A Cowboy for President!

Our presidential election is coming up in a few weeks, and it’s interesting to note just how much influence the West has had on this nation’s leaders.  Of course, in George Washington’s time, there wasn’t much of a West to note, but as the nineteenth century rolled into the twentieth, several presidents indulged in the fantasy . . . of being a cowboy. 

For example, Calvin Coolidge possessed an electrically-operated horse.  He also invited Tom Mix, a cowboy movie star at the time, to dinner at the White House.  And while visiting the Black Hills in 1929, he decked himself out in a tall Hoot Gibson-style hat, neckerchief, shirt, and batwing chaps strapped on over his dark, very president-like suit pants, then had his picture taken to show it all off.

Lyndon Johnson wore a Stetson and has often been photographed astride a horse in a suit and tie.  He ran a few cattle on his acreage, but was definitely more politician than rancher.

We all remember Ronald Reagan.  As a handsome actor with a disarming smile, he appeared on the big screen and television, landing notable western roles in Santa Fe Trail , Death Valley Days and Zane Gray Theater.    He owned a 688-acre ranch in California.

Yet of all of them, it was a born-and-bred New Yorker, a magna cum laude Harvard graduate and a Nobel Prize laureate that can truly and proudly claim he was more cowboy than any president before him–or after.

Can you guess who it is?

Theodore Roosevelt headed west for the first time in 1880 to partake in a hunting trip with his brother.  So enraptured with the bountiful game and the beauty of the wide-open lands, he returned several years later to hunt buffalo in Dakota Territory.  He got off the train wearing a Derby hat, a Brooks Brothers suit and thick eyeglasses.  His reputation for disdaining hard liquor, tobacco, and all but the mildest of cursing inspired much eye-rolling from the locals, but he soon endeared himself to them with his love for the open range.  He invested his fortune in cattle and in purchasing two ranches.

After a childhood fraught with sickness, he’d found an idyllic and robust life in the West and a rising political career in the East.  In 1884, while working in his Albany, NY, office, he received word his beloved wife had given birth to their daughter.  Shortly thereafter, however, he received another message–this one frantically urging him to return home.  His mother lay in the grips of typhoid fever and his wife’s kidneys had begun to fail.  Within hours of his return, both were dead.   

He struggled through his sorrow by journeying West to work his ranch, rope steers, and hunt.  He served a term as deputy sheriff in Billings County, Montana, and rode with a posse to hunt down criminals.  He earned his dream of military glory by pulling together a group of roughened riders from the West.  And as they say, the rest is history.

I could go on and on about this man.  How he created national parks and forests, wildlife refuges, bird sanctuaries and bison preserves.  How he was a prolific author (35 books).  How he was a big-game hunter and explorer.  How he’s credited with building the Panama Canal.

But in addition to all that, he had a pretty impressive lists of presidential firsts, too:

To ride in an airplane

To delve underwater in a submarine

To have a telephone in his home

To own a car

To invite an African-American to the White House (Booker T Washington)

To be awarded a Nobel Peace Prize

Yep.  He was one heck of a cowboy.  One heck of a president, too.  Ironically, he’d be 150 years old this month.

There was one more pretty darn famous thing about Teddy Roosevelt that I didn’t mention.   Can you guess what it is?

Who was your favorite president and why?

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Pam has written 30 romances, most of them historical westerns, but her newest releases are contemporary sweet romances featuring the Blackstone Ranch series published by Tule Publishing. Stay up on the latest at www.pamcrooks.com

23 thoughts on “A Cowboy for President!”

  1. Favorite President? Can’t name one as they all seem to promise the moon and not even deliver a star. As much as I LOVE America, I despise the political scene — all that negativity just hurts our country.

    JMHO of course 🙂


  2. Why, the teddy bear was named after him, of course!

    I remember reading a bio–I think it was titled simply T.R. way back when I was in junior high and escaping into the adult section of the library 🙂 He fascinated me then.

    As for a favorite president? I’m with Pam T. in that respect.

  3. Hi, Pam T!

    Not even one favorite president? Oh, my! Well, what gets me is the amount of MONEY these politicians spend to become president. It’s a crime. The money could be put to sooo much better use!

  4. Hey, *liz! You’re guessing the teddy bear was named after him? LOL. I’m not sure if you’re teasing me or if that’s a legitimate guess or if that’s even the truth! But it’s not the answer I was looking for. 🙂

    Stay dry today! It’s been raining buckets here in Omaha!

  5. What amazes me is if you look back to what our presidents said back in their day, how much of it is coming true today. They said banks will be one of our greatest down falls and now look at who has all of USA’s gold: The Federal Reserve and it isn’t even government own. A group of bankers took the gold and gave us paper. The Ex-presidents saw it coming there are quotes of them saying not to use banks and how bad it would be if you do. It just amazes me. I bet if our forefathers could come back they would be extremely pissed at what our political people have done to the country.

  6. Hi Pam and Good morning!
    Walk Softly and Carry a Big Stick – Wasn’t that Teddy R? I really love this man. I have his book called “Ranch Life and the Hunting Trail.”
    It’s a great research book. So we can add great author to his list of accomplishments.

  7. I would have guessed Teddy Bear, too. I do think the teddy bear is named after Teddy Roosevelt.

    But didn’t he start the national park system? Didn’t he set aside Yellowstone and other extraordinary places?
    I’ll guess that for his accomplishment.

    And what about San Juan Hill. Wasn’t that about Teddy Roosevelt…fighting in a war? That’s pretty brave. Was he as rich and connected then as Franklin was later? Where’d the Roosevelt money come from anyway.

    I know, I could go research. Maybe I just will!!!
    Interesting post, Pam. I didn’t know much of this stuff. He rode on posses and served as a sheriff? That’s fascinating. Makes me want to study more about Roosevelt.

    As for favorite president…I guess I’d say Reagan, at least favorite in my lifetime. Whether you agree with him or not, he did seem to try and govern in accordance with the promises he made. I don’t believe much I hear on the campaign trail. They say whatever they think will win them votes, then go right ahead and do whatever they want.
    They’d so busy being perfect on the surface then they have no substance once they’re in office. Or if they do have substance, it’s not the substance they promised. And I apply that to all political parties.
    I did read a book once, written by Abraham Lincoln and it was almost startlingly smart and funny. He is so linked to the Civil War and his humble roots and his assassination that we’ve lost the real man, the man who was smart enough and hard working enough and ambitious enough to rise to be president.
    I read an essay he wrote about proposing to a women who turned him down that is just pure laugh out loud hilarious. He really was a talented writer and a great humorist. We remember the Gettysburg Address but not all the other things he wrote.

  8. Hey, Charlene! Yes, Teddy did say “Walk Softly and Carry a Big Stick.” I wonder if he knew how famous that quote would be one day?

    We most certainly can add great author to his list. He was prolific–having written 35 books. How did he ever find the time?!?

  9. Good morning, Mary! Yes, he created the national park system, and altho he was an avid hunter, he was an avid conservationist, too. Almost an oxymoron. He’s credited with creating forests, bird sanctuaries, wildlife refuges and bison preserves. What a guy!

    And no, that’s not the guess I was looking for. 🙂

    I loved Ronald Reagan, too. He seemed genuine to me, and Nancy’s devotion to him to the end was remarkable.

    We went to see the Lincoln’s burial place in Illinois. There were signs posted to keep silent out of respect, and people honored it. The whole visit was very memorable.

    Thanks for stopping by–and stay dry!

  10. What a great blog, Pam! TR was amazing. And I will back Lizzie’s story about the Teddy Bear. It was actually named after a bear cub whose life Teddy spared, but the association is there. (Didn’t check this but it’s something I’m pretty sure of).
    My darling son-in-law is a Theodore/Teddy, too!
    But my real favorite president has to be Abraham Lincoln. Such a sad, complex and utterly brilliant man!

  11. Well, Elizabeth, you’ve made a believer out of me. The teddy bear was indeed named after TR. And here I thought *lizzie was teasing me. LOL! But then, I know that girl. It’s something she would do. 🙂

    Abraham Lincoln is a wise choice for a favorite prez.

  12. Additional facts about Teddy Roosevelt:
    1. The youngest President elected
    2. Ensured the construction of the Panama Canal
    3. Ran for President a second time as candidate
    for the Bull Moose Party.
    4. Was shot in the chest during that campaign
    but recovered.

    Favorite President: was John Kennedy until I read
    more about him! That was when I was still voted
    as a party member! No longer!!

    Pat Cochran

  13. Good morning, Pam. What a great post.

    I’m in the same boat as Pat re: JFK. But he was a big part of my childhood so I guess I’ll always have to like him. I always admired his wife; she endured so much. We visited his library in Boston and it was like a hobble down the memory lane of my chidhood.

    Somehow avid hunting and conservation seems oxymoronic to me…but I do love our national parks.

    I keep seeing Robin Williams at TR in The Night at the Museum…

    And I too always thought the teddy bear was named for TR.

    Thanks for this insightful look at TR, Pam!

  14. Now Pam,
    I’d never tease about something so important as a teddy bear! 🙂 There was a political cartoon of the day that showed Teddy with the bear cub. Oh, probably more than one, but I’ve got one image in my head.

    Tanya, Robin Williams as TR was great!

    Okay, Pam… how about a Teddy Roosevelt Terrier? It’s a rat terrier–short legged–named after him since he was supposed to have owned one of the breed. 😉

  15. Hi, Pat! John Kennedy certainly seemed to live the life of Camelot when we knew him, didn’t he? But I must admit to a certain tarnishing of his halo as I learned of his dalliances–if they were true.

    I thought Caroline and John-John were so CUTE! I just couldn’t read enough about them, and I had a whole collection of Jackie magazines and pictures.

  16. Tanya, yes, Jackie had some hard times as First Lady. Wasn’t she just so beautiful? I put her on such a pedestal – and then she went and married that old homely coot. What could she have seen in him? Was it only his money?

    sigh . . .

  17. Hi Pam! Great post! I now know why T.R. was so beloved. I heard about the teddy bear, too. Forgot about Walk softly…

    JFK was pretty intriguing. When we had the conference in Dallas, I visited the museum from where he was shot, and saw the X marked on the road. So sad, but all the little details are sooo interesting.

    Thanks for the extra knowledge!

  18. Favorite president? Well, you probably don’t know these ones, as they are Finnish:
    Martti Ahtisaari -he was just awarded a Nobel Peace Prize
    Urho Kekkonen -he was our president for a long time. He was no saint, either, but he was probably the best choise in time when our dear neighbour was called Soviet Union.
    Risto Ryti -he probably knew that some of his decisions would get him in trouble after the war, but he did what he had to, anyway.

  19. Kate, I swear – you have been everywhere! You are quite the traveler! LOL.

    Minna – thank you for sharing with us information on presidents in your part of the world. What an interesting perspective!

  20. Hi Pam

    Teddy Roosevelt was a col. for the Rough Riders and I remember reading somewhere that he was a big reading, I think he read close to a book a day.

    My favorite president was Jackson, he just seemed to be a powerful force and he did love is Rachel.

  21. Roosevelt is known for saving our natural ecosystems! He protected areas that became National Parks so that they could continued to be protected!

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