What made the man who quit his job as Assistant Secretary of War to round up a rowdy group of misfits and lead them to the front lines of battle? Let us tell you a little story about Theodore Roosevelt.
In the 1880s, a twenty-something-year-old Teddy rushed home one day to find both his wife and his mother dying at the very same time. He held each woman’s hand until she passed. In the weeks afterward, the shock of his loss drove him to leave his new baby daughter with relatives and seek refuge for his shattered heart in the dying remains of the Wild West in the Dakotas, also called…the Badlands.
Teddy bought a cattle ranch. Because why not?
At first, the lawless inhabitants looked Teddy up and down and snickered. They saw a soft, skinny, little city-slicker with great big glasses, and it made everybody wanna try him. All anybody really owned back then were their guts, grit, and word; slowly but surely, Roosevelt showed the rough characters of the West that he had all three.
Here’s a quick list of Teddy’s best moments in the Badlands:
Knocked one hefty fellow out cold in just two swings for calling him ‘Four-Eyes’ and trying to force him to buy a round for the jeering crowd at the bar where he’d just sat down. He did warn the guy.
Found out a plot to kill him for his land, and then confronted the man who was hired to kill him with a gun leveled at him, saying something along the lines of If killing is what’s gonna happen, best get it started with.
In response to his boat being stolen by some local criminals, Teddy became a vigilante sheriff when he built a little raft, chased the thieves down, and forced them at gunpoint to turn themselves into jail. He did this all in the dead of winter, and it took him weeks to get them all the way there, during which he stayed awake the entire time to keep an eye on them!
During this time in the Badlands, it wasn’t just the people who were intent on hurting Teddy, it was the terrain, too. Not once, but TWICE Teddy took a tumble down a mountainside! Once on foot, once on a horse. He walked both instances off, like some super human, a walking wonder.
Teddy eventually left the Badlands after a winter known as the Blue Snow wiped out his cattle in one fell swoop. By that time he’d been a rancher for years. He was tanned, muscled, and handle-bar-mustached and that was the Teddy who wouldn’t sit in an office when his country went to war. He once called his time in the Dakotas, ‘the happiest chapter of my life.’ About the Battle of San Juan Hill, when he led his Rough Riders to victory and effectively ended the Spanish-American War, he called it ‘the great day of my life.’
Teddy became a war hero because of his Rough Riders: he earned fame and notoriety and was placed on the path toward the Vice Presidency. But the Rough Riders were the product of the Teddy forged in the sweat and blood he laid down in the Badlands. He did the work of developing himself much farther in advance than any of his greatness came. If you’re struggling with finding yourself, you could always do it Teddy’s way…put in the time and work now, let greatness come to the person who deserves it. You, that is, just…the you who worked for it.
Or you could buy a cattle ranch.
Teddy’s Great Quotes:
- “Honesty first; then courage; then brains–all are indispensable.”
- “It is hard to fail, but it is worse never to have tried to succeed.”
- “Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far.”
- “You can't choose your potential, but you can choose to fulfill it.”