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Theodore Roosevelt in the Badlands: A Young Politician's Quest for Recovery in the American West Hardcover – March 15, 2011


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Walker & Company; First Edition edition (March 15, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802717217
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802717214
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.4 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #945,360 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The future Rough Rider forges his masculine identity in a Western smithy in this fascinating biographical sketch. DiSilvestro (In the Shadow of Wounded Knee) recounts Roosevelt's mid-1880s sojourns in the Badlands, a hardscrabble frontier prone to gunfights (though some were staged to scare passengers on passing trains). For the sickly, foppish New Yorker (Roosevelt had his ranch duds custom-tailored in Manhattan), the West offered priceless tests of manhood--dangerous cattle drives; bullies; raucous hunting excursions ("I got him, I got him, I got him," he chanted while dancing around a pronghorn antelope carcass)--that the author credits with sparking Roosevelt's conservationist ardor. DiSilvestro paints a vivid panorama of the fast-vanishing frontier and plays the material straight (though he overstates the romance of Roosevelt's heartbreak over the death of his wife; friends feared he would "lose his mind," the author reminds us often). The straight approach works best; Roosevelt's ordeals were real enough, if sometimes pointlessly self-inflicted (he once trekked 150 miles after minor outlaws who stole his rowboat), and he emerges as our most neurotic president, a consummate practitioner of an authenticity that was both fake and utterly sincere. Photos. (Mar.)
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From Booklist

Focused on TR in his twenties, DiSilvestro�s work elaborates on the future president�s days devoted to hunting and ranching in the Dakota Territory. As standard biographies by David McCullough and Edmund Morris recount, the deaths of Roosevelt�s mother and wife in 1884 impelled him to fly from his grief. And so ensued escapades self-dramatized in his own books that created the TR persona of strenuous, competitive masculinity�shooting big game, decking a barroom bully, capturing outlaws, and hinting at fighting a duel. Chronicling the dramatic and the mundane in Roosevelt�s Dakota experiences, DiSilvestro combines minute details, down to the makes and calibers of Roosevelt�s guns, and interpretive asides about how the Dakota years shaped him. Suggesting they inculcated his nascent ideas about conservation (despite his gleeful blasting of fast-vanishing bison), DiSilvestro, by way of narration of TR�s immersion in frontier society, promotes the impression that the upper-class city slicker also assumed more socially egalitarian attitudes by roughing it out West. With its sources fully researched and capably integrated, DiSilvestro�s account definitively fills in this part of TR�s story. --Gilbert Taylor

More About the Author

I began writing short stories when I was 7 or 8 years old; the earliest of these endeavors seemed strangely derivative of 1950s Japanese sci-fi films. I have worked as a magazine editor for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, Defenders of Wildlife, and the National Audubon Society. I also have written for radio, TV, and motion pictures, primarily as a production director with National Audubon Television. Presently, I am a senior editor at the National Wildlife Federation. Although most of my ten books have focused on wildlife conservation or on history in the U.S. West, I also write fiction and published two novels, one in the late 1980s and one in the early 1990s.

In my photos you will find a current picture of me, used on the dustjacket of my book "Theodore Roosevelt in the Badlands;" a photo of me giving a speech about Roosevelt in the Badlands on Theodore Roosevelt Island, Virginia, in October 2008; and a picture of me dressed in the style of a Roosevelt photograph (the orginal that I used as a model coincidentally appears on the cover of my book, "Theodore Roosevelt in the Badlands")when I was about 16 years old. Please visit my website, www.TheodoreRooseveltintheBadlands.com

Customer Reviews

This book, however, I thoroughly enjoyed.
GoBiking
I appreciate all the digging for resources and the very accessible writing style.
Mary Kay Stranik
Had he not gone out West, he may well have died.
Seymour Morris Jr

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Seymour Morris Jr on July 5, 2011
Format: Hardcover
This is one of the very best books about this fascinating man. TR once said that had it not been for his experience in the Badlands, he never would have become President of the United States. This comment raises the question: How can three years in the Badlands be good training to become a president?

First of all, it kept him alive. As DiSilvestro points out, TR didn't go out West just because he was heartbroken after the death of his wife (the common story), he also was a physical wreck. New York had so much pollution from the use of soft coal for fuel that a film of fine ash covered people's faces. The asthma TR suffered as a child came back with a venegeance. Had he not gone out West, he may well have died.

We think of cowboys as the ultimate independent, self-reliant people. True enough, but the truth is more complex. TR had the cockiness and insouciance of a young multi-millionaire living off inherited money (his annual dividends were 35 times what the average New York man earned). Riding horses for 24 hours straight, living in a log cabin in wintertime where the temperature sometimes went to 40 degrees below zero, dealing with some pretty rough characters such as horse thieves and bandits... quickly knocked out whatever cavalier dandy traits he had. The experience, where there were so few people around, also made him more appreciative of human relationships and how much we need to cooperate and work together to survive. "In the cow country," TR said, "a man is particularly dependent on his neighbors." TR came back East a healthy, vigorous, and more sensitive man. Surviving nature's challenges as successfully as he did, boosted his self-confidence... but it also taught him that nature is supreme and a man has limits.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By david l. poremba VINE VOICE on December 29, 2011
Format: Hardcover
So much has been written (and probably much more to be written), about our twenty-sixth president, Theodore Roosevelt, that it seems the man's life has been played out. Happily, such is not the case and Theodore Roosevelt in the Badlands is a prime example of a focused biography enlightening a full life.
Di Silvestro focuses on Roosevelt in his twenties, a time for him of grief and heartache, having lost both his mother and his first wife to death on then same day, Valentines, in 1884. As has been recounted in many excellent biographies, Roosevelt fled to the Dakotas, leaving behind everything - luxury, status, political seat, even his newborn daughter, Alice. This was a critical turning point in his life and, consequently, his career.
As the author's scholarship shows, this temporary relocation gave Roosevelt an opportunity to regain his health, both physical and mental. The three years he spent working his ranch, with all of the experiences that went along with life in the Badlands gave Roosevelt the basis of many of his future beliefs and actions - for example, his grit, courage, sense of justice and definition of right and wrong, all of which can be seen in his life and career.
The book is a fine example of well-researched, well-written, focused biography. It is a necessary addition to the literature about this great American.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Mary Kay Stranik on December 4, 2011
Format: Hardcover
The details were wonderful and I must admit, being from Dickinson, loved all the references to my home town. The book much expanded and corrected information that I had about his time in the badlands and about those years in TR's life. The most significant was his interest and the interactions with his baby daughter, Alice. I had understood that he didn't have any interest in her, except supporting her financially, until he married Edith. I also didn't know that he had company on the chase of the boat robbers.

The book really captured the human Teddy as he recovered emotionally and found a whole class of people and way of life that he had never had contact with before. TR did seem to grasp what America was about in a new way due to his time in Dakota Territory. I wish more of the 1% would repeat Teddy's experience and we might not have as much political polarization today.

I gained one other overall insight from the book. Something has been bothering me as I have attended 4 of the 6 TR Symposia at Dickinson State University and read and read about him that I finally put my finger on with the help of this book. It is his ambivalence about his stand on issues in the political sphere. I had the same feeling reading your description of his visits back east and his actions about supporting the Republican Party and Blaine as I had in his post presidency run with the Bull Moose party. His impulsiveness seems to cause him to speak out on issues but then he has to backtrack or generalize later. I had sympathy for Lodge having to maintain a friendship and political relationship with TR during the Dakota years. I had in the past thought of him as a bipolar personality (OK, mostly manic) but perhaps not.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By GoBiking on July 20, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I have never been very interested in TR. This book, however, I thoroughly enjoyed. I found that I came away with a greater knowledge or picture of who TR was and what he was like, much more so than after I read a well known three volume set on TR. I came away with what I think is an understanding of his apparent appeal and charisma and zest for life/experience.
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