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The first eight chapters of Ranch Life And The Hunting Trail recount Roosevelt's experiences as a rancher in the Dakota Territory during the mid-1880's. Realizing that ""the humdrum, business world"" would soon obliterate the last vestiges of the frontier, the future ""Hero of San Juan Hill"" produced these vignettes of life among the trappers, bronco-busters, desperadoes and mule-skinners, the Indians, horse thieves and vigilantes whose world was rapidly vanishing. Roosevelt laments the imminent loss of what he found to be a ""bold, restless freedom."" The Final four sections deal with the wildlife of the area--elk, mountain goats, antelope, bighorn sheep--and his exploits in hunting them. If he apotheosizes aspects of frontier life, Roosevelt does not stint in depicting its hardships and dangers--herd-killing blizzards and suffocating heat, mosquitoes and maladroit gunslingers, loneliness and the ubiquitous ""Police Gazette"" (Roosevelt preferred Hamlet and Anna Karenina). Viewed from a distance of nearly 100 years, some of the author's observations are likely to rankle certain readers. The frontier, Roosevelt notes, ""is no place for men who lack the ruder, coarser virtues and physical qualities."" Furthermore, the pioneer woman must be ""always. . .washing and cooking for her stalwart spouse and offspring. . .uncomplaining."" So much for ""bold, restless freedom."" Despite his celebration of such ""manly virtues"" as stoicism, strength and resilience, however, Roosevelt indulges in less chest-thumping than one might expect. At many points, he is, in fact, disarmingly self-deprecating. Roosevelt's attitudes toward the decimation of the local fauna are more in tune with the mood of the 1980's, are broadly conservationist in deploring wanton slaughter in the name of ""sport"" and in advocating killing only for food. One can't help but wonder, however, how many of the Okapi, water buffalo and wildebeests that decorated his rooms at Sagamore Hill found their way to the Roosevelt dinner table. The dozens of illustrations by Frederic Remington capture perfectly the rough-and-ready qualities of the narrative. Ranch Life And The Hunting Trail is an evocative souvenir of a simpler America, written by the man who a few years later helped propel the country along the road to Empire.

Pub Date: Nov. 4th, 1985
ISBN: 1116003619
Publisher: St. Martin's