Theodore (Teddy) Roosevelt arrived by train in the Badlands of Dakota Territory on Sept. 8, 1883, six years before the official establishment of the state of North Dakota, in 1889. He arrived from the East Coast one month prior to his 25th birthday.

Roosevelt fell in love with the badlands west of Bismarck, near Medora and in the Little Missouri River Valley. He invested in two ranches, the Maltese Cross 7 miles south of the Northern Pacific railroad tracks, and the Elkhorn, 35 miles to the north.

It was almost 20 years later, on April 7, 1903, when the 44-year-old Roosevelt returned to Medora and made a train stop as president of the United States. That year he visited several western states during the months of April and May.

Roosevelt was deeply touched when most of the people living in Medora gathered to greet him. His stay was less than an hour, due to a busy multistate schedule.

Roosevelt, however, was able to return to Medora after he left the presidency and spent much more time in western North Dakota.

Teddy’s children ran wild in the White House

Theodore Roosevelt had six children, one of who he fathered with his first wife, Alice, who died two days after the birth of their daughter. Roosevelt had five children with his second wife, Edith.

When he became president, in 1901, the six children ranged in age from three to 17.

“They sashed across the wooden White House floors on roller skates,” wrote presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin in her book about Roosevelt titled “The Bully Pulpit.”

Added Goodwin, “The Roosevelt kids walked upstairs on stilts, hid reptiles in sofa cushions, waded through the fountains on the landscaped grounds and coaxed their pony to ride the elevator to the second-floor bedroom when seven-year-old Archie was sick.”

One visitor to the White House said it best, “This place is alive with howls and laughter. The Roosevelt family has done more to brighten and cheer the White House than a whole army of decorators.”

Roosevelt spoke to members of the general public, touring the White House, each day between noon and 1 p.m.

“People were eager to see the most colorful president in their memory,” wrote Goodwin. “He gave each person a dazzling smile and a warm handshake.”

President Roosevelt, later each afternoon, hiked at Rock Creek Park, north of the White House.

“Roosevelt brought visitors and friends along,” Goodwin wrote. “Teddy had one simple rule: If a creek got in the way, you forded it. If there was a rock, you scaled it.”

Added Goodwin, “Journalists delighted in portraying these late afternoon rambles.”

Each evening for dinner in the family quarters at the White House, Roosevelt again became husband and father. He talked over the day’s events and engaged Edith and the children in lively conversation.

Ike and Harmon bonded in 1959

As a kid 60 years ago, in 1959, one of my favorite players was a young Washington Senators slugger named Harmon Killebrew. That year he hit 42 home runs to lead the American League.

During a TV interview a few years ago Harmon said that during one game at Griffith Stadium President Dwight Eisenhower asked him if he would sign a baseball.

Harmon replied, “Sure, Mr. President. But I’d also request that you sign something for me.”

Ike’s reply: “It would be my pleasure, Harmon.”

Killebrew and his teammates became the Minnesota Twins in 1961. A new expansion team was established in the nation’s capital.

In 1959 the Fergus Falls Red Sox did not field a team. Two Fergus players, Dave Wilde and Milt Hysjulien, played for Underwood that summer.

Roland Harlow, Roger Sinner and George Sawyer opted to play for Dalton in the summer of 1959.

That year the Western Star League all-star game was played in Ashby, in front of more than 1,600 fans. Hysjulien and Sawyer homered in the game.

Tom Hintgen is a longtime Daily Journal columnist. His column appears Saturdays.


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