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POP Gets Lit

Teddy Roosevelt of the Wild West By Levi Lee For POP

Before Theodore Roosevelt became the twenty-sixth President of the United States and made a West African proverb, “speak softly and carry a big stick…” a national catch phrase, he was busy punching drunken gunslingers in saloons and shooting Grizzly Bears at point blank range. Roosevelt’s brash and fearless exploits throughout his life are the stuff of American legend, but few really know how the scrawny easterner of his youth made the transformation to become the burly icon of the American West we know him as today. “A Free and Hardy Life: Theodore Roosevelt’s Sojourn in the American West” by Clay S. Jenkinson attempts to shed some light on what some would call the formative years of our former President. “A Free and Hardy Life” is a beautiful book. History buffs and fans of the American west could do much worse when it comes to selections to adorn your coffee table. Bursting at the seams with wonderfully printed photographs, illustrations, letters and diary entries by the bespectacled bull moose of a man, “A Free and Hardy Life” is thoroughly pleasing even when just leafing through the tome and taking in the many photos printed within. Originally conceived as a collection of interpretive panels for use in each of the 70 rooms in the recently renovated Rough Riders Hotel in Medora, North Dakota, the book also unfolds tales of

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Teddy Roosevelt’s colorful and adventurous life. The book is broken up into twopage spreads. On the left hand side of each spread the reader will find a photograph or illustration with a quote below it. A great many of the quotes are taken from Roosevelt’s own autobiography.

“Even as the world is now, it is not only feasible but advisable to make women equal to men under the law. A cripple or a consumptive in the eye of the law is equal to the strongest athlete or the deepest thinker: and the same justice should be shown to a woman…” On the right hand side of the spread is another, smaller photograph or illustration with a passage talking about a specific event, time or philosophy from the former president’s life. The passages are incredibly illuminating, especially for someone such as myself, who is more familiar with the legends spun around this mountain of a man than actual historical fact. What I find particularly pleasing

Friday, Aug. 19, 2011

about the book is that whether it is extolling the values held by Roosevelt on the national use and teaching of the English language, or recounting with amazement the tenacity of a man who after being shot by a would-be assassin’s bullet went on to give an 84-minute scheduled speech before he would allow physicians to attend to him, the text is well written, entertaining and informative. My one criticism would be in regard to the order that the passages are placed. There seems to be no pattern the author adhered to when assembling each of the sections, and one wonders why the book was not simply arranged chronologically. Instead, each section could be recounting an event that took place years before or after the previous section, or even discussing a lifelong philosophy of President Roosevelt’s. It is, however, an easy criticism to brush aside when reading such colorful and charismatic tales. So for those lovers of Roosevelt, the American West, presidential biographies or just history in general, “A Free and Hardy Life” would make an excellent choice. In fact, were Roosevelt himself to peruse the pages of this book, I believe that the great man whose face adorns the side of Mount Rushmore would smile an enormous, infectious grin and with a hearty chuckle exclaim proudly his label for all things he thought great and wonderful. “Bully!”

pop - Aug 19, 2011  

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