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My Side

Teddy Roosevelt was a hunter. He was also the newly elected president of the United States, having defeated the Democratic candidate in 1904.

How could the coal mining town of New Castle become the center of international politics shortly thereafter?

Edmund Morris, in his national bestseller “Theodore Rex,” explains how this improbable and fascinating juxtaposition came about. It is the story of a complex personality, born of the Eastern establishment, who came to love and cherish the American West.

Teddy had established himself as the exemplar of the burgeoning strength of the United States in world affairs with his powerful Navy and his policy of speaking softly and carrying a big stick.

It happened that czarist Russia and Japan had become embroiled in a Far East struggle for control of the Korean and Sakhalin peninsulas and the iron and coal riches of Manchuria. It was to be preview of World War I in its slaughter of opposing forces using modern armaments.

The Japanese Navy, well trained and armed, devastated the Russian Asian and Baltic fleets. (Fast forward to Dec. 7, 1941.) In one land engagement, 40,000 soldiers died. Both sides were exhausted and the good offices of the president of the United States were gingerly sought to broker a peace accord.

Theodore Roosevelt was far more subtle and clever than his image as a loud-mouthed bumpkin. He knew that timing is everything. He would distance himself to let the stew marinate.

So he announced a hunting trip for bear in the remote reaches of the Colorado mountains. Arriving in Glenwood Springs, he arranged a hunt up from New Castle via horseback to a hunting camp on the Flat Tops, now in the White River National Forest.

New Castle became a locale and byline for all of the major newspapers of America. Reporters tried for a scoop on the war and could only report how many and what size bears Teddy had shot.

The Japanese emissary, wanting peace, sent a secret and ciphered cable to the State Department to that effect.

It ended in the hands of a Mr. Loeb who distrusted any means of communication other than direct so he booked a train to New Castle. Forthwith, this Eastern pilgrim hired a guide up to the hunting camp and presented the news to Teddy. Teddy said he’d think about it.

That night the diplomat awoke freezing and noticed the president was not in his bunk and the cabin door was open. He found Teddy outside, bare naked, holding a puppy from the hunting pack amongst the May snowdrifts. He was strategizing on the war while cooling his malarial body, a disease he contracted in Cuba as a “Rough Rider.”

Well, as is often said, the rest is history. Teddy did successfully broker a peace in the Russo-Japanese War. We could use him now on the Korean peninsula in this nuclear age.

Larry Soderberg of Battlement Mesa is a retired engineer.

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