Saturday, July 19, 2008

The Great White Fleet in Hawaii

As I write this, I’ve just returned from Honolulu, Hawaii, there for the U. S. Navy’s celebration of the 1908 visit to Hawaii of the Great White Fleet. Coming in the wake of the tremendous Great White Fleet celebration in Seattle, Washington, it was an inspiring event. Admiral Robert Willard, Commander U.S. Pacific Fleet, and Rear Admiral Tim Alexander, Commander Naval Group Hawaii and Commander Naval Surface Group Mid Pacific were our hosts for this gala occasion and Secretary of the Navy Don Winter was our honored guest and speaker.

For me, it is always a very enjoyable undertaking to bring TR to life for an appreciative audience. To perform as Theodore Roosevelt for the men and women of the United States Navy and for their families is an honor, a privilege and an inspiration to be my best.

In 1907, two naval officers were sent to Sagamore Hill to brief President Roosevelt on contingency plans for the use of the Navy in case of war with Japan. The officers detailed a war plan where all of America’s Atlantic battleships would muster at Hampton Roads, Virginia, navigate the Straits of Magellan at the tip of South America, and join with supporting ships at San Francisco and then off to Hawaii and an eventual attack against Japan.

Historian James Reckner, author of Teddy Roosevelt’s Great White Fleet, records that the officers were dumbfounded when TR embraced the plan and told the officers that he wanted them to carry out the plan as a training exercise soon as possible. In time, TR added that the fleet would continue to circumnavigate the world through the Indian Ocean, the Suez Canal, the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean to set the world on notice that the United States had arrived and was staking its claim to being a great naval power.

“With how many ships?” Reckner recounts the officers responding.

“With all of them!” says TR. “If there are fourteen battle ships ready, send fourteen; if sixteen are ready send sixteen!”

The Navy, the War Department and the Congress were also taken aback by Roosevelt’s orders. Some in Washington, D.C. officialdom thought that the plan would put our sailors and ships at great risk. Some in Congress were opposed to the cost, others simply opposed TR for being TR. Informed that Congressional opponents threatened to limit appropriations for the fleet, TR countered he had enough in the budget to send the fleet around to the Pacific. It would be up to Congress to supply the additional appropriations to bring them back. Obviously, Congressmen and Senators from the eastern seaboard were anxious to make sure the Atlantic fleet made it safely back to their home ports.

By all accounts, the voyage of the Great White Fleet was a resounding success. TR considered it the most important action he undertook for the promotion and preservation of peace. Steeped in the Washingtonian maxim that to prepare for war was the most effectual means of preserving peace, the voyage of the Great White Fleet was a fitting capstone to a public life devoted to a strong Navy.

As an undergraduate at Harvard, TR began work on what was to become his first book, A Naval History of the War of 1812. Published after his graduation from Harvard, the finished work was hailed on both sides of the Atlantic and included in the curriculums of both the US Naval Academy and the Royal Naval College. At nearly the same time, TR was encouraging his uncle, James Dunwoody Bulloch, to commit to writing the story only Bulloch could, The Secret Service of the Confederate States in Europe, the tale of how the Confederate Navy was built, in great part, in Liverpool, England, under Bulloch’s direction.

As Undersecretary of the US Navy in 1897 and 1898, Theodore Roosevelt did as much as any man to get the US Navy into fighting shape for the war with Spain. Famous are the stories of TR, serving as acting secretary when Secretary Long was away from the office, telegramming naval commanders around the globe to get them ready to fight.

As President, TR did more than any of his predecessors to build up a strong, modern, world class Navy. The tonnage added was exceeded in importance only by the higher degree of performance and professionalism that TR inspired through the ranks of Naval officers and seamen. Plagued by decades of poor leadership, a tradition of desertions and really poor conditions for the mass of sailors, the Navy needed to be put right, and TR was the man to do so.

In our Seattle celebration of the Great White Fleet, our co-sponsor was the United States Navy League, founded in 1902 with the purpose of building and sustaining popular support for the United States Navy and her personnel. Would you be surprised to learn that TR was a driving force behind the Navy League?

For decades after his death in 1919, Navy Day was celebrated on TR’s birthday, October 27. (In 1949, Armed Forces Day, the third Saturday in May, was established to unify separate celebrations for individual branches of the U.S. military.) Still today, the mention of Theodore Roosevelt brings a welling up of good feeling in the hearts of the men and women of the United States Navy and the United Sates Navy League.

Yesterday, Friday, July 18th, we joined together to celebrate the centennial of the Hawaii visit of the Great White Fleet. We did so on board and alongside the U.S.S. Missouri memorial, a most fitting location. The original U.S.S. Missouri (BB-11) was a Connecticut class battleship and one of the sixteen that made the journey around the world. By World War II, BB-11 had been scrapped and was replaced by her namesake, an Iowa class, laid down in 1941 and launched in 1944. The U.S.S. Missouri (BB-63) saw duty at Okinawa and Iwo Jima. On September 2, 1945, General Douglass MacArthur, on behalf of the United States, accepted the unconditional surrender of the Japanes Imperial government on the starboard deck of “Mighty Mo” in Tokyo Harbor. A giant coin marks the spot on the deck. In Korea, Mighty Mo’s big guns hurled 1,800 pound ordinance over 23 miles in defense of American and allied ground forces. The memorial is at Pearl Harbor and gives testimony to bravery and sacrifice of the U.S. Navy there on December 7, 1941. The Missouri stands resolute, saluting the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial just of the bow.

So, despite TR’s gun boat diplomacy, despite his having shown Japan that we could do in peace time what we would be ready to do in wartime, we were eventually attacked by Imperial Japan and her mighty Navy and naval air force. By the time 1941 had come about, the United States had allowed its military preparedness to slip drastically. The good will born of TR’s efforts, of his Portsmouth Treaty of 1905 which ended the Russo-Japanese War with terms extremely favorable to Japan, was of little deterrent to Japan’s aggression. The visit of the U.S. fleet was perhaps long forgotten or little known by the young Japanese pilots who attacked on that early December morning.

Still, TR demanded, through the sailing of the Great White Fleet, that the world, and especially Japan, acknowledge that the Pacific was as much an American Ocean as was the Atlantic and that America would protect her interests there with as much dedication, resoluteness and courage as it advanced its interests in the ocean that lay between Boston and Britain.

It’s hard to summarize here how good it felt to be a part of the celebration, how inspired I felt as I brought T.R. to life beneath the mighty cannon on the foredeck. Earlier in the day, I had a chance to tour the U.S.S. Crommelin (FFG-37), Commander Kevin J. Parker, and to meet the sailors on board. Each and every one of those men are happy in their work and resolute to serve with the highest capacity. As dusk approached on the Missouri, the Crommelin and the U.S.S. Chafee (DDG 90), passed in review, salutes were exchanged and four F-18s from the carrier Kitty Hawk (CV 63) flew over from starboard to port, their diamond formation adding a capping jewel to a ceremony that started with a rainbow bursting forth from the afternoon showers. We could not have asked for a more beautiful day or a more moving tribute to the world’s greatest navy and her sailors.

Secretary Winter was in Hawaii in conjunction with the Pacific Fleet’s participation in Rim Pac or Rim of the Pacific joint Naval Maneuvers. Military forces from Australia, Canada, Chile, Japan, Netherlands, Peru, Republic of Korea, Singapore, the United Kingdom join the United States Third Fleet and the U.S. Air Force and Marine Corps in joint training maneuvers that are surely in the cooperative spirit of the Great White Fleet. Vice-Admiral Samuel Locklear, Commander of the Third Fleet, took some time to join us at the celebration, as did guests from each of the participating nations.

Back home in Illinois, I’m amazed at what the men and women of the United States Navy are doing so that you and I might be free and live in peace. To each and every sailor and marine, to every airman and soldier, we owe a deep and unquenchable debt of gratitude. Go, Navy!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Strenuous Life

“I preach to you, then, my countrymen, that our country calls not for the life of ease but for the life of strenuous endeavor. The twentieth century looms before us big with the fate of many nations. If we stand idly by, if we seek merely swollen, slothful ease and ignoble peace, if we shrink from the hard contests where men must win at hazard of their lives and at the risk of all they hold dear, then the bolder and stronger peoples will pass us by, and will win for themselves the domination of the world. Let us therefore boldly face the life of strife, resolute to do our duty well and manfully; resolute to uphold righteousness by deed and by word; resolute to be both honest and brave, to serve high ideals, yet to use practical methods. Above all, let us shrink from no strife, moral or physical, within or without the nation, provided we are certain that the strife, through hard and dangerous endeavor, that we shall ultimately win the goal of true national greatness.”

Theodore Roosevelt – before the Hamilton Club of Chicago, April 10, 1899

This is one of several iterations of Theodore Roosevelt’s viewpoint on the Strenuous Life. Elsewhere, TR wrote that he embraced the Vigorous Life, suggested to him by a correspondent, as an improvement as a summary of the concept. Our trip around the country has been both Strenuous and Vigorous. Today, we begin month six and happily it’s a day that will find us home as a family for the first time since we left on February 16.

A highlight of our tour was this past weekend’s Strenuous Life Adventure hosted in Medora, North Dakota by the Theodore Roosevelt Association ( Known as the TRA, the association was founded in 1919 by family, friends and admirers of Theodore Roosevelt with the mission to preserve the memory and legacy of Theodore Roosevelt, to encourage an appreciation for the life, thoughts, words, principles and actions of this great American. I’m delighted to be a member of the TRA, and I strongly encourage anyone who might read these words to join. As I explain to audiences, there is much that TR said that bears repeating, much for which TR fought that deserves championing today.

A highlight of the TRA activities is the annual meeting, usually held on a weekend proximate to TR’s October 27 birthday. This year, the meeting will be held in Oyster Bay, Long Island, October 24-26, and I hope you’ll consider joining Jenny, Sam and me as we celebrate TR’s 150th birthday.

This past weekend, the TRA’s Strenuous Life Weekend in North Dakota featured horse riding, gun shooting, lasso practice, hiking and branding. The weekend and this spring’s TRA Seattle event celebrating the centennial of the Great White Fleet herald a rejuvenation of the national organization that is occurring under the presidency of former Smithsonian officer, Jim Bruns and the chairmanship of Barbara Berryman Brandt. Both of these TRA events were spearheaded by TRA member Michele Bryant, she the wife of Capt. David Bryant, U.S. Navy Retired, the former commanding officer of the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt, the Navy’s “Big Stick” aircraft carrier. Lt. Rebecca Rickey, U.S. Navy Retired, co-chaired the fun in Medora.

TRA membership is growing, local chapters are being formed and good works are being undertaken in the spirit of TR. It’s a pleasure for me to work with TRA Trustee Jim Pehta to establish a Chicago Bull Moose Chapter of the TRA. Jim is helping to lead a national campaign where thousands of Teddy Bears are being donated by TRA to dozens of children’s hospitals around the country. Nationally and in its local chapters, the TRA sponsors police awards, acknowledging TR’s history as President of the New York City Board of Police Commissioners and especially honoring our men and women in blue who carry the front line in the battle for America. The wonderful police tradition in Chicago deserves an annual TR award, too.

Jenny, Sam and I had a fantastic time in Medora, entertaining a luncheon at the Rough Rider Motel and recreating the barroom fight with the Mingusville Bully in the Iron Horse Saloon. Great fun. We have spent much of the last five months racing about the country in a mad dash to capture all the TR sites we possibly can. With all three of us a bit under the weather, it was good to rest a day or two, to ride horses, shoot guns and enjoy the camaraderie of our TRA friends.

At Medora we met Mrs. Harold Schafer whose late husband is responsible for the vision of the Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation. Sheila Schafer and her staff were tremendously kind and gracious, sharing that Medora hospitality that has made the town a destination for families from throughout the world for decades.

As I write this, we are leaving Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where we just visited the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Milwaukee. The hotel is at the southwest corner of Kilbourne and 3rd Streets and it stands where the Hotel Gilpatrick stood in 1912. In the Hyatt’s lobby a plaque marks the spot where John Schrank shot TR in the chest with a .38 caliber pistol from close range on October 14, 1912. The plaque was sponsored by the Wisconsin Veterans of the Spanish War and is surrounded by photos and newspaper facsimilies recounting the dreadful event. TR famously refused medical attention and demanded to go to the nearby auditorium where some 2000 men and women were waiting to hear him speak.

“It takes more than that to kill a Bull Moose!” TR famously told the shocked audience. TR spoke for nearly eighty minutes. Later that night doctors x-rayed the president and decided to leave the bullet in his chest. The bullet had pierced his sixty page folded speech and his steel eye glass case.

“I don’t care a rap for being shot!” He told the crowd that the Progressive campaign was not about himself, but rather about the Progressive cause, especially the need to ease the burden of the working man and especially to ease the burden of women and children.

Can any of us imagine such a man today? I share with audiences that TR, being a hunter, spit into his hand, and seeing no blood in his spittle had concluded that his lung had not been punctured and that he had the duty, like the duty of an officer for his regiment, to see the thing through that night.

As we celebrate our homecoming, as we look back on our adventures of the first five months, and as we look forward to the adventures to come, I am doubly inspired by the man who preached and lived the Strenuous Life. He fought for righteousness with everything he had and more. He inspired a generation of Americans to act not only in their own self interest and in the interest of their families, but to care for their neighbor and for the welfare of those who bore the heavy burdens of a hard life.

As a week or more has passed since last I wrote, I want to pause and acknowledge the anniversaries of the deaths of two of TR’s four boys. On July 12, 1944, General Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. – “Ted” – died of a heart attack while serving in combat in France. On June 6, 1944, General Roosevelt, TR’s oldest boy, was the only general officer to go ashore on D-Day, leading his troops at Omaha Beach, returning to the beach to lead wave after wave of men to the front, directing men with his cane. Twenty-six years before, on July 14, 1918, Quentin Roosevelt, the youngest boy and an Army Aviator, was shot down and killed over the Marne in France. Today, the brothers lie side by side in the American cemetery in Normandy, a testimony to a nation and a family that believed in fighting and sacrificing for the sake of righteousness.

God bless and keep all the men and women who serve in the tradition of Theodore Roosevelt and his children. Our nation and the people of the world owe them a debt which we can only hope to repay in some small way by living a Strenuous Life, dedicated to carry on that fight.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Happy Birthday Jenny & Mittie

Today was a beautiful day in Medora, North Dakota. We’re camped at the Medora Campground, where I spent much of the day on my back beneath the RV, finishing repairs to a set of copper liquid propane pipes which had been torn through by a blown out tire. Too much of this trip has been spent awaiting repairs at various service departments, so I decided that this repair was all mine. Self-sufficiency and self-reliance are ingrained traits of the Westerner. It felt good to get greasy and grimy and to do the work of cutting, sizing, fitting and soldering beneath our home on wheels.

Jenny took the late afternoon of this her 44th birthday to play a round of golf at Medora’s Bully Pulpit Golf Course. What a treat and a surprise to learn that greens fees are gratus on ones birthday. Jenny spent what she would have spent on greens fees in the Bully Pulpit gift shop, and I must admit she picked out a handsome shirt for me and a great sweater for herself. Sam got to drive the golf cart.

When I cleaned up from the repair work, Faith and I went swimming in the Little Missouri River. The girls returned to the campground and we all went out for dinner. Beef – it’s what’s for dinner in Medora.

July 8th is also the birthday of Theodore Roosevelt’s mother, Martha Bulloch Roosevelt, known to her family as Mittie. Born in 1835 at Miss Oakes Boarding House in Hartford, Connecticut, her birthplace was rather incongruous with the thoroughly Southern character of the Bulloch clan. Mittie’s mother, Martha Stewart Bulloch was in Connecticut visiting her step-son, James Dunwoody Bulloch, a student at a nearby military academy.

In her eighteenth year, Mittie married TR’s father, Theodore Roosevelt, in the family home in Roswell. Life in New York was made more pleasant for Mittie when her mother and older sister Anna came to live with the Roosevelt family in the New York home at 28 East 20th Street. The Bullochs were among the founding families of Roswell, Georgia, and as the Great Civil War approached, the Bullochs, every one of them, were full square behind the Confederacy. “Uncle Jimmy” would go on to build much of the Confederate fleet in Liverpool, England.

TR was greatly influenced by his Southern kin. Historians and family alike have attributed to TR’s Southern lineage his energy, his sense of adventure and daring. “He was more a Bulloch than a Roosevelt,” can be read directly and between the lines of many a contemporary account.

So, on the 8th of July, here’s to Mittie Bulloch Roosevelt and Jenny Cook Wiegand. Happy birthday.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

The Cowboy President

We’re travelling through the Badlands of the Dakotas, territory that from 1883 until 1887 figures very prominently in the life of Theodore Roosevelt. Still today, the vast openness of the land and its ability to produce grass and hay makes it great cattle country, and the world’s appetite for beef is greatly appreciated in these parts. With miles and miles between the herds, one’s mind is like to wander in the plush blankets of green and yellow fields.

The rush to the Dakotas, to invest in cattle followed on those of the gold rush. Texas cattlemen had driven herds northward and discovered the region suitable for open range cattle. Cattle ranching is still a major enterprise here.

When TR came West in 1883, it was not only to hunt and seek adventure. It was to know the heat and dust of the day working in the saddle and the wet, cold of nights keeping watch or rounding up a herd stampeded by lightning. It was to be a rancher and a businessman, with capital invested and at risk. Eventually, he would fold the cattle operation after it was decimated by a winter of storm and cold extreme even in Dakota terms.

Like much of the West, the history of the Dakotas is one of confrontation between the westward expansion of American, Christian culture and that of the native people, in this case the Sioux. By treaty, the Sioux had been granted a reservation in exchange for peace. After George Custer’s exploration party discovered gold in 1874 on French Creek, the U.S. government sought to pressure the Sioux into relinquishing gold rich lands. War followed. The confrontation eventually took Custer’s life, hundreds of soldiers and settlers and thousands of Sioux men, women and children.

All of this was just a few short years before TR’s coming to the Dakotas to stake his claim, in cattle not gold. TR’s own experience of Native American life informed his efforts as a federal officer, both as Civil Service Commissioner and later as President. Whole volumes could and have been written about TR and the issues of the native people. Their contemplation is worthy.

The prosperity brought by gold mines, cattle operations and more made the region a destination for settlers and commerce. Today, the history and wonders of the region draw families to enjoy it. Tourism around the Mt. Rushmore National Monument in Keystone is now the lifeblood of the region. Likely Mt. Rushmore tourists add on additional trips to many of the other amazing places nearby. Our own adventures included Wind Cave National Park, Devils Tower National Monument and beautiful portions of the Black Hills Forest, all important works in the TR administration. Unfortunately, we missed the opportunity to see nearby Jewel Cave another TR National Monument created in 1908.

A highlight of yesterday’s tour was a visit to Belle Fourche Reservoir, being named for the river that to the southwest flows through the town by the same name. Belle Fourche itself was founded by TR’s friend, Seth Bullock. Built in 1904-1911, the dam and reservoir were part of TR’s reclamation agenda. The resulting bird sanctuary fell into the pattern of TR’s administration: a dam was built and a reservoir created under the Newlands Act; wildlife, especially birds, discover the new oasis and then, TR, by executive order would create a bird reserve or wildlife sanctuary incorporating the reservoir and the land surrounding the reservoir.

Human activities at these reservoirs and refuges are limited and regulated, though to this day many of these facilities allow fishing, hunting and boating, good, healthy outdoor activities of which TR would think fondly, I think. This particular dam and reservoir are in the operations of the federal Bureau of Reclamation under the authority of the Department of the Interior. The South Dakota State Parks administer the surrounding park and on Saturday, July 5, human uses of fishing and boating drove much of the birdlife into the bushes.

While the Wiegands stretched their legs on the Tower and Red Bud Trails that circumnavigate the base of Devils Tower, our golden retriever Faith had been several days without a good run or swim. Dogs are prohibited on the trails of nearly every national monument and park that we have visited. At least some of the wildlife refuges allow dog training and hunting with dogs, so Faith occasionally hikes or swims on these visits. We played fetch the stick along the western shore of the lake, anglers on the shore to our south and big power boats towing inner tubes loaded with thrill seekers in the middle of the lake. A good dozen throws or more and Faith has gotten to use her muscles and cool her coat.

We’ve just crossed into North Dakota on Highway 85, ready for a week of TR activities, highlighted by the Theodore Roosevelt Association Strenuous Life Weekend As we visit Theodore Roosevelt National Park and many other North Dakota places, we give thanks for the cowboy culture. It made a big impact on Theodore Roosevelt and he, in turn, made a lasting impact on the American people. We are so very glad to be in Teddy Roosevelt’s Badlands, celebrating America’s one true cowboy President.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Happy Independence Day!

All of us on the TR Tour hope your 4th of July finds you with family and friends, able to pause and give thanks for the blessing of freedom in this great land.

We leave in the morning for Devils Tower National Monument in Wyoming and then on the Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota.

The transmission is fixed. We leave the Mt. Rushmore and Black Hills region rested and inspired by our friends, Jim and Tina.

I look forward to writing from the road. All the best. TR Joe

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

The Hero of San Juan & His Friend from Deadwood

On July 1, 1898, Colonel Theodore Roosevelt, commanding officer of the 1st United States Volunteer Cavalry led the charge up Kettle Hill outside Santiago, Cuba. Aboard his steed, Texas, T.R. led his men, and the men of other units, in an assault that drove the Spanish troops from the entrenchments atop the hill. Pausing only briefly, T.R. led a second charge to support the flank of U.S. troops advancing on a neighboring height. Casualties were heavy for the Rough Riders. By the time the battles of Cuba ended in the following days, the Rough Riders had accumulated casualties, killed or wounded, of fully twenty percent of the enlisted men and thirty percent of the officers.

Today, we began our day with the Lead-Deadwood American Legion Wooden Bat Baseball Tournament in Deadwood, hometown of Captain Seth Bullock. Bullock was a T.R. friend and compatriot, one of Grigsby's Cowboy Regiment who spent the war training in Louisiana, preparing for a next phase of the war that never was needed. Inspired by the national past time, Jenny and Sam joined me for a hike up nearby Mt. Roosevelt, where on July 4, 1919, Seth Bullock and the Black Hills Pioneer Society erected the first posthumous memorial to Theodore Roosevelt, less than six months after his death.

The rocky path leads to the old stone tower which rises above the Black Hills Forest. Made of red rock and mortar, the tower is on the order of twenty feet or more high and perhaps twenty feet in circumference at its base. Reminding one of Roosevelt, the tower sits stout and strong atop a five foot pedestal. The entrance to the tower is gated, though the bottom six inches of three iron bars have been removed and a burrow leads into the old concrete stairway.

The interpretive legend nearby reminds us that the view to the north is of land where Billings County Deputy Sheriff Theodore Roosevelt first met Deadwood Sheriff Seth Bullock in 1884, and beyond, where rancher Roosevelt worked beside his men on the Chimney Butte and Elk Horn Ranches. The memorial is posted locally as Friendship Monument, and it is certain that the friendship memorialized is that of TR and Bullock, though TR friend General Leonard Wood was also present at the dedication. On another level, the tower is a monument to the friendship shared between TR and the American people. Forged in the battle for the right and based on a mutual belief that the welfare of individual citizens counted for something and that government could get good things done for the prosperity of the people, the conservation and wise management of our natural resources and the peace and advancement of the nation.

For Roosevelt & Bullock and for the American people, it is fitting that a deliberate ascent into the wild is required to visit the memorial. More than a decade earlier, while a Territorial Senator in Montana in 1871 and 1872, Bullock played an important role in the creation of Yellowstone National Park. In 1901, when McKinley was President and Roosevelt Vice-President, Bullock was appointed the first forest supervisor for the Black Hills Forest Reserve. The men shared a great respect for the world of the out of doors, for the hunt and the adventure of open spaces.

Our next Deadwood ascent was Mt. Moriah and the cemetery there, resting place of Seth Bullock, Buffalo Bill Cody and Calamity Jane. Seth Bullock died just nine short months after his friend, Theodore Roosevelt. Bullock’s Mt. Moriah resting place had a view of the Roosevelt Tower, now obscured by mature pine.

The friendship of Seth Bullock and Theodore Roosevelt lasted through decades. Roosevelt children and cousins stayed with Bullock when visiting South Dakota. Bullock brought a troop of cowboys, including Tom Mix, to TR's 1905 inauguration, all riding in the parade on horseback with wild west attire and side irons, staging a rodeo in the nation’s capital before departing.

Bullock served as the U.S. Marshall for South Dakota during the Roosevelt Administration. At its end, when TR’s tennis cabinet met for a luncheon at the White House for the last time in 1909, Seth Bullock was the man to cast the flowered center piece aside to surprise President Roosevelt with a beautiful bronze cougar.

Bullock was an enterprising businessman, a founder of the community of Belle Fourche and a man of solid virtue and courage. He was a TR kind of man.

While our transmission is being fixed in Rapid City, we’ve lodged with Deadwood’s best landscaper, Sewanee friend Jim Startz, his beautiful bride Tina and their boys. Jim coaches two of his sons in baseball and presides over the town's organized youth baseball program. The boys who play learn leadership, teamwork and responsibility. Several of the youngsters work for Startz & Startz Landscaping, learning crafts like masonry and skills with machinery in addition to things botanical.

Just as Seth Bullock made a great host to TR a century before, Jim and Tina have been awesome hosts in Deadwood. Finally, it was awesome to meet singer, comedian and first person reprisor Gordy Pratt, whose Seth Bullock portrayals have been entertaining Deadwood visitors for years. Check out

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

June into July

Every year, late June is an exciting time for me. Ever since 1987, the 27th of June has been special as Jenny’s and my wedding anniversary. This year, we celebrated the night before with my sister, Joy, in Colorado Springs, and the night of with Jenny’s cousin Chris French and his wife, Gail, in Denver. The fun, the food and the fellowship were greatly appreciated.

The past week has been a great adventure, bringing us from Idaho through Utah, Colorado, and Nebraska. The highlights are listed on the TR Tour button at

One feels a tremendous modern day resonance with TR the hunter and the conservationist throughout this range. The National Forests, even one named for Theodore Roosevelt himself, attest to this living legacy. I was most glad to see that, on the particular Saturday that I visited TR’s name sake forest, it was brimming with outdoor enthusiasts, bicyclists and countless white water kayakers. A dozen school buses brought boatloads of adventurers, paddles in hand, thrilled to be guided down the boiling waters of the Poudre River. More so than any other place on our Great 2008 TR Tour, the Roosevelt National Forest evidenced the vigorous life. Here was the use of a great public resource by the public for strenuous outdoor exercise. Again, I think President Roosevelt would have enjoyed seeing such a sight nearly as much as he would have enjoyed risking the rapids himself.

Late June was often an exciting time in TR history as well. On June 27, 1900, Vice-Presidential nominee Theodore Roosevelt wrote to Senator Mark Hanna, the GOP boss, “I am strong as a bull moose and you may use me to the limit.” On June 28, 1902, President Theodore Roosevelt signed the Isthmian Canal Act, allowing the executive to negotiate with the Columbian government and to secure the rights from the French for the completion of a canal in the Columbian province of Panama. Dynamics inherent in the issue would lead to Panamanian independence and bold American action to see the thing through.

On June 29, 1906, TR signed the Hepburn Act, creating the Interstate Commerce Commission and on the same date in 1906, he signed the Pure Food and Drug Act and legislation creating federal meat inspection. These are hallmarks of TR’s progressive domestic agenda.

Earlier, on June 30, 1898, TR received his battlefield promotion. Colonel Leonard Wood, the original commanding officer of the 1st United States Volunteer Cavalry, was promoted to command of the brigade and the rank of Brigadier General. While lobbying to go to war, TR requested that Wood receive command of the regiment, thinking that he himself would be fit for battle command after a short time in the front. Well, with less than ten days on the ground and at the front, TR got his wish. He was now the commanding officer of the Rough Riders. The next day, he would lead his regiment and various men from others in the famous assault on Kettle Hill and the neighboring San Juan Heights.

So, as the Wiegand clan tours Wind Cave National Park, watching the deer and the antelope and the buffalo play, we give thanks for the safe travel that brings us to TR’s beloved Dakotas.

Of course, the transmission just stopped working and we’re pulled over on the side of beautiful Highway 87 – Iron Mountain Road – South Dakota, just outside the scenic and very helpful Black Hills Playhouse.

Anybody know a good tow company?

All the best from TR Joe and his fellow adventurers.