Forging a President: How the Wild West Created Teddy Roosevelt, by William Hazelgrove ISBN 978-1-62157-4767
Five out of five stars
A very sickly, asthmatic child, many people believed that Theodore Roosevelt would never live to adulthood. Growing up in a time when there was little in the way of treatments for his respiratory ailments, his father would hitch up a buggy, drive the team as fast as possible and have young Theodore put his head into the wind so that air would be forced into his lungs.
Yet, survive to adulthood he did, only to have his wife and mother die within a few hours of each other. A semi-broken man, he handed his daughter over to a relative and left political life for the last vestiges of the frontier in what was then the Dakota Territory. It was indeed a wild time with no law other than what one could make for themselves, an environment where only the strong survived.
In many ways harboring what we would now describe as a “death wish,” Roosevelt went out there and literally faced down murderous men and Native Americans, operated outdoors in the most horrific of weather conditions and was a true cowboy, working on and owning a cattle ranch. Often mistaken for a soft gentleman from the east due to his looks and educated speech, Roosevelt never hesitated to stand his ground. There were many times when he could easily have become just another largely anonymous death in the savage land of the Dakotas in the 1880’s.
This book is a great adventure tale of the actions of Theodore Roosevelt during this period of his life. So much of the western genre of entertainment is exaggerated for effect, in this case, it all really happened. Wild rides during a stampede, getting down off his horse and taking aim at one of the members of a band of Native Americans in a time when both sides hunted down and killed members of the other, acting as a lawman in tracking down thieves, punching out a man threatening him and enduring desert heat and Arctic cold. Properly done, it would be a great movie.
In terms of overall activity, Theodore Roosevelt was the most accomplished president of the United States. He was a soldier on the ground in war, personally hearing the bullets flying about him, he served in many different political offices. His achievements as president are significant, he created the national conservation movement and was the author of 47 books covering a wide range of topics.
This is the story of how this extraordinary man barely escaped death many times and was turned into the man with the grit to become an effective president from a man that openly expressed his desire to die.