Friday, March 11, 2016

Just the necessities

While he served in the White House, Theodore Roosevelt itched to go hunting, but as president he knew he couldn't make such a trip without numerous newspaper reporters tagging along, making a note of everything he shot and every shot that missed. So when his presidency ended, he wanted nothing more than to go on an African safari and to take his son, Kermit, with him.

So what does one take on a safari besides guns and ammo? Someone asked how much liquor he wanted. He replied, "I would wish to take only the minimum amount of whiskey and champagne in the event of sickness." Champagne for sickness? In any event, according to Darrin Lunde's soon-to-be-published Roosevelt biography, The Naturalist, the ex-president consumed just six ounces of alcohol on his long safari.

When questioned about taking along some pate de fois gras and other French delicacies, Roosevelt vetoed the suggestion. Instead he wanted plenty of canned beans and tomatoes, to be supplemented by the game he expected to kill on his excursion.

Yet he decided to take about 60 books on his safari, spanning "the full history of Western literature," according to Lunde. These books included the Bible, Homer, Shakespeare, Longfellow and Dickens, as well as Mark Twain, who in the early 20th century might still have been considered a contemporary author.

This reminds me of my own strategy for packing for a trip. I will decide on the books I want to take and make sure there is room for them in my bags before worrying about such incidentals as socks and underwear.

Along with Harry Truman and a few others, T.R. was a great presidential reader. He also wrote about 18 books, including some history but most of them about natural history and his hunting excursions. He was the first president to write a book in the White House, The Deer Family.

Roosevelt took hunting seriously, but he also took books seriously, and it showed when he packed for a hunting trip

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