't like that wetting, and I know it," one of the cowboys has said since. "But he didn't grumble near as much as some of the others. We had to take our medicine, and he took his like a man."

There were no elk in the immediate vicinity of Theodore Roosevelt's ranches, nor were there many bears or buffaloes. But all of these animals were to be met with further westward, and the young ranchman had been after them during a previous year's hunting while on a trip to Montana and Wyoming.

At that time the destination of the party was the Bighorn Mountains, which were reached only after a painful and disheartening journey over a very uncertain Indian trail, during which one of the ponies fell into a washout and broke his neck, and a mule stuck fast in a mud-hole and was extricated only after hours of hard work.

"It was on the second day of our journey into the mountains that I got my first sight of elk," says Mr. Roosevelt. The party was on the trail leading into a broad valley, moving slowly and cautiously along through a patch of pine trees. When the bottom of the valley was gained, Mr. Roosevelt saw a herd of cow elk at a great distance, and soon after took a shot at one, but failed to reach his mark.

"I'm going after that herd," he said. And as soon as the party had pitched camp, he sallied forth in one direction, while his foreman, Merrifield, took another.

As Theodore Roosevelt had supposed, the elk had gone off in a bunch, and for some distance it was easy to follow them. But further on the herd had spread out, and he had to follow with more care, for fear of getting on the wrong trail, for elk tracks ran in all directions over the mountains. These tracks are there to-day, but the elk and the bears are fast disappearing, for ruthless hunters have done their best to exterminate the game.

After passing along for several miles, Theodore Roosevelt felt he must be drawing close to the herd. Just then his rifle happened to tap on the trunk of a tree, and instantly he heard the elk moving away in new alarm. His hunting blood was now aroused, and he rushed forward with all speed, but as silently as possible. By taking a short cut, the young ranchman managed to come up beside the running elk. They were less than twenty yards away, and had it not been for the many trees which were on every side, he would have had an excellent shot at them. As it was he brought low a fine, full-grown cow elk, and hit a bull calf in the hind leg. Later on he took up the trail of the calf and finished that also.

Of this herd the foreman also brought down two, so that for the time being the hunters had all the meat they needed. But Theodore Roosevelt was anxious to obtain some elk horns as trophies of the chase, and day after day a watch was kept for bull elk, as the hunters moved the camp from one place to another.

At last the long-looked-for opportunity arrived. Three big bulls were seen, and Roosevelt and his man went after them with all possible speed. They were on foot, and the trail led them over some soft ground, and then through a big patch of burnt timber. Here running was by no means easy, and more than once both hunters pitched headlong into the dirt and soot, until they were covered from head to foot. But Theodore Roosevelt was bound to get the elk, and kept on until the sweat was pouring down his face and neck. Shot after shot was fired, and all three of the animals were wounded, but still they kept on bounding away.

"One is down!" shouted Roosevelt at last. And the news proved true; the smallest of the bulls had rocked unsteadily for a few seconds and gone to earth. Then on and on after the remaining game sped the hunters, panting and sweating as before.

"The sweat streamed down in my eyes and made furrows in the sooty mud that covered my face, from having fallen full length down on the burnt earth," writes the dauntless hunter, in relating this story. "I sobbed for breath as I toiled at a shambling trot after them, as nearly done out as could well be."

But he did not give up; and now the elk took a turn and went downhill, with Theodore Roosevelt pitching after them, ready to drop from exhaustion, but full of that grit to win out which has since won the admiration of all who know the man. The second bull fell; and now but one remained, and this dashed into a thicket. On its heels went the daring hunter, running the chance of having the elk turn on him as soon as cornered, in which case, had Roosevelt's rifle been empty, the struggle for life on both sides would have been a fierce one.

In the midst of the thicket the hunter had to pause, for the elk was now out of sight, and there was no telling what new course had been taken by the game. At a distance he saw a yellow body under the evergreen trees, and, taking hasty aim, fired. When he came up, he was somewhat dismayed to learn that he had not brought down the elk, but a black-tail deer instead. In the meantime, the elk got away, and it proved impossible to pick up the trail again.

There is a valuable lesson to be learned from this hunting trip, and one that all young readers should take to heart. It shows what sticking at a thing can accomplish. Mr. Roosevelt had determined to get at least a portion of that game, no matter what the labor and hardship involved. Many a hunter would have given up in disgust or despair after the first few shots were fired and it looked as if the elk were out of range and intended to keep out. But this determined young man did not give up thus easily. Hard as was that run up hill and down, and regardless of the tumbles taken, and that he was so tired he could scarcely stand, he kept on until two elk were brought down, and it was firmly settled that the third could not be captured.

The way to accomplish anything in this life is to stick at it. Theodore Roosevelt understood this truth even when he went to college, for in the Harvard journal of which he was an editor he wrote, speaking of foot-ball practice, "What is most necessary is that every man should realize the necessity of faithful and honest work, every afternoon." He put "every afternoon" in italics himself, and he meant that every foot-ball player who hoped to win in the inter-collegiate foot-ball games should stick at it until he had made himself as perfect a player as possible. A victory worth gaining is worth working for, and usually the hardest-earned victories are the sweetest.