Teddy Roosevelt’s Boat Thieves

On March 24, 1886, three hard cases were on the move. Unfortunately, an ice-swollen river stood between them and their destination. They came across a small rowboat, and decided to commandeer it. Now, normally the owner would chalk it off as a loss, but not this owner. He happened to be a tenderfoot easterner who had recently become the chairman of the Stockmen’s Association, a position that also carried with it the title of deputy sheriff. This easterner turned cowboy and rancher was a man of grit and determination who was later to hold the highest office in our land. His name was Theodore Roosevelt. This is the story of Teddy Roosevelt’s boat thieves.

Roosevelt had another boat made, and within a week, he and two cowboys were going after the thieves. After three days, they found them.

Because of the icy river, the group traveled eight days trying to get back home. With provisions almost gone, they finally came across a ranch. Roosevelt hired a wagon and driver to take him and the three ruffians the rest of the way. Roosevelt’s two companions remained with the boats.

It took two days and a night to get to the nearest town. Roosevelt stayed awake, with rifle at the ready, the whole time. To make sure he wasn’t jumped, Roosevelt had to walk along behind the wagon.

As deputy sheriff, Roosevelt received a fee for bringing in the men, and mileage for the over 300 miles he had traveled to retrieve them. It was a total of $50. But he had accomplished two things: First, he had upheld the law. Second, people would think twice before stealing anything from him again.
Teddy Roosevelt's boat thieves

Teddy Roosevelt: The Cowboy President

On September 14, 1901 with the death of President William McKinley, his Vice President, Theodore Roosevelt was sworn in as the 26th President of the United States. Roosevelt was a very unlikely man to become the leader of our country.

It was just 17 years earlier that a double tragedy struck… Within a 12 hour period both his wife and his mother died. Trying to get as far away from Washington as possible, and abandoning his political career, Roosevelt went to the Badlands of the Dakota Territory to become a rancher. Although he never made money as a rancher, the experience did change his life.
 
He never looked like a cowboy. But he had the soul of a cowboy, and gained the respect of his fellow-ranchers. When a gang stole his riverboat, he went after them, and weeks later brought them to justice. A bully tried to make Roosevelt buy him a drink by calling him “four eyes,” Roosevelt proceeded to punch out the bully.
 
After three years as a rancher, Roosevelt returned to Washington with a new zeal for life. He later said that were it not for his experience in the West he would not have had the drive to become the President of the United States.
 
Roosevelt’s experience out west also instilled in him an appreciation of the natural beauty of the West and the need to preserve it for future generations. During his time as President, Roosevelt gave the public 230 million acres of national forest land. And he doubled the number of national parks, including Yosemite. 
 
Although Theodore Roosevelt spent the vast majority of his life back east, he always considered himself a westerner at heart.

One Who Yawns aka Geronimo

One Who Yawns - GeronimoOne Who Yawns was born in 1823. He was known as an easygoing person. But, as a young man, while the men were away, Mexicans attacked his village and killed the women and children, among who were his mother, wife and three children. This instilled in him a hatred for Mexicans that lasted throughout his life. A year after the attack on his village, One Who Yawns and some other braves retaliated, killing several Mexicans. In this battle he won his more popular Spanish name… Geronimo.
 
Although he was a great leader, Geronimo was never a chief, and always deferred to his people’s true chiefs. For decades he succeeded in keeping settlers off Apache lands using little more than a handful of braves. Although Geronimo never used a firearm himself, he made sure his braves had the best available. And they used field glasses for distance reconnaissance. He was a brilliant strategist who for years was able to evade the best the army could send. 
 
By 1886 Geronimo was in his 60’s, and the number of whites in the area kept growing. So, on September 4 at Skeleton Canyon, Arizona, Geronimo surrendered to General Nelson A. Miles becoming the last American Indian warrior to formally surrender to the Army. 
 
A number of times over the years Geronimo agreed to live on a reservation, and later, with justification, left it. So this time his people were shipped to Florida. After several years in Florida the army moved him to Oklahoma where he became a popular celebrity. He even rode in President Theodore Roosevelt’s inaugural parade in 1905. Geronimo died at the age of 86, a romantic symbol of the Wild West.

Jack Abernathy

Jack AbernathyJack Abernathy was born in Texas. At the age of six he and his older brother would sneak away from home to play piano and violin in the local saloon. Following a Christmas shootout in the saloon with several victims, his parents discovered what he was doing, thus ending his entertainment career. 
 
But that didn’t inhibit the enterprising young man. By the age of nine he was working as a cowboy, and at eleven he went on his first cattle drive. At fifteen Jack was a full-fledged cowboy breaking horses for Charles Goodnight. 
 
Jack acquired a couple of greyhound dogs. He found they would hunt wolves. He also discovered a unique way to catch them alive by jamming his hand in the wolves’ mouth. It worked so well that on December 1, 1891 he bought three more dogs and started catching wolves full time. Getting paid $50 per wolf, Jack caught more than 1,000 wolves, supplying them to zoos and traveling shows. 
 
Jack later became a deputy U. S. marshal in Oklahoma. President Theodore Roosevelt learned about “Catch-‘em-alive Jack”, and came outwest to see his skills. He was so impressed with Jack that he made him marshal of Oklahoma. 
 
As a lawman Jack captured hundreds of outlaws and ended up seeing close to 800 of them go to prison. Jack was called to New York to become a Secret Service agent, and for a short time even worked for the Mexican secret service.
 
Returning to Texas in 1919, Jack became a wildcat oil driller making and losing a fortune. Finally, Jack Abernathy, a man who had defied death literally thousands of times finally succumbed, dying of natural causes in Long Beach, California at the age of 65.    

Old West Book Review: Cowboys

CBeginning with the cover photo, western buffs will be mightily entertained by this unusual book made up mostly of beautiful, large, clear photographs.  On the cover readers see the chuck wagon cook pouring flour from a bucket into a washtub, one cowboy sitting inside a storage box on top of the chuck wagon, while another pours what looks like “white lightning” from a jug into somebody’s tin cup.  Here you have the makings of a fine outdoor dinner.  Bed rolls on the ground and smoke rising from the fire under enormous Dutch ovens tell it all.

The book begins by telling the story of the original photographer Frank M. Sherman, who, along with his three cowboy brothers before 1900 rode the old-time trails driving cattle throughout Colorado and beyond.  Frank eventually became a photographer, and by 1903 he owned a photo studio in Colorado Springs, Colorado.  He wanted to expand his post card collection, so re-joined his brothers on a cattle drive at that time.  During the drive he unexpectedly got information that President Theodore Roosevelt was traveling by train through Colorado, and the cowboys invited him to stop and enjoy a “cowboy chuck wagon breakfast” with them.  Thus the president appears in this book laughing with the crew.  His silk high-hat and elegant suit makes a comical contrast with the battered cowboy garb assembled around him.  Everybody looks like they are having a great time.

In 1906 Frank re-located to Oregon where he opened a photo shop, and also became a prominent small fruit grower.  He married, had a family, but was tragically killed in a shooting accident at his farm in 1921.  His widow abandoned the property, including Frank’s collection of glass negatives

These precious negatives languished in the basement of the house until 1966 when a new lady owner of the property discovered the box and just before hauling it all to the city garbage dump, contacted the local photographer John Eggen.  She asked if he would like to have the plates since she did not know anything about them and had no interest in it. Mr. Eggen accepted the offer, and when examining the contents of this mysterious box he found three hundred 5 X 7 glass plates, a treasure chest record of real old-time cowboys working on the open range.

Mr. Eggen compiled a book which was published in 1992. Having grown up on a ranch in western South Dakota, Mr. Eggen appreciated these wonderful photos and carefully preserved them here for us to see.

Page after page, readers will find the guns, the spurs, the chaps, the steely-eyed expressions on the faces of real working cowboys.  The chuck wagons and all the gear, bucking horses, cattle branding, ranch buildings and corrals, throwing a bronc to trim its hooves, roping steers, and the desolate plains are here.  Cowboys chop wood, haul “buffalo chips”, harness horses, run cows through the dipping pens, and doctor sick calves.  Readers see the dust and the smoke and the brand inspection.  Some of these men grinned for the cameraman, but most were a no-nonsense crowd doing a hard job.

Who said the Old West was merely a fantasy?  Surely that remark came from somebody who lived in Hollywood.  This book shows what true grit is all about.

Cowboys by John Eggen belongs in your Old West library. You can get it HERE.

Editor’s Note:  The Reviewer, Phyllis Morreale-de la Garza is the author of many published books, including the novel Widow’s Peak, published by Silk Label Books, P.O. Box 700, Unionville, New York 10988 (845-726-3434) www.silklabelbooks.com

*Courtesy of Chronicle of the Old West newspaper, for more click HERE.

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