From the rusticlog cabin in the Dakota Badlands pictured above sallied forth one of America'sgreatest naturalists and sportsmen of the past century, Theodore Roosevelt,when he was bound on a hunt during his ranching days. October brings theanniversary of the birth of this man who hunted on our western prairies and thetundra of Alaska, from the African veld to the jungles of South America, andwhose enthusiasm for forest and wildlife resulted in protective legislationwhich preserved much of both for the sportsman of today.
T.R. capturedthe imagination and admiration of his fellow sportsmen and adventurers duringhis own lifetime to such a degree that one of the cabins he built and lived inon the Badlands of Dakota Territory was shown in an exhibition in Portland,Oregon in 1905. An admirer, a painter named Richard LaBarre Goodwin who wastraveling in the West at the time, was so intrigued by the cabin's old,weather-beaten door that he persuaded the management to let him take it to hisnearby hotel to use as a background for a sporting still life (right).Obviously dedicated to "Teddy" and his legend, it shows an oldmuzzle-loading fowling piece, the Roosevelt soft hat and his dog whistle and abrace of freshly shot ducks against the mellow wood. It is painted in theprecise and fastidious style known as trompe l'oeil, or "fool the eye,"at which Goodwin excelled. At the time of the completion of the picture it wasproposed that it be given to T.R. by the citizens of Oregon, but somehow theproject petered out and the painting disappeared from public sight andinterest. Only recently has it reappeared.
In theaccumulation of snapshots of the Roosevelt saga taken during his years oftravel and adventure, there are several of cabins he occupied while in theDakotas. Because T.R. owned two ranches in that frontier land and was arestless and vigorous man who spent much of his time in the saddle, it isdifficult to ascertain on which of the cabins the famous door hung. It isprobably the one from the Elkhorn Ranch, built of cottonwood logs, which isshown here.
COURTESY OF THE WIDENER MEMORIAL LIBRARY, HARVARD UNIVERSITY
T.R.'S CABIN OF COTTONWOOD LOGS, REFERRED TO IN HIS JOURNAL OF DAKOTA DAYS
RICHARD LABARRE GOODWIN
"THEODORE ROOSEVELT'S CABIN DOOR" (right) by Richard LaBarre Goodwin is a splendid example of the popular 19th century trompe l'oeil technique of painting.