Chapter 22 - American Boy's Life of Theodore Roosevelt by Edward Stratemeyer

Elected Vice-President of the United States—Presides Over the Senate—Tax upon Theodore Roosevelt's Strength—Start on Another Grand Hunting Tour

But the campaign, sharp and bitter as it had been, was not yet at an end. In New York City there followed a "Sound Money Parade," which was perhaps the largest of its kind ever witnessed in the United States. It was composed of all sorts and conditions of men, from bankers and brokers of Wall Street to the humble factory and mill hands from up the river and beyond. The parade took several hours to pass, and was witnessed by crowds almost as great as had witnessed the Dewey demonstration.

In New York City, as the time drew closer for the election, there was every intimation that the contest would be an unusually "hot" one, and that there would be much bribery and corruption. It was said by some that police methods were very lax at that time, and that the saloons, which ought to be closed on election day, would be almost if not quite wide open.

"We must have an honest election," said Governor Roosevelt. And without loss of time he sent letters to Mayor Van Wyck, and to the sheriff and the district attorney of the county of New York, calling their attention to the facts in the case, and telling them that he would hold them strictly responsible if they did not do their full duty. As a consequence the election was far more orderly than it might otherwise have been in the metropolitan district.

The results of the long contest were speedily known. McKinley and Roosevelt had been elected by a large plurality, and both they and their numerous friends and supporters were correspondingly happy. Great parades were had in their honor, and it was predicted, and rightly, that the prosperity which our country had enjoyed for several years in the past would continue for many years to come.

During those days the United States had but one outside difficulty, which was in China. There a certain set of people called the Boxers arose in rebellion and threatened the lives of all foreigners, including American citizens. An International Army was organized, including American, English, French, German, Japanese, and other troops, and a quick attack was made upon Tien-Tsin and Pekin, and the suffering foreigners in China were rescued. In this campaign the American soldiers did their full share of the work and added fresh laurels to the name of Old Glory.

The tax upon the strength of the newly elected Vice-President had been very great, and he was glad to surrender the duties of governor into the hands of his successor. But as Vice-President, Theodore Roosevelt became the presiding officer of the United States Senate, a position of equal if not greater importance.

As President of the Senate it is said that Mr. Roosevelt was kind yet firm, and ever on the alert to see that affairs ran smoothly. He occupied the position only for one short winter session, and during that time nothing came under discussion that was of prime importance, although my young readers must remember that all the work accomplished in our Senate is of more or less magnitude.

"He was very earnest in his work," says one who was in the Senate at that time. "As was his usual habit, he took little for granted, but usually started to investigate for himself. He knew the rules thoroughly, and rarely made an error."

For a long time the newly elected Vice-President had been wanting to get back to his favorite recreation, hunting. Despite the excitement of political life, he could not overcome his fondness for his rifle and the wilderness. He felt that an outing would do his system much good, and accordingly arranged for a five weeks' hunting trip in northwestern Colorado.

In this trip, which he has himself described in one of his admirable hunting papers, he had with him two companions, Dr. Gerald Webb of Colorado Springs, and Mr. Philip K. Stewart, an old friend who in former years had been captain of the Yale base-ball team.

The party went as far as the railroad would carry them, and then started for a settlement called Meeker, forty miles distant. The weather was extremely cold, with the thermometer from ten to twenty degrees below zero, but the journey to Meeker was made in safety, and here the hunters met their guide, a well-known hunter of that region named Goff, and started with him for his ranch, several miles away.

Theodore Roosevelt would have liked to bring down a bear on this trip, but the grizzlies were all in winter quarters and sleeping soundly, so the hunt was confined to bob-cats and cougars. The hunting began early, for on the way to the ranch the hounds treed a bob-cat, commonly known as a lynx, which was secured without much trouble, and a second bob-cat was secured the next day.

The territory surrounding Goff's ranch, called the Keystone, was an ideal one for hunting, with clumps of cottonwoods and pines scattered here and there, and numerous cliffs and ravines, the hiding-places of game unnumbered. The ranch home stood at the foot of several well-wooded hills, a long, low, one-story affair, built of rough logs, but clean and comfortable within.

The two days' ride in the nipping air had been a severe test of endurance, and all were glad, when the ranch was reached, to "thaw out" before the roaring fire, and sit down to the hot and hearty meal that had been prepared in anticipation of their coming.

The hunters had some excellent hounds, trained especially for bob-cats and cougars, animals that were never allowed to go after small game under any circumstances. Theodore Roosevelt was much taken with them from the start, and soon got to know each by name.

"In cougar hunting the success of the hunter depends absolutely upon his hounds," says Mr. Roosevelt. And he described each hound with great minuteness, showing that he allowed little to escape his trained eye while on this tour.

On the day after the arrival at the ranch the party went out for its first cougar, which, as my young readers perhaps know, is an animal inhabiting certain wild parts of our West and Southwest. The beast grows to a size of from six to nine feet in length, and weighs several hundred pounds. It is variously known as a puma and panther, the latter name sometimes being changed to "painter." When attacked, it is ofttimes exceedingly savage, and on certain occasions has been known to kill a man.

In Colorado the cougar is hunted almost exclusively with the aid of hounds, and this was the method adopted on the present occasion. With the pen of a true sportsman, Mr. Roosevelt tells us how the hounds were held back until a cougar trail less than thirty-six hours old was struck. Then off went the pack along the cliffs and ravines, with the hunters following on horseback. The trail led up the mountain side and then across the valley opposite, and soon the hounds were out of sight. Leading their steeds, the hunters went down the valley and followed the dogs, to find they had separated among the bare spots beyond. But soon came a welcome sound.

"The cougar's treed," announced the guide. And so it proved. But when the hunters came closer, the cougar, an old female, leaped from the tree, outdistanced the dogs, and leaped into another tree. Then, as the party again came up, the beast took another leap and started to run once more. But now the hounds were too quick, and in a trice they had the cougar surrounded. Slipping in, Theodore Roosevelt ended the struggles of the wild beast by a knife-thrust behind the shoulder.

The next day there was another hunt, and this had rather a tinge of sadness to it. The dogs tracked a mother cougar, who occupied her den with her three kittens. The hounds rushed into the hole, barking furiously, and presently one came out with a dead kitten in his mouth.

"I had supposed a cougar would defend her young to the last," says Mr. Roosevelt, "but such was not the case in this instance. For some minutes she kept the dogs at bay, but gradually gave ground, leaving her three kittens." The dogs killed the kittens without loss of time, and then followed the cougar as she fled from the other end of her hole. But the hounds were too quick for her, and soon had her on the ground. Theodore Roosevelt rushed up, knife in one hand and rifle in the other. With the firearm he struck the beast in the jaws, and then ended the struggle by a knife-thrust straight into the heart.

To many this may seem a cruel sport, and in a certain sense it assuredly is; but my young readers must remember that cougars and other wild beasts are a menace to civilization in the far West, and they have been shot down and killed at every available opportunity. More than this, as I have already mentioned, Theodore Roosevelt is more than a mere hunter delighting in bloodshed. He is a naturalist, and examines with care everything brought down and reports upon it, so that his hunting trips have added not a little to up-to-date natural history. The skulls of the various animals killed on this trip were forwarded to the Biological Survey, Department of Agriculture, Washington, and in return Mr. Roosevelt received a letter, part of which stated:—

"Your series of skulls from Colorado is incomparably the largest, most complete, and most valuable series ever brought together from any single locality, and will be of inestimable value in determining the amount of individual variation."