Fond as I am of the White House and much though I have appreciated these years in it, there isnt any place in the world like home--like Sagamore Hill, where things are our own, with our own associations, and where it is real country. - Theodore Roosevelt, Letters to His Children
The Sound is always lovely, he wrote. In the summer nights we watch it from the piazza, and see the lights of the tall Fall River boats as they steam steadily by. Now and then we spend a day on it, the two of us together in the light rowing skiff, or perhaps with one of the boys.
His young cousin, Nicholas, said T.R. loved to be alone with his wife in the rowboat. She would read to him as he rowed and they would stop and picnic under wind-beaten oaks on the edge of a low bluff, or among the wild plum bushes on a spit of white sand, while the sails of the coasting schooners gleam in the sunlight, and the tolling of the bell-buoy comes landward across the waters.1
Sometimes hed take Nicholas rowing and ask the little boy what he had been doing or reading. Other times he and the boy would just sit silently and row.2
Theodore would spend as much time as he could there, at Sagamore Hill, in the summer. In the morning he would attend to official business and at lunch entertain an interesting friend, some expert whom he could learn from. After lunch they would play tennis. Frequently he would chop wood for exercise.
Nicholas said that the Roosevelt relatives, when gathered at Sagamore Hill, would all talk at the same time, only becoming silent when T.R. took the floor. He was so dynamic, so interesting, his humor so explosive that they would have to listen.3
Theodore, Jr.s, wife, Eleanor Alexander, described them very well:
The Roosevelt family enjoyed life far too much to be willing to waste their time sleeping. Every night they stayed downstairs until midnight; then, talking at the tops of their voices, they trooped up the wide, uncarpeted staircase, and went to their rooms. For a brief ten minutes all was still, and, just as I was dropping off to sleep for the second time, they remembered things they had forgotten to tell each other and rushed shouting through the halls. I used to go to bed with cotton in my ears but it never did any good.4
Theodore loved to sit on the veranda in his rocking chair looking West across the Sound towards the glory of the sunset. He loved to listen to the birds singing, the leisurely chiming of the wood thrushes, chanting their vespers and in one twenty-four hour period heard the singing of forty-two different kinds of birds which he listed in his Autobiography.
The house had great fireplaces logs roar[ing] and crackl[ing] during the long winter evenings.
The familys living area was the library which contained a painting of his father and books from floor to ceiling. His reading style was eclectic.
A book must be interesting to the particular reader at that particular time. But there are tens of thousands of interesting books, and some of them are sealed to some men and some are sealed to others; and some stir the soul at some given point of a mans life and yet convey no message at other times. The reader, the booklover, must meet his own needs without paying too much attention to what his neighbors say those needs should be.5
Nicholas was amazed at the breadth of his knowledge and said, He always had a book within reach, often reading short snatches between appointments and sometimes even reading while he was dressing...he reread as well as read. Nicholas said he read at a speed of two or three pages a minute and retained what he had read.6
The U.S. Commissioner of Labor once took a report to the President. He reported that T.R. turned over the typewritten sheets about as steadily and rapidly as an old-fashioned grandfathers clock ticks, finished the document and handed it back to the Commissioner with comments and suggestions so fresh and pertinent that it was quite clear that he had not only read the words of the report but had clearly understood its scope and significance.7
Quentin said his father read every book received at the Library of Congress right off. He did not, but many friends had said that when they would recommend a new book to him he would say he had already read it.8
He would send money to struggling writers. He sent money to one publisher so he could make an advance to a writer, just so as to allow her to live while she is finishing [the book]. I think she is really trying to do good work and I hear that she is very poor, he wrote. He liked one book so much that he wrote the writer before he had finished reading it. Come down to Washington, he wrote, and see if you do not like us!9
One man watched as he read a magazine on a train. The character of the magazine did not seem to make any difference to him....I have seen him again and again read a magazine from cover to cover, everything in it, special articles, poetry, stories, and all. And as he read it he would tear out the finished page and throw it to the floor, just as he did the pages of manuscript when delivering a speech.10
He had a photographic memory for what he had read. He once greeted a Chinese delegation and was so well informed on Chinese affairs that someone asked him if he had just read a book on China. He said, No, I have not read a book about China for some time...but I remembered a book that I had read some time ago, and as I talked the pages of the book came before my eyes, and it seemed as though I were able to read the things therein contained.11
Obviously a very happy man during his years as President, he wrote that happiness was a by-product of living a decent life, not an end in itself:
And as for a life deliberately devoted to pleasure as an end--why, the greatest happiness is the happiness that comes as a by-product of striving to do what must be done, even though sorrow is met in the doing. There is a bit of homely philosophy, quoted by Squire Bill Widener, of Wideners Valley, Virginia, which sums up ones duty in life: Do what you can, with what youve got, where you are.12
In 1904 Theodore was very worried about the election. Everyone with the exception of Theodore, knew he would win by a wide margin. Still, he was full of anxiety. But one day as I mounted the White House steps, Edith came to meet me at the door. He had a sudden realization that after all, no matter what the outcome of the election should prove to be, my happiness was assured, even though my ambition to have the seal of approval put upon my administration might not be gratified,--for my life with Edith and my children constitutes my happiness.13
Edith was much better read than he. She was the equal of both Henry Adams and Cabot Lodge in this. In 1893 T.R. wrote, Cabot...is one of the few men I know who is as well read as she is in English literature, and she delights to talk with him.14 Sometimes Cabot would suggest a book to Theodore that she just knew Theodore would not have the good taste to appreciate. She did not mind letting him know that he was in over his head in trying to appreciate the book:
I ordered the Maeterlinck essays and told Edith about it, but she only remarked that she had read them already and liked them, and that naturally you would like them; but she did not think I would care for them. When I heatedly resented the imputation that as they were good literature they were probably beyond my powers of appreciation, she exprest a pained surprise at my having so totally misunderstood her, and explained that she was merely stating what she supposed to be a fact. I now feel that it is incumbent upon me to like the essays, if necessary by main force of will.
She is better read, and her value of literary merit is better than mine. I have a tremendous admiration for her judgement. She is not only cultured but scholarly, he said.15
In 1895 he wrote Lodge about Ediths appreciation of fine architecture, an appreciation that she did not think he shared:
Edith and I have enjoyed your letters immensely. I am sorry to say she seems to sympathize with your view as to my probable failure to appreciate the splendid architecture of the Norman Cathedral towns. In this she is wrong. The great Cathedrals have always possessed as much fascination for me as for those who know far more about architecture than I do.... 16
I think she thought my fathers family were all uneducated Dutch peasants, said Alice.17
There is no question that she passionately loved him. Quentins friend, Earl Looker, said, There was a zestful happiness in their voices which rang clear as a bell, to us. Their laughter...was true, honest, unassuming...18 She told a relative that she never felt real happiness after he died. All her letters to T.R. have been destroyed at her request and she destroyed most of his letters to her. She did not think their intense passion for one another was anybody elses business.
She was very worried about losing Theodore and when he went to Africa in 1909, he spoke of her Roman-matron-like attitude of heroically bidding me to my death as he sailed in a well-equipped steamer for an entirely comfortable and mild little hunting trip.19
All of Theodores boys wanted to be like him. But that was an impossible task. There can be only one Theodore Roosevelt, said Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., sadly, adding Its an impossible name to live up to.
I will always be honest and upright, and I hope some day to be a great soldier, but I will always be spoken of as Theodore Roosevelts son, he said.20
Edith once told Ted that the cuckoo laid its eggs in other birds nests and when the baby cuckoo birds were born, they pushed the other baby birds out of the nest. Ted, the future soldier, said, I will get a sword and thrust him through! Where do the children get such language? she asked Bamie.21
When Ted at age seven was asked what he wanted to be, he said he was going to be a soldier. Kermit, who knew how much Theodore loved his bunnies, his children, said, I want to be a plain man with bunnies, like Father!22
The children aspired to one or two of T.R.s good qualities. Archie imitated his honesty and integrity. Ted earned the Medal of Honor in World War II. Quentin inherited his creativity and colorful way of talking. Quentin also had T.R.s magical, ethereal quality which drew followers to him. Kermit had his adventurous spirit. Ethel had his friendly nature and strong sense of responsibility. Alice copied his interest in politics and as she got older was ever ready to gossip with her father about the goings on in Washington. But she was almost insolent growing up. I can either control Alice or be President of the United States, T.R. said. I cant possibly do both. When asked later if he really said that, Theodore replied, If I didnt, I should have.
Ted became a successful businessman when he was still in his twenties. Then, to his great joy, he got his chance to be a soldier during World War I. He fought bravely and was seriously wounded. 23 Between the World Wars he was assistant secretary of the navy, governor of the Philippines and governor of Puerto Rico. In the private sector he was chairman of American Express and an executive at Doubleday publishing. He was also a strong advocate for racial integration. 24
As Brigadier General and the oldest man on the beach,25 he led American troops ashore during the D-day invasion. Exhausted and knowing he had a weak heart, he nevertheless elected to remain in the field until July 12, 1944 when he died of a heart attack at age 57. He won the Congressional Medal of Honor making him one of the few men to win every combat medal given by the U.S. Army.26
Quentin went to the local public school. When asked by a society matron how he could stand those common boys, he said, Father says there are four kinds of boys, white boys, black boys, good boys and bad boys. Now what exactly do you mean by common boys?27
Charles A. Lindbergh, the pilot who flew solo across the Atlantic in 1927, attended the same school. It was rumored that he was a member of Quentins White House Gang. This was not true. He was four years younger than Quentin (four years is an eternity to a child) and kept to himself. But both boys became pilots when they grew up. T.R. would have loved to be a pilot, but unfortunately he was of the wrong generation (although friends said of him You have to remember, the President is about six.) Once when Quentin was looking at a model of Washington, D.C., he said, Some day itll be just nothing, looking down on it; itll only cost you a months allowance to hire somebody to fly you all about over town!28
Quentin was a pilot during World War I and was shot down over France.
The President (even though he was about six) was really a very responsible parent. He and his wife didnt interfere with Quentin and his White House Gang unless they had done something really wrong. We knew they respected us, said Looker, They gave us freedom.29 They overlooked the little things, spoiling a pair of breeches, losing a shoe, putting an empty tumbler to his face and [sucking] in the air. Edith was so understanding of them that one of her sons said, When Mother was a little girl, she must have been a boy.30 Father had ever made it a practice to talk to us as if we were contemporaries. He would never order or even tell us to follow a certain line; instead, he discussed it with us, and let us draw our own conclusions, said Kermit.31 When they were really bad, the President would seem to materialize wherever they were. None of the boys ever figured out how such busy parents could do a great deal of work for the country and keep an eye on them, too.
Once Quentin and the gang tied a cat to a big stone which itself was tied to the end of a clothesline. Then they shot at the cat with bows and arrows. Suddenly they noticed T.R. on the south portico.
Thats not at all sporting! he cried. Cant you practice on something better than a cat? He then grabbed a bow and arrow and started demonstrating long distance shooting. Glancing at the State-War-Navy building, he noticed that he had attracted an audience gathered at the windows.
The cat! Release the cat. Theyll think that Im shooting at the cat! I can see the newspapers tomorrow.... He left them with a warning to not shoot at harmless small animals.
T.R. always discovered their misdeeds. Once they pasted spitballs to President Jacksons portrait until his face was dotted with them. The boys had been invited to spend the night. Just as they were dropping off to sleep they were awakened by the apparition of T.R. pulling Q from the bed and, without the slightest explanation, disappearing with him into [the] ominous stillness [of the executive mansion]. Quentin returned a little later very much subdued. He reported...that he, personally, had taken down every spitball from the [painting].32
T.R. did not mind the boys having fun with him. As he walked down the hall one day full steam ahead, they lined up behind him. Doors opened for him automatically before he got to them. The boys followed behind him in single file arms pumping up and down, our short legs striding as fast as they could go.
He grinned back over his shoulder and Q, who was directly following, did likewise. The grin passed from boy to boy until it reached me, at the end of the procession. I turned and bared my teeth to an usher. We went through two doors in this fashion, which remained open until I had passed grandly through, with my chest swelled out and head held high. Finally, TR mounted the stairway with a red-plush rope, and some sudden idea took us elsewhere...[Quentin said ] Like a king, walking through his palace as fast as he pleases, with a lot of ushers in frockcoats opening doors before he reaches em and slamming em too so that he wont get a draft on the back of the royal head!33
There are a lot of funny stories about Quentin, thanks to his friend, Earle Looker, who wrote The White House Gang and Theodores letters to his children.
When Quentin was eight his parents were discussing a really dreadful accident which had happened:
a Georgetown young man having taken out a young girl in a canoe on the river, the canoe upset and the girl was drowned; whereupon the young man, when he got home, took what seemed to us an exceedingly cold-blooded method of a special delivery letter to notify her parents. We were expressing our horror at his sending a special delivery letter, and Quentin solemnly chimed in with Yes, he wasted ten cents. There was a moments eloquent silence, and then we strove to explain to Quentin that what we were objecting to was not in the least the young mans spend-thrift attitude!34
When he was nine he was given three snakes, one of which was a large friendly king snake. Quentin burst in on his father who was discussing certain matters with the Attorney-General and dumped the snakes in his lap. The king snake had just been making a resolute effort to devour one of the smaller snakes. I suggested that he go into the next room [and entertain four Congressmen who were] drearily waiting to talk to me, said T.R.
I thought that he and his snakes would probably enliven their waiting time. He at once fell in with the suggestion and rushed up to the Congressmen with the assurance that he would there find kindred spirits. They at first thought the snakes were wooden ones, and there was some perceptible recoil when they realized that they were alive. Then the king snake went up Quentins sleeve--he was three or four feet long--and we hesitated to drag him back because his scales rendered that difficult. The last I saw of Quentin, one Congressman was gingerly helping him off with his jacket, so as to let the snake crawl out of the upper end of the sleeve.35
When Archie was ill, Quentin arranged for Archies pony to come upstairs to see him. The President, who was away, wrote, By the way I was immensely amused at the information that Charles, the footman, had brought Archies calico pony, Algonquin, upstairs in the elevator to see him.36
Quentin had a colorful way of expressing himself. When he was ten he got his legs very badly sunburned. Looking at them, he said, They look like a Turner sunset, dont they. After a pause he added, I wont be caught again this way! quoth the raven, Nevermore!37
He had no problem stating his viewpoint. When told that the White House grounds were no place for stilts, he said, I dont see what good it does me for you to be President. You cant do anything here! I wish I was back home!38
Kermit was a sensitive boy who shared his fathers love of adventure. After college he lived and worked in Brazil and went into railroad construction and investment.39 He accompanied T.R. on his African and Brazilian expeditions and was very daring, often frightening his father with his dare-devil ways. Kermit had a tendency to become depressed and committed suicide while in Alaska during World War II. He was buried where he fell, in Alaska, as was the Rooseveltian fashion.
Archie had a sense of integrity unmatched by most children. Some bigger boys were throwing a ball outside a school when it hit one of them in the eye. The boys snuck off when the school master, Mr. Sidwell, appeared. Archie, who had been watching, stayed and offered to go get a doctor. Accordingly he scorched down to Dr. Wilmers and said there was an emergency case for one of Mr. Sidwells boys, who was hurt in the eye, and could he bring him. The doctor said to do so and Archie scorched back on his wheel, got the boy...and led him down to Dr. Wilmers, who attended to his eye and had to send him at once to a hospital. Dr. Wilmer told the President that if Archie had not acted with such promptness the boy...would have lost his sight. T.R. was quite proud of what Archie did.40
Alice always felt different from the others. The children all knew she had a different mother and they teased her about it. When Ted was very small, he figured out that Alice must have had a wet nurse. Sissy had a sweat nurse! Sissy had a sweat nurse! he cried. Her half brothers teased her, knowing she was different. She wasnt even called by her real name. Everyone called her Sister. She became very independent and never let anyone, even her parents, boss her around. When she was fourteen and her father was Assistant Secretary of the Navy, she ran around Washington with a gang of boys. I wish she wouldnt do that, Edith said. She is a very distinctive looking girl. Everyone knows who she is. Its very embarrassing. When they tried to send 14-year-old Alice to boarding school she refused saying, If you do, I will do something so horrible and so shocking that none of our reputations will ever recover from it. They finally engaged a governess for Alice who would exhaust the girl by taking her for walks on foot or horseback. Once she was exhausted, lessons would begin.41
Alice married Nick Longworth in 1905. She was twenty and he was in his thirties. She had had her eye on him for a long time. You see that old bald-headed man scratching his ear over there? she asked a friend once. You mean Nick Longworth? the friend said. Yes. Can you imagine any young girl marrying a fellow like that? Why, Alice, the friend said, You couldnt find anybody nicer. I know, I know. But marriage?42
Ethel was a popular, vivacious little girl with blond hair and friendly blue eyes. She went to the Cathedral School in Washington and was elected a class officer in junior year. After graduation she had a private tutor.43 Her father described her as a bustling person, a born manager and orders [her brothers] about constantly.44 Ethel is a perfect little housewife and mother, T.R said in 1903 when she was ten. Entirely of her own accord she has taken to teaching Archie music and Quentin reading, writing and arithmetic, and does remarkably well.45
In 1909, when Ethel was 16, he wrote:
I just loved your letter from Florence. What very nice letters you do write! and what a very nice girl, the very nicest girl, you are, you blessed person.
Playing With Children
[He] was the heart and soul of all games worth playing, of all mischief worth venturing on, of all talks that had fun and sparkle in them....[He] was the very spirit of play. - Louise Pond Jewell, The Great Adventure
The Roosevelt children and their cousins loved to play with the President if for no other reason than that he so obviously was having a good time himself, Nicholas Roosevelt explained.46
Hed go on point-to-point walks where the children would follow over logs, through streams and over rocks.47
I remember one day seeing in our path an especially unpleasant looking bathing-house with a very steep roof like a Swiss chalet, Corinne wrote. I looked at it with sudden dismay, for I realized that only the very young and slender could chin up its slippery sides, and I hoped that the leader of the party would deflect his course. Needless to say, he did not, and I can still see the somewhat sturdy body of the then President of the United States hurling itself at the obstruction and with singular agility chinning himself to the top and sliding down the other side. Forty-year-old Corinne managed to follow and from that point on was regarded as one really fit to take part in the beloved obstacle walks.48
The rule was over or under, never around and she was often heard muttering that phrase during difficult situations in her life.
Once, nine boys flattered him by inviting him on a scramble through Rock Creek Park. T.R. was forty-four, felt older, but was really touched, he wrote the parents of two of the boys, at the way in which your children as well as my own treat me as a friend and playmate. They obviously felt that my presence was needed to give zest to the entertainment.
I do not think that one of them saw anything incongruous in the Presidents getting as bedaubed with mud as they got, or in my wiggling and clambering around jutting rocks, through cracks, and up what were really small cliff faces, just like the rest of them; and whenever any one of them beat me at any point, he felt and expressed simple and whole-hearted delight, exactly as if it had been a triumph over a rival of his own age.49
Reporters followed his every move during the first summer of his Presidency. They wrote of his hair-raising horseback rides, his chopping down trees for relaxation and the night the Secret Service men couldnt find him. The next morning he returned, grinning at the men. He had spent the night on an island guarded by three small boys.
They had had chicken, fried in a great deal of bacon fat, baked potatoes, lots of bread and butter and, according to his cousin Nicholas Roosevelt, a generous admixture of sand. As usual, T.R. wrote, they displayed a touching and firm conviction that my cooking is unequaled...they certainly ate in a way that showed their words were not uttered in a spirit of empty compliment.50
Nicholas and Archie, discussing T.R.s cooking later, said that the meat wasnt actually fried, rather it was boiled in bacon fat. Even so, they still remembered it years later as the best chicken theyve ever tasted.
After they ate, he told ghost stories while they laid around the fire, wrapped in blankets.
One of his children wrote later:
The smallest of us lay within reach of father where we could touch him if the story became too vivid for our nerves and we needed the reassuring feel of his clothes to bring us back to reality. There was, however, a delicious danger in being too near him. In stories in which the haunt seized his victim, father generally illustrated the action by making a grab at the nearest child.51
Sometimes the Roosevelts would go on family picnics. T.R. would cook clams in holes lined with stones covered with seaweed. The clams were, according to Nicholas, usually overcooked and tough as leather. They also ate hard boiled eggs and sandwiches which they washed down with warm gingerale.52
Whenever Edith was away, Theodore, acting as Vice Mother, would read the children choice and delightful extracts dealing with man-eating lions, tigers and crocodiles and fearful conflicts with elephants, rhinoceros and buffalo. The authors told the stories in the first person, so the children called them the I stories...and regarded them as adventures all of which happened to the same individual.53
I love all these children and have great fun with them and I am touched by the way in which they feel that I am their special friend, champion and companion, T.R.wrote.54
The Executive Mansion was too small for the Presidents large family. As a result, the Roosevelts had it remodeled in 1902. The West Wing was added for official business and the house was remodeled to add more bedrooms. The Roosevelts preferred the simpler title the White House to the Executive Mansion, so from then on that is what it was called.55
Play should never be allowed to interfere with work, and a life devoted merely to play is, of all forms of existence, the most dismal. But the joy of life is a very good thing, and while work is the essential in it, play also has its place. - Theodore Roosevelt, Autobiography
While in the White House Theodore always made time in the day for a couple of hours of exercise--sometimes tennis, more often riding, or else a cross-country walk.
The members of his cabinet played tennis with him and were called the tennis cabinet by the press.
They also went on point-to-point walks with him, following T.R. who turned aside for nothing. If we swam the Potomac we usually took off our clothes, he wrote later. I remember one such occasion when the French Ambassador Jusserand, who was a member of the Tennis Cabinet, was along, and, just as we were about to get in to swim, somebody said, Mr. Ambassador, Mr. Ambassador, you havent taken off your gloves, to which he promptly responded, I think I will leave them on; we might meet ladies!56
He took two new members of his cabinet on a scramble down Rock-Creek and wrote Bamie what happened:
They both thought they were good walkers, forgetting that when a man is in the late forties he finds the term a good walker very different from what it was in the early twenties. They were distinctly limp long before the end. I wish you could have seen Moodys delight over what he termed the initiation of the two new members of the Cabinet!57
T.R. loved polo (There is all the fun of football, with the horse thrown in) and continued to box until his eye was injured by a partner while he was President. He then took up jiu-jitsu for a year or two.58
He believed that all men in sedentary jobs should keep themselves as fit as those who do physical labor. Achieving bodily vigor, he said, was a method of getting that vigor of soul without which vigor of body counts for nothing.59
In September of 1902 he was involved in a bad accident. A trolley struck the carriage he was riding in throwing him forty feet. The Secret Service man who had been sitting beside him, was killed. Theodore scraped his leg. The leg later became infected and began to swell. The doctors, fearing gangrene, operated. The leg was never the same again. It would ache if he knocked it or if he became tired. Occasionally, the swelling would reoccur.
During the time of the tricky coal strike negotiations he was confined to a wheel chair, which he drove through the White House at top speed.
At forty-five, he claimed to be falling behind physically. He was often in pain from his injury and from rheumatism, or gout, or something of the kind, which made him very stiff.60 A spell of fever, my only unpleasant reminiscence of the Santiago campaign, would flare up now and then.
His eating habits were not good. I eat too much, he told Kermit. My waist is steadily increasing. I have seen him eat a whole chicken and drink four large glasses [of milk] at one meal, and chicken and milk were by no means the only things served, someone remarked. For breakfast he ate a large amount of peaches and cream and cup after cup of heavily sweetened coffee.61
He was the one who gave Maxwell House Coffee their slogan: Good to the last drop!
His old injuries, which he had survived so well when young, were coming back to haunt him as rheumatism and arthritis. But still he continued his aggressive exercise campaign which aggravated his already arthritic condition. He led such an active life that he frequently got hurt. A boxing injury blinded him in one eye. After crossing a stream when he was forty-nine his horse reared up at the top of an embankment and fell over backward into the stream. Luckily he fell clear of the horse on the side away from his heels. I have had two falls with a rearing horse, but on firm ground, so I know what a narrow escape you had, wrote Cabot.62
While they were in the White House, Theodore and Edith bought a small cabin which they called Pine Knot. It was the only place they could be completely alone and they did their own cooking and cleaning. It was their own little dolls house and they loved it. To my pleasure, Theodore wrote, Edith enjoyed his cooking and admitted that what you children had said of the way I fried chicken was all true.63
The piazza was the best feature of the house. They loved to sit out there and hear all the birds by daytime and at night the whippoorwills and owls and little forest folk.64
T.R. and the great naturalist John Burroughs studied the birds there. T.R. knew birds as well as John Burroughs did.
One morning Burroughs was startled when T.R. brought his hand down hard on the table with a loud bang. Edith, Burroughs said, exclaimed, in a slightly nettled tone, Why my dear, what is the matter? He had killed a mosquito. It was said that T.R. killed mosquitoes as if they were lions, and lions as if they were mosquitoes.65
Later Burroughs asked, Isnt it risky for you to stay here unguarded? Oh, T.R. said slapping his hip pocket, I go armed, and they would have to be mighty quick to get the drop on me. Later Edith took Burroughs aside and told him that she had arranged for two secret servicemen to stay in a nearby farm house and come out at night to guard the cabin.66 She did not want Theodore told this because it might irritate him.67
A family of flying squirrels had nested in the rafters. John Burroughs was annoyed, the President said, by the wild gambols of the little fellows through the rooms [especially when they] as sometimes happened...would swoop down to the bed and scuttle across it. This tended to keep him awake at nights, where as we have become rather attached to them.68
It was birds that interested Burroughs, not flying squirrels. In Yellowstone Park, he and the President watched in amazement a tiny owl the size of a robin...perched on the top of a tree in midafternoon entirely uninfluenced by the sun and making a queer noise like a cork being pulled from a bottle.69
Love of Nature
His love of natural beauty in all its forms--scenery, sun and sky, flowers, trees, birds and other wildlife--was ever present in his concern about conservation. - Nicholas Roosevelt
T.R. loved little animals. One day he picked up a mole shrew that was on the tennis court. After we had all looked at him I let him go, but in a few minutes he came back and deliberately crossed the tennis grounds by the net, he wrote later. He looked with wonder also at a chipmunk that always crossed the tennis court while they were playing and had been doing it for several years.70 He wrote Ethel of feeding bread to squirrels.
His love of animals made him express a wish that the Audubon society would make itself heard until it was a point of honor to protect all forms of harmless wild life. True sportsmen, he felt, should want to keep and not kill out all the birds, even those whose great numbers allow them to be hunted.71 He and his wife loved the outdoors. They would sit outside on spring afternoons under the apple tree at the White House. One afternoon a purple finch was singing in the apple-tree overhead, and the white petals of the blossoms were silently falling.72
At night they would sit out on the porch at the back of the White House. It was especially delightful at night and in early June the air was sweet with the jasmine and honeysuckle.73
The birds have come back, he wrote Kermit in March of 1905. Not only song-sparrows and robins, but a winter wren, purple finches and tufted titmice are singing in the garden; and the other morning early Mother and I were waked up by the loud singing of a cardinal bird in the magnolia tree just outside our windows.74
He wasnt a patient man but he would stand for hours watching a bird. He once said, I would willingly stand for two days to catch a glimpse of a wild manatee.75
He noticed little things other people wouldnt. Once when walking with Corinne around the White House grounds he spotted a tiny piece of fluff on the pathway. He picked it up and examined it carefully. Very early for a fox-sparrow, he said.76
On one trip he brought home a treasure, Bill the Lizard. Bill was a horned toad, very cunning, who lives in a small box. He also brought them another treasure, John, a friendly little badger who was welcomed with the wildest enthusiasm by the children and...passed an affectionate but passionate day with us.77
He loved animals, but hunting was a wonderful outlet for him. Also it was while hunting that he noticed that species of animals were disappearing. He felt compelled to start the Boone and Crockett Club to push for the protection of endangered animals and the land they lived on.
In 1905 he wrote Lodge:
The trip was a success in every way.
I killed three good, big bears; and in Oklahoma, saw the worry of eleven coyotes. I think you would have enjoyed the coyote hunting for the breakneck gallops of from one to ten miles were great sport. The bear hunting you would have cared less for.
I should like to have seen you slaying bears and running coyotes--great sport I should think. But the best part is that I think you needed the change more than you realized and it surely has done you good.78
As he got older, Theodore lost his zest for hunting. Later in life he shot a male yellow-throated warbler reluctantly so that he could give it to a museum to verify its identity. He felt guilty about it. The breeding season was past, and no damage came to the species from shooting the specimen; but I must say that I care less and less for the mere collecting as I grow older, he wrote.79
He expressed happiness that the camera was being substituted more and more for the rifle in hunting.80
Franklin and Eleanor
Franklin fell in love with Theodores niece, Elliotts daughter Eleanor. She was tall and handsome with long blond hair piled high upon her head. Best of all, she was closely related to Theodore. The President called her his favorite niece.
I am as fond of Eleanor as if she were my daughter, he said. Now Franklin, too, belonged to the first family. He was no longer just a distant cousin to his hero.81
Theodore offered the White House for their wedding, but Eleanor chose to get married in New York City. The date was St. Patricks day, 1905, a day chosen for Theodores convenience. He was scheduled to be in the city for a Saint Patricks Day Parade. The President reviewed the parade, made two speeches and bounded up the steps of the house to give the bride away. Because of the noise from the parade T.R. answered a bit loudly when the Reverend asked, Who giveth this woman in marriage? I do, he said emphatically.
Right after the ceremony, he turned to Franklin and said, Well Franklin, theres nothing like keeping the name in the family. Then he headed to the library for refreshments. The majority of the guests followed him, leaving the newlyweds alone. Eleanor later wrote, The guests were far more interested in the thought of being able to see and listen to the President. For the next hour and a half the President entertained the guests while Franklin and Eleanor were almost completely ignored. It looked as if Alice was right when she said, Father always wanted to be the bride at every wedding and the corpse at every funeral.82