Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Enough Seriousness: Funny Teddy Roosevelt Stuff

The last week has been pretty serious in Consumed land. I'm happy about that; maybe it's sparked thought (among one of the six of you who reads this). Thanks to Jed and Richard for their insightful comments.

But enough of pleasantries. Let's deal with something pleasant. In the course of my research work, I ordered a book entitled Theodore Rex by Edmund Morris, an engrossing, amusing bio of Teddy Roosevelt. It's quite a historical biography, which happens to be quite a genre. One of my four favorite, with basketball books, theology and war history. The book has a ton of great information and many fun excerpts. The following was so good I had to pass it along. We learn a bit about how nutty old TR was. He had a strong, zany personality, and it comes through in this hilarious exchange.

The exchange is between TR and his son, Quentin, who was 10 at the time. With several playmates, including future President William Howard Taft's son Charles, Quentin was engaged in mock warfare at the White House, and was sprayed by Charles with a water hose. He promptly found a fire-ax and chopped the hose in half. As Morris writes, "His triumph was forestalled by a stentorian shout from the West Wing, and the President came charging through the Rose Garden, coattails flying." He then engaged in the following dialogue with the guilty Quentin:

TR (panting heavily) Too late! Too late, by George! Quentin!—I mean Georgie Washington—come here with your i-n-c-r-i-m-i-n-a-t-i-n-g hatchet! In the heat of battle, many acts, which would not c-o-u-n-t-e-n-a-n-c-e-d at other times, may be excusable—or at least, subject to sym-pa-thet-ic in-ter-pre-ta-tion; of course you understand that, boys?
Q Sure. You mean that’s the reason why I did it? I did it, because something had to be done, immejit-ly—
TR That’s e-x-a-c-t-l-y it! The point is always to do something quickly, because if you don’t, the other fellow will.
TR You may be wrong—you were here—but you have, at least, i-n-i-t-i-a-t-e-d action. When the action is wrong, you must admit it, and correct by some further action—
Q (Looking at the severed hose) I don’t see how this can be corrected.
TR Only by an entirely new garden-hose. It was Government property, still is, but also, is no longer. You cannot imagine the difficulties involved, and the things required to be done, in order to replace it. It will even cost money, part of that which I am earning—or was earning, when interrupted by a dispatch regarding the progress of this war, and left hurriedly for the field—
Q Well, of course you’re right; but we’ve learned our lesson, you know—
TR We? Don’t you mean yourself? And what you have learned?
Q Not to cut up garden-hoses.
TR And not to use fire-axes on anything but a fire—
Q (with a touch of wistfulness) We’re not so likely to have a fire.
TR Not with all this water around! You escape, Quentin, only because of the extenuating circumstances arising out of the heat of battle.

Funny stuff, if you appreciate zany humor.


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