New book chronicles Theodore Roosevelt’s relationship with the West
May 14, 2018
A new book, “The Cowboy President: The American West and the Making of Theodore Roosevelt,” by Michael Blake describes the adventures of the future president as he journeyed west, and how these experiences shaped his political views.
Blake began his writing by visiting the Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota more than a few times to ride the areas that Roosevelt himself rode. He wanted to be able to describe the west in the most accurate detail.
Roosevelt’s first taste of the landscape was during a buffalo hunting trip in the Dakotas in September 1883. The following year, after his mother and wife both passed away on the same day, Roosevelt returned to North Dakota. Blake says he gave up his political career for some time to go west to grieve.
As a child, Roosevelt had terrible asthma, he was near-sighted and he had what today we call Crohn’s disease. The advice his father gave him was to build his body up the way he built up his mind, Blake says. He did just that, fighting through his illnesses to swim, box, hike, ride and more. He was involved in two stampedes while his was in the Dakotas, but it wasn’t easy trying to prove to the locals that he wasn’t another “dude from New York” in Blake’s words.
Roosevelt’s love for hunting and the great outdoors helped to shape his priorities when he became president. He became known as the conservation president because, Blake says, he understood that the land in America wasn’t endless, and neither were its animals.
“By the end of his presidency, over 230 million acres had been set aside for the American public to enjoy,” Blake says. “When he first saw the Grand Canyon in 1903, it was wide open. Anyone could have it. He made it a national monument, then seven weeks after his death it became a national park.”
Roosevelt is responsible for 18 national monuments, eight national parks and 51 national bird sanctuaries.
Blake’s book was released on March 1 of this year and is now available in stores and online. For more information on Blake and “The Cowboy President” visit michaelfblake.com.