The Wilderness Warrior

I recently fin­ished read­ing Theodore Roosevelt’s biog­ra­phy, The Wilder­ness War­rior writ­ten by Dou­glas Brink­ley. The book is focused on the con­ser­va­tion cru­sade that Roo­sevelt embarked on to save mil­lions of acres through­out the United States from log­ging, min­ing and pri­vate hold­ings. I had no idea the scope of the man­dates Roo­sevelt handed down over his two terms. Many of the national forests and parks were set aside with exec­u­tive orders dur­ing Roosevelt’s tenure. He strongly held that a life lived out­doors in the wilder­ness was the way to hap­pi­ness. He called it the stren­u­ous life and he was deter­mined to pro­vide places that future gen­er­a­tions of Amer­i­cans could lead lead that life among Nature’s beauty. I was struck through­out the book by TR’s under­stand­ing of the nat­ural world.

He was a mas­ter orinthol­o­gist before he went to col­lege at Har­vard, able to rec­og­nize hun­dreds of birds not only by sight but also by the songs and sounds they made. He wrote papers on wolves and elk. Roo­sevelt essen­tially was the father of con­ser­va­tion in Amer­ica from a polit­i­cal stand­point (there were many nat­u­ral­ists at the time like Bur­roughs or Muir but they were hardly in the posi­tion to imple­ment change that TR was). He was also the first Pres­i­dent to use the Exec­u­tive Order as a pol­icy means, imple­ment­ing hun­dreds of fed­eral bird reserves, national parks and national mon­u­ments with­out ever hav­ing to deal with Con­gres­sional approval. The next time you hear some polit­i­cal wag com­plain­ing about Obama’s or Bush’s usage of the Exec­u­tive Order to imple­ment pol­icy, remem­ber that TR used the EO a stag­ger­ing 1081 times, a full 864 more times than the record at that time, Ulysses Grant (217).

Exist­ing in a time before a 24 hour news cycle, TR was able to imple­ment pol­icy he deemed impor­tant and that pol­icy was largely focused on set­ting aside mil­lions of acres of for­est through­out the west­ern states of Cal­i­for­nia, Col­orado, Wyoming, Mon­tana and Utah. On one day in 1908 (July 1st), he cre­ated 45 national forests just by sign­ing his name with a pen. Of course it was a dif­fer­ent time and place but today, even the slight­est pol­icy change effected by EO is railed against by the oppos­ing party as if it were a per­sonal attack. In an envi­ron­ment of increas­ing polit­i­cal divi­sive­ness, I’m sur­prised Pres­i­dents, espe­cially out­go­ing ones, don’t use the EO more to imple­ment policy.

Roosevelt’s idea of the stren­u­ous life is another idea miss­ing from our world today. So lit­tle of what we do could be con­sid­ered stren­u­ous and this was one of TR’s great­est fears. He saw the increased urban­iza­tion of Amer­ica as a scourge to fight against at all costs. Today in our world of ease and com­fort, there is lit­tle that is stren­u­ous. Man­ual labor, even skilled man­ual labor, is dis­cour­aged across all spec­trums which Matthew Craw­ford wrote about in Shop Class as Soul­craft, another book I recently read. We choose leisurely careers, at least from a phys­i­cal view­point, and we spend our leisure time doing mostly leisurely activ­i­ties (says the guy writ­ing a blog post on a com­puter). Roo­sevelt advo­cated the oppo­site, leisure time spent in the wilder­ness hunt­ing, camp­ing, ranch­ing or bird­ing. He reg­u­larly went on expe­di­tions through the woods that were dif­fi­cult. In fact, he seemed to grow hap­pier dur­ing times of dif­fi­culty like hik­ing moun­tains dur­ing a snow storm or hunt­ing bears in Louisiana.

The book is long, per­haps too long at 800 odd pages, but it’s eye open­ing for some­one like me who long ago for­got the power of our 26th Pres­i­dent. It’s also an excel­lent reminder of a time when a strong per­son­al­ity in the Pres­i­den­tial office resulted in sweep­ing changes that affected gen­er­a­tions for years. TR’s empha­sis on con­ser­va­tion changed both the phys­i­cal and polit­i­cal land­scape of Amer­ica. As I go through the Texas Mas­ter Nat­u­ral­ist pro­gram, I see the effects of his poli­cies even today with the focus on con­ser­va­tion of range­lands and prairies in Texas. I hope to con­tinue liv­ing a stren­u­ous life in honor of Theodore Roosevelt.

On Naming A Cat

With def­er­ence to Eliot And that Mis­ter Mistof­felees Can you choose to name your cat A sobri­quet like Socrates? Or maybe since there is a cat Already in the house who’s named Vin­cent, you fig­ure surely that Picasso for the newly tamed. His eyes are blue like oceans bay So you could call him Frankie, […]

On A Longer Fast

As I men­tioned in my Lenten 2015 post, I kicked things off with a 48 hour fast, my longest one yet. I had pre­vi­ously done a 24 and a 36 hour fast but most of the stud­ies out there point to the min­i­mum nec­es­sary as 48 hours (and the stem cell regen­er­a­tion stuff is saying […]

Lent 2015

I don’t have a lot of tra­di­tions but Lent seems to be a con­sis­tent one that I uphold. For me it’s a jour­ney of both sac­ri­fice and growth. I give some­thing up to expe­ri­ence the sac­ri­fice inher­ent to the orig­i­nal Lent and I try to find some­thing cre­ative to do each day as a way […]

On Exporting Deflation

Return­ing to our char­ac­ters of a few weeks ago, we remem­ber that Bob and his coun­try had increased the sup­ply of waf­fles thus mak­ing the export of Bob’s organic grass-fed but­ter cheaper. This hap­pens because other coun­tries like Nigel’s can now get more waf­fles on the pas­try cur­rency mar­ket and can buy more of Bob’s […]

What I’ve Been Reading

Part of my morn­ing com­mute usu­ally involves catch­ing up on Twit­ter and most recently the finan­cial infor­ma­tion com­ing out of Zero Hedge along with a cou­ple of other sources from Maudlin Eco­nom­ics. Many of these arti­cles prob­a­bly don’t war­rant a full blog post but I thought I might start aggre­gat­ing them on Sun­day morn­ings with […]

On Maintenance And Repair

When I was a kid, not so many years ago geo­log­i­cally speak­ing, I found a .22 rifle in the barn at my grand­par­ents farm. It didn’t really work and it was hard for me to ascer­tain exactly why given my rudi­men­tary gun­smith skills as a 13 year old. But I didn’t have a .22 rifle […]

On Defining Goals

I recently read an arti­cle in Gar­den & Gun (an excel­lent mag­a­zine if you love the cul­ture of the South) on three women who returned to their fam­ily farm to make a liv­ing off what they could grow and cre­ate from their own labors. One of the women was a musi­cian who had strug­gled through […]

On Understanding Currency Wars

Imag­ine if you will the fol­low­ing sce­nario: Nigel lives in the Land of Peo­ple with Below Aver­age Den­tal Hygiene (LOPWBADH). Bob lives in a neigh­bor­ing coun­try, the Land of Guns and Large Bor­der Fences (LOGALBF). Both Nigel and Bob own dairies. Nigel makes excep­tion­ally good clot­ted cream in his dairy while Bob makes organic grass […]

Easy Summer Breakfast

It’s the height of tomato sea­son around here and we’re over­whelmed with toma­toes. I may or may not have over­planted this year but I just picked a pound of yel­low pear toma­toes and there are more on the vines. With that kind of pro­duc­tion, you have to find inter­est­ing ways to eat more toma­toes. I […]