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Burroughs's memoir of TR & Pine Knot

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  • Edward J. Renehan Jr.
    Here is the naturalist John Burroughs s memoir of his trip to Pine Knot with TR in May of 1908. The piece was written more than a decade later, shortly after
    Message 1 of 3 , Mar 7 12:20 PM
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      Here is the naturalist John Burroughs's memoir of his
      trip to Pine Knot with TR in May of 1908. The piece
      was written more than a decade later, shortly after
      TR's death in 1919.

      Burroughs and TR had been friends since the 1880s, and
      Burroughs accompanied TR on a presidential trip to
      Yellowstone Park in April 1903 (subsequently written
      up in Burroughs's short book CAMPING & TRAMPING WITH
      ROOSEVELT -- 1907.) TR dedicated OUTDOOR PASTIMES OF
      AN AMERICAN HUNTER to Burroughs in 1903.

      All best, --- Ed Renehan
      ejren@...
      http://renehan.net

      ****************

      IT was in May during the last term of his Presidency
      that Roosevelt asked me to go with him down to Pine
      Knot, Virginia, to help him name his birds. I stayed
      with him at the White house the night before we
      started. I remember that at dinner there was an
      officer from the British army stationed in India, and
      the talk naturally turned on Indian affairs. I did not
      take part in it because I knew nothing about India,
      but Roosevelt was so conversant with Indian affairs
      and Indian history that you would think he had just
      been cramming on it, which I knew very well he had
      not. But that British officer was put on his mettle to
      hold his own. In fact, Roosevelt knew more about India
      and England's relation to it than the officer seemed
      to know. It was amazing to see the thoroughness of his
      knowledge about India.

      The next morning we started off for Virginia, taking
      an early train.

      Pine Knot is about one hundred miles from Washington.
      I think we left the train at Charlottesville,
      Virginia, and drove about ten miles to Pine Knot; the
      house is a big barnlike structure on the edge of the
      woods, a mile from the nearest farmhouse.

      Before we reached there we got out of the wagon and
      walked, as there were a good many warblers in the
      trees ____ the spring migration was on. It was pretty
      warm; I took off my overcoat and the President
      insisted on carrying it. We identified several
      warblers there, among them the black-poll, the
      black-throated blue, and Wilson's black-cap. He knew
      them in the trees overhead as quickly as I did.

      We reached Pine Knot late in the afternoon, but as he
      was eager for a walk we started off, he leading, as if
      walking for a wager. We went through fields and woods
      and briers and marshy places for a mile or more, when
      we stopped and mopped our brows and turned homeward
      without having seen many birds.

      Mrs. Roosevelt took him to task, I think, when she saw
      the heated condition in which we returned, for not
      long afterwards he came to me and said:

      "Oom John, that was no way to go after birds; we were
      in too much of a hurry." I replied, "No, Mr.
      President, that isn't the way I usually go a-birding."
      His thirst for the wild and the woods, and his joy at
      returning to these after his winter in the White
      House, had evidently urged him on. He added, "We will
      try a different plan to-morrow."

      So on the morrow we took a leisurely drive along the
      highways. Very soon we heard a wren which was new to
      me. "That's Bewick's wren," he said. We got out and
      watched it as it darted in and out of the fence and
      sang.

      I asked him if he knew whether the little gray
      gnatcatcher was to be seen there. I had not seen or
      heard it for thirty years. "Yes," he replied, "I saw
      it the last time I was here, over by a spring run."

      We walked over to some plum-trees where there had been
      a house at one time. No sooner had we reached the spot
      than he cried, "There it is now!" And sure enough,
      there it was in full song ____ a little bird the shape
      of a tiny catbird, with a very fine musical strain.

      As we were walking in a field we saw some birds that
      were new to me. Roosevelt also was puzzled to know
      what they were till we went among them and stirred
      them up, discovering that they were females of the
      blue grosbeak, with some sparrows which we did not
      identify.

      In the course of that walk he showed me a place where
      he had seen what he had thought at the time to be a
      flock of wild pigeons. He described how they flew, the
      swoop of their movements, and the tree where they
      alighted. I was skeptical, for it had long been
      thought that wild pigeons were extinct, but that fact
      had not impressed itself upon his mind. He said if he
      had known there could be any doubt about it, he would
      have observed them more closely. I was sorry that he
      had not, as it was one of the points on which I wanted
      indisputable evidence. We talked with the colored
      coachman about the birds, as he also had seen them.
      His description agreed with Roosevelt's, and he had
      seen wild pigeons in his youth; still I had my doubts.
      Subsequently Roosevelt wrote me that he had come to
      the conclusion that they had been mistaken about their
      being pigeons.

      One day while there, as we were walking through an old
      weedy field, I chanced to spy, out of the corner of my
      eye, a nighthawk sitting on the ground only three or
      four yards away. I called Roosevelt's attention to it
      and said, "Now, Mr. President, I think with care you
      can drop your hat over that bird." So he took off his
      sombrero and crept up on the bird, and was almost in a
      position to let his hat drop over it when the bird
      flew to a near tree, alighting lengthwise on the
      branch as this bird always does. Roosevelt approached
      it again cautiously and almost succeeded in putting
      his hand upon it; the bird flew just in time to save
      itself from his hand.

      One Sunday after church he took me to a field where he
      had recently seen and heard Lincoln's sparrow. We
      loitered there, reclining upon the dry grass for an
      hour or more, waiting for the sparrow, but it did not
      appear.

      During my visit there we named over seventyfive
      species of birds and fowl, he knowing all of them but
      two, and I knowing all but two. He taught me Bewick's
      wren and the prairie warbler, and I taught him the
      swamp sparrow and one of the rarer warblers; I think
      it was the pine warbler. If he had found the Lincoln
      sparrow again, he would have been one ahead of me.

      I remember talking politics a little with him while we
      were waiting for the birds, and, knowing that he was
      expecting Taft to be his successor, I expressed my
      doubts as to Taft's being able to fill his shoes.

      "Oh, yes, he can," he said confidently; "you don't
      know him as well as I do."

      "Of course not," I admitted; "but my feeling is that,
      though Taft is an able and amiable man, he is not a
      born leader."

      (I am glad to say that Mr. Taft's recent course in
      support of the proposed League of Nations has quite
      brought me around to Roosevelt's estimate of him.)

      Pine Knot is a secluded place in the woods. One
      evening as we sat in the lamplight, he reading Lord
      Cromer on Egypt, and I a book on the maneating lions
      of Tsavo, and Mrs. Roosevelt sit-ting near with her
      needlework, suddenly Roosevelt's hand came down on the
      table with such a bang that it made us both jump, and
      Mrs. Roosevelt exclaimed in a slightly nettled tone,
      "Why, my dear, what is the matter?"

      He had killed a mosquito with a blow that would almost
      have demolished an African lion.

      It occurred to me later that evening how risky it was
      for the President of the United States to be so
      unprotected ____ without a guard of any kind ____ in
      that out-of-the-way place, and I expressed something
      of this to him, suggesting that some one might
      "kidnap" him.

      "Oh," he answered, clapping his hand on his hip
      pocket, "I go armed, and they would have to be mighty
      quick to get the drop on me."

      Shortly after that, to stretch my legs a little and
      listen to the night sounds in the Virginia woods, I
      went out around the cabin and almost immediately heard
      some animal run heavily through the woods not far from
      the house. I thought perhaps it was a neighboring dog,
      but, on speaking of it to Mrs. Roosevelt, was told
      that two secret service men came every night at nine
      o'clock and stood on guard till morning, spending the
      day at a farmhouse in that vicinity. She did not let
      the President know of this because it would irritate
      him.

      The only flower we saw there which was new to me was
      the Indian pink. Roosevelt seemed to know the flowers
      as well as he did the birds. Pink moccasin-flowers and
      the bird's-foot violet were common in that locality.

      On our return trip, Roosevelt's secretary being on the
      train, Roosevelt threw himself into the dictation of
      many letters, the wrens and the warblers already
      sidetracked for the business of the Administration.

      I passed another night at the White House, and in the
      morning early we went out on the White House grounds
      to look for birds, our quest seeming to attract the
      puzzled attention of the passers-by.

      "They often stare at me as though they thought me
      crazy," he said, "when they see me gazing up into the
      trees."

      "Well, now they will think I am your keeper," I said.

      "Yes, and I your nurse," laughed Mrs. Roosevelt. When
      I left, Roosevelt gave me a list of the birds that we
      had seen while at Pine Knot and hoped that I would
      sometime write up the trip; in fact, for years after,
      whenever we would meet, almost the first thing he
      would say was, "Have you written up our Pine Knot trip
      yet, Oom John?" And his disappointment at my failure
      to do so was always unmistakable.

      ###


      =====
      EDWARD J. RENEHAN JR.
      ejren@...
      http://renehan.net

      __________________________________________________
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    • Edward J. Renehan Jr.
      Here is the naturalist John Burroughs s memoir of his trip to Pine Knot with TR in May of 1908. The piece was written more than a decade later, shortly after
      Message 2 of 3 , Mar 7 12:21 PM
      • 0 Attachment
        Here is the naturalist John Burroughs's memoir of his
        trip to Pine Knot with TR in May of 1908. The piece
        was written more than a decade later, shortly after
        TR's death in 1919.

        Burroughs and TR had been friends since the 1880s, and
        Burroughs accompanied TR on a presidential trip to
        Yellowstone Park in April 1903 (subsequently written
        up in Burroughs's short book CAMPING & TRAMPING WITH
        ROOSEVELT -- 1907.) TR dedicated OUTDOOR PASTIMES OF
        AN AMERICAN HUNTER to Burroughs in 1903.

        All best, --- Ed Renehan
        ejren@...
        http://renehan.net

        ****************

        IT was in May during the last term of his Presidency
        that Roosevelt asked me to go with him down to Pine
        Knot, Virginia, to help him name his birds. I stayed
        with him at the White house the night before we
        started. I remember that at dinner there was an
        officer from the British army stationed in India, and
        the talk naturally turned on Indian affairs. I did not
        take part in it because I knew nothing about India,
        but Roosevelt was so conversant with Indian affairs
        and Indian history that you would think he had just
        been cramming on it, which I knew very well he had
        not. But that British officer was put on his mettle to
        hold his own. In fact, Roosevelt knew more about India
        and England's relation to it than the officer seemed
        to know. It was amazing to see the thoroughness of his
        knowledge about India.

        The next morning we started off for Virginia, taking
        an early train.

        Pine Knot is about one hundred miles from Washington.
        I think we left the train at Charlottesville,
        Virginia, and drove about ten miles to Pine Knot; the
        house is a big barnlike structure on the edge of the
        woods, a mile from the nearest farmhouse.

        Before we reached there we got out of the wagon and
        walked, as there were a good many warblers in the
        trees ____ the spring migration was on. It was pretty
        warm; I took off my overcoat and the President
        insisted on carrying it. We identified several
        warblers there, among them the black-poll, the
        black-throated blue, and Wilson's black-cap. He knew
        them in the trees overhead as quickly as I did.

        We reached Pine Knot late in the afternoon, but as he
        was eager for a walk we started off, he leading, as if
        walking for a wager. We went through fields and woods
        and briers and marshy places for a mile or more, when
        we stopped and mopped our brows and turned homeward
        without having seen many birds.

        Mrs. Roosevelt took him to task, I think, when she saw
        the heated condition in which we returned, for not
        long afterwards he came to me and said:

        "Oom John, that was no way to go after birds; we were
        in too much of a hurry." I replied, "No, Mr.
        President, that isn't the way I usually go a-birding."
        His thirst for the wild and the woods, and his joy at
        returning to these after his winter in the White
        House, had evidently urged him on. He added, "We will
        try a different plan to-morrow."

        So on the morrow we took a leisurely drive along the
        highways. Very soon we heard a wren which was new to
        me. "That's Bewick's wren," he said. We got out and
        watched it as it darted in and out of the fence and
        sang.

        I asked him if he knew whether the little gray
        gnatcatcher was to be seen there. I had not seen or
        heard it for thirty years. "Yes," he replied, "I saw
        it the last time I was here, over by a spring run."

        We walked over to some plum-trees where there had been
        a house at one time. No sooner had we reached the spot
        than he cried, "There it is now!" And sure enough,
        there it was in full song ____ a little bird the shape
        of a tiny catbird, with a very fine musical strain.

        As we were walking in a field we saw some birds that
        were new to me. Roosevelt also was puzzled to know
        what they were till we went among them and stirred
        them up, discovering that they were females of the
        blue grosbeak, with some sparrows which we did not
        identify.

        In the course of that walk he showed me a place where
        he had seen what he had thought at the time to be a
        flock of wild pigeons. He described how they flew, the
        swoop of their movements, and the tree where they
        alighted. I was skeptical, for it had long been
        thought that wild pigeons were extinct, but that fact
        had not impressed itself upon his mind. He said if he
        had known there could be any doubt about it, he would
        have observed them more closely. I was sorry that he
        had not, as it was one of the points on which I wanted
        indisputable evidence. We talked with the colored
        coachman about the birds, as he also had seen them.
        His description agreed with Roosevelt's, and he had
        seen wild pigeons in his youth; still I had my doubts.
        Subsequently Roosevelt wrote me that he had come to
        the conclusion that they had been mistaken about their
        being pigeons.

        One day while there, as we were walking through an old
        weedy field, I chanced to spy, out of the corner of my
        eye, a nighthawk sitting on the ground only three or
        four yards away. I called Roosevelt's attention to it
        and said, "Now, Mr. President, I think with care you
        can drop your hat over that bird." So he took off his
        sombrero and crept up on the bird, and was almost in a
        position to let his hat drop over it when the bird
        flew to a near tree, alighting lengthwise on the
        branch as this bird always does. Roosevelt approached
        it again cautiously and almost succeeded in putting
        his hand upon it; the bird flew just in time to save
        itself from his hand.

        One Sunday after church he took me to a field where he
        had recently seen and heard Lincoln's sparrow. We
        loitered there, reclining upon the dry grass for an
        hour or more, waiting for the sparrow, but it did not
        appear.

        During my visit there we named over seventyfive
        species of birds and fowl, he knowing all of them but
        two, and I knowing all but two. He taught me Bewick's
        wren and the prairie warbler, and I taught him the
        swamp sparrow and one of the rarer warblers; I think
        it was the pine warbler. If he had found the Lincoln
        sparrow again, he would have been one ahead of me.

        I remember talking politics a little with him while we
        were waiting for the birds, and, knowing that he was
        expecting Taft to be his successor, I expressed my
        doubts as to Taft's being able to fill his shoes.

        "Oh, yes, he can," he said confidently; "you don't
        know him as well as I do."

        "Of course not," I admitted; "but my feeling is that,
        though Taft is an able and amiable man, he is not a
        born leader."

        (I am glad to say that Mr. Taft's recent course in
        support of the proposed League of Nations has quite
        brought me around to Roosevelt's estimate of him.)

        Pine Knot is a secluded place in the woods. One
        evening as we sat in the lamplight, he reading Lord
        Cromer on Egypt, and I a book on the maneating lions
        of Tsavo, and Mrs. Roosevelt sit-ting near with her
        needlework, suddenly Roosevelt's hand came down on the
        table with such a bang that it made us both jump, and
        Mrs. Roosevelt exclaimed in a slightly nettled tone,
        "Why, my dear, what is the matter?"

        He had killed a mosquito with a blow that would almost
        have demolished an African lion.

        It occurred to me later that evening how risky it was
        for the President of the United States to be so
        unprotected ____ without a guard of any kind ____ in
        that out-of-the-way place, and I expressed something
        of this to him, suggesting that some one might
        "kidnap" him.

        "Oh," he answered, clapping his hand on his hip
        pocket, "I go armed, and they would have to be mighty
        quick to get the drop on me."

        Shortly after that, to stretch my legs a little and
        listen to the night sounds in the Virginia woods, I
        went out around the cabin and almost immediately heard
        some animal run heavily through the woods not far from
        the house. I thought perhaps it was a neighboring dog,
        but, on speaking of it to Mrs. Roosevelt, was told
        that two secret service men came every night at nine
        o'clock and stood on guard till morning, spending the
        day at a farmhouse in that vicinity. She did not let
        the President know of this because it would irritate
        him.

        The only flower we saw there which was new to me was
        the Indian pink. Roosevelt seemed to know the flowers
        as well as he did the birds. Pink moccasin-flowers and
        the bird's-foot violet were common in that locality.

        On our return trip, Roosevelt's secretary being on the
        train, Roosevelt threw himself into the dictation of
        many letters, the wrens and the warblers already
        sidetracked for the business of the Administration.

        I passed another night at the White House, and in the
        morning early we went out on the White House grounds
        to look for birds, our quest seeming to attract the
        puzzled attention of the passers-by.

        "They often stare at me as though they thought me
        crazy," he said, "when they see me gazing up into the
        trees."

        "Well, now they will think I am your keeper," I said.

        "Yes, and I your nurse," laughed Mrs. Roosevelt. When
        I left, Roosevelt gave me a list of the birds that we
        had seen while at Pine Knot and hoped that I would
        sometime write up the trip; in fact, for years after,
        whenever we would meet, almost the first thing he
        would say was, "Have you written up our Pine Knot trip
        yet, Oom John?" And his disappointment at my failure
        to do so was always unmistakable.

        ###


        =====
        EDWARD J. RENEHAN JR.
        ejren@...
        http://renehan.net

        __________________________________________________
        Do You Yahoo!?
        Try FREE Yahoo! Mail - the world's greatest free email!
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      • RoginaJ@cs.com
        One can also find this delightful memoir at: http://www.johnburroughs.org/friends/roosevlt/rslvt1.htm This site very kindly links back to us at the TRA. Rogina
        Message 3 of 3 , Mar 8 8:12 PM
        • 0 Attachment
          One can also find this delightful memoir at:
          http://www.johnburroughs.org/friends/roosevlt/rslvt1.htm

          This site very kindly links back to us at the TRA.

          Rogina Jeffries
          Webmaster, TRA
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