#26: Review of “Mornings on Horseback” by David McCullough (1901-1909)

#26: Review of “Mornings on Horseback” by David McCullough (1901-1909)

Dang, y’all. I’m basking in the vivaciousness of the life that was our 26th President’s, “Teedy” Roosevelt (as he was known by his family for all of his growing up). Geez. I was so FIRED UP upon completing this book that I immediately played Ray Charles’ America the Beautiful.

Side-note: I think reading’s one of the easiest & best ways to respond to the complex & difficult nature of America today. If you’re like me, my most common emotions about COVID, race, and politics are anger and confusion. Reading helps me make a small amount of sense of the present & serves as a helpful friend that literally can only listen. 

I love America. I do. When I think of America, I think of my road trip out West with my little bro, Ham Cheese, last summer getting to glimpse the West in all its vast beauty. I think of this Black Mountain stream (shoutout to Walker Ranson) that my family grew up wading through. It’s the best stream this side of the Mississippi! I think of cookouts, especially an Alpine Ridge night complete with homemade butterfinger ice cream and thin Dale-sauce-infused burgers…what a joy! I love every last one of our 50 states, especially their local diners & small-town gossip. I love Jackie Robinson, David Brooks, Goodberry’s frozen custard, that I can worship my God freely, John Steinbeck, local newspapers, Wake Forest, and my beloved Mom, Dad, and brother. 

So many terrible things have been done in America by Americans throughout her 244 years of existence. The multitude of voices that have been silenced, the unjust killings & subsequent loss for their loved ones. The abysmal record of how we’ve treated Black, Asian, Catholic, Jewish and LGBTQ people in particular overwhelms me. 

AND I still love America.

Do you love America? What do you think about even that rhetoric today? Do you think it’s too soon to claim such allegiances? Or maybe you’d use different language to describe your affinity for or against America? And of course…what even is “America?” How are we to imagine it? I would absolutely love to hear any of your thoughts on this subject, especially if you think differently than I do. Teach me your ways!

Alright, back to Teddy. Sorry for getting preachy for a second…perhaps it’s the “bully pulpit” in me! Haha! I’m sure some of you are familiar with Doris Goodwin’s bio on Teddy & Taft called Bully Pulpit. Because Teddy cast everything in a good vs. evil light taking stands based on morality one New York editor quipped, “there is an increasing suspicion that Mr. Roosevelt keeps a pulpit concealed on his person.” 

He was a force to be reckoned with. In my humble opinion, Teddy’s zeal for life topped that even of John Adams. His indefatigable resiliency reminded me of Michael Jordan’s from The Last Dance. The way he responded the vast majority of the time to hardships be it when he lost the New York City mayor election or after his Mom & wife passed away on two consecutive days, is truly remarkable. He was super-duper curious and loved to read. One of his favorite authors was poet Robert Browning (what other President that I’ve already covered also loved Browning? Respond to this email or my insta post about it here w/ who you think did for a chance to win yourself a $5 Chickfila gift card!!). Other favorite authors of his included: John Bunyan, James Cooper (author of the Last of the Mochicans), the letters of Abraham Lincoln, and Huckleberry Finn. Did I mention he also wrote 20 books & over 150,000 letters? Talk about some good content…am I right, Marv & Dak?

There’s so much more that I won’t cover now about this dude’s life. I definitely plan to read another fuller bio of this man once I finish this project. Got any suggestions? 

5 fun facts about Teddy from the book

  1. He killed a grizzly bear. Enough said. 
  2. He read all of Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Kerenia (an 864 page book) while catching & then transporting 2 guys who stole one of his boats on his ranch in the Bad Lands to jail. Oh yeah, he had a cattle ranch in the BadLands of South Dakota that he invested about $700,000 (in today’s money) into the ranch before selling it.
  3. His grandfather, Cornelius Van Schaack or “CVS,” was once the richest man in New York. Needless to say he grew up in absolute opulence.
  4. He was shot in the chest in 1912 by a fanatic. His glasses case & a folded copy of a speech saved him.
  5. He was & remains our youngest President (age 42) when he took office. He also ran for mayor of NYC at age 28. He lost, but still. 

1 thing I think Trump could learn from Teddy (I’m going to give this section a shot…let me know what you think!)

Trump’s fighting spirit & relentlessness reminds me of Teddy. I wish Trump’s determination was directed more towards virtue like Teddy’s was. And that it was founded on a more noble foundation. Let me say this: I know very little about Trump. I’ve never truly looked into his life like I have other Presidents (yet!), but I firmly believe that there’s more to the man than most people, Fox, CNN, and the NYTimes tells me. I just don’t know what that is. 

Next up, William Howard Taft!

History sobers up my soul,

HC3

P.S. Will you also please wear a mask & keep 6ft apart as best you can? I’m not trying to be unnecessarily controversial/political. I just really feel for the almost 600,000 families worldwide that have lost a loved one in the past 4 months. I don’t like wearing a mask & having to social-distance (& I’ve certainly not been perfect & betrayed my own rules for sure), but in the words of Theodore Roosevelt, “It is not what we have that will make us a great nation; it is the way in which we use it.” Let us use it for the betterment of others!

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