Bully!

Today’s post comes from Renee in North Dakota.

North Dakota doesn’t have a native son who became president. I think the only president who ever lived in North Dakota was Teddy Roosevelt.  We have clasped him to our collective bosom, however, and his only presidential library is due to be built about 4 blocks from my house, on the former rodeo grounds at our local college.  The Theodore Roosevelt Center At Dickinson State University website tells us:

“Theodore Roosevelt established two ranches in the badlands of western North Dakota: one called the Maltese Cross seven miles south of the Northern Pacific Railroad (1883) and the other called the Elkhorn, 35 miles north of the village of Medora, North Dakota (1884). Roosevelt never owned a single acre in North Dakota. Like most other ranchers in the badlands, he was a squatter on lands that still belonged to the public domain or the NP Railroad. The Maltese Cross (Chimney Butte) Ranch had already been named by the time he invested in it. He named his second ranch the Elkhorn after he found the horns of two male elk interlocked at the site. The elk had been butting heads in a struggle for primacy when their horns became locked. Unable to extricate themselves, the elk died of starvation. This appealed to Roosevelt, who regarded life as a Darwinian struggle.”

“At the Elkhorn Roosevelt ranched and played cowboy, went on long solo horseback rides, often for many days at a time, and hunted for elk, mule deer, white tail deer, and other quadrupeds. He also grieved for his mother and his first wife Alice, who died together in New York City on Valentine’s Day 1884. In fact, at the Elkhorn TR wrote the only tribute he would ever pen for Alice, who died two days after giving birth to Roosevelt’s first child Alice. He also wrote parts of two of his 35-plus books at the Elkhorn.”

The plan is to rebuild the Elkhorn Ranch house next to the library. For that purpose, large cottonwood logs have been collected from the area, and local ranchers are encouraged to donate logs to rebuild the 60 x 30 foot cabin. A builder from South Dakota has been hired to build the cabin by hand using only tools that were available to Roosevelt’s builders. You can see some of the logs that have already been hauled to the grounds.

It will be quite a job, and I look forward to seeing progress on the cabin when I drive to work each day. The Legislature set aside many millions of dollars to build the library, as long as the TR Center could raise 3 million more. They have a ways to go, but are optimistic that the library and the cabin will both get finished.

If you could design a presidential library for any president, what would you do?

42 thoughts on “Bully!”

  1. Rise and Shine Baboons!

    Having discovered that I am related to that assassinated President James Garfield, not once, but twice (both parents are descended from the same puritan guy that is also his descendent–Edward or Edwin Garfield) I choose him.

    Because he was shot early in his presidency, then languished for 9 more months on his deathbed, he had little time for reading and writing. Short and sweet. No overwhelmingly rich sources of letters and scholarly tomes are there.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. If you have not, you should look into Candice Millard’s “Destiny of the Republic”. It presents an impressively qualified Garfield who, because of the assault, never was able to realize his potential as President.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I have browsed this, and I know it is out there. Given my last year when I had little time to do anything, this one went on the someday list. I will resurrect it! Thanks

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  2. I have a soft spot for Jimmy Carter (no not because we share the name) but because I think he truly tried to live as honestly as possible for his time and for that he got a lot of scorn and grief. I also admire his commitment to Habitat for Humanity. So a simple building (although large, he’s very well-read) surrounded by orchards of peach trees and a field of peanuts, open to the public year-round, with no admission fee of any kind. Sweet tea and biscuits available in the main library.

    Liked by 5 people

  3. Millard Fillmore. Since widely claimed as the worst of the bunch, an outhouse.
    I have seen five of them, only from the outside. Not impressive architecture. If Gerald Ford deserves the building he has, then TR deserves one big whopping cabin.

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  4. Since Wes already grabbed the low fruit, I’ll make an unconventional choice here. I want a library built to honor Chester A. Arthur. He’s the guy who became president because James Garfield, a noble reformer struggling to correct the sins of the Gilded Age, was assassinated.

    Arthur was running for VP because he was the right-hand man for the dirtiest politician in America, Roscoe Conkling. National politics in those days was all about the winner of the presidency distributing spoils to his supporters. That’s what Garfield meant to reform by instituting a Civil Service program that would be run on merit.

    The days Garfield lingered on the edge of death were horrible for him and the country. Rumors flew. One conspiracy theory held that Arthur was behind the assassination, for he was the one who stood to benefit.

    Then something amazing happened. There was an obscure woman named Julia Sand. She wrote a letter to Arthur, which was surprising. He read it, which is more unlikely. In it she threw out a passionate challenge to the most corrupt politician in the most corrupt political machine in the country. Julia Sand challenged Arthur to come into office as a reformer, passing the legislation Garfield hoped to pass. The miracle? Arthur was so shaken by her letter that he did just that. The man chosen to be Veep because he was a toady for the greediest man of the Gilded Age became a lion for reform. He was successful, too, at reform (much like LBJ was successful at promoting reform after JFK was killed).

    So here’s a toast to Chester Arthur. As a writer, I’m moved by the story of a corrupt man who was saved because of a letter. As a writer, I like to think salvation can be triggered by letters. And while I’m at it, I’ll toast the shy little woman who wrote the letter. Arthur visited her once, unexpectedly. Julia was so shocked she hid behind a big drape while talking to him.

    Liked by 3 people

        1. Here’s a tangent. In about 1960, on a family trip to the Black Hills, we met an old cowboy named Dakota Clyde Jones. He had been a rodeo champion and had trained a pair of bison he rode as bucking buffalos. When Coolidge came to South Dakota for an extended visit in 1927, Jones taught him how to ride. Clyde Jones had a pair of gold-plated six guns that Coolidge had given him in gratitude. Dakota Clyde Jones let me wear them for about 5 minutes.
          So I guess I’m only two degrees separated from Calvin Coolidge.

          Liked by 2 people

      1. The interesting part about this is that the descendants of Harding were the ones who wanted to do the right thing and acknowledge the “other side” of the family. They pushed for the DNA testing that proved that Nan Briton’s (sp?) child was indeed fathered by Harding.

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  5. I admit to not knowing a lot about Theodore Roosevelt. I know he was responsible for founding (initiating?) the National Park System and I honor him for that. But my off-the-cuff impression of Roosevelt throughout his life was that he was obsessed with demonstrating his manliness, regardless of the costs and the peril to others, human and animal alike. It just never seemed to be a settled issue with him, which, in the big picture points to a lifelong unquenchable insecurity about his masculinity. Maybe the modern equivalent of the giant log cabin should be alibrary in the shape of a giant supercrew 4×4 pickup truck.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. He was a sickly child with what was probably asthma – his father pushed him in exercise and physical pursuits to try to build him up. Guess that started him on the manly/macho path.

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        1. Agreed. I know he said lots of things besides the big stick comment, but boy that’s the one that sticks in my head.

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  6. All interesting comments. I hope to visit that TR library in the future when I go to see my daughter and her family out there in Dickinson provided they are able to survive this anti-oil agenda in North Dakota. We South Dakotans are watching you with great interest at this time. Loved the post and the comments.

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