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Squabble of the Titans Sneak Peak: Roosevelts With Guns

May 9th, 1911

Letter to Edith from Kermit Roosevelt


Dear Mother,


Today we met the Englishman who we heard was hunting the Saysquack. It was a tense encounter. Father believed he saw a hirsute being at the edge of a clearing near our camp on the Upper Chelak. Father was not wearing his spectacles, so his eyesight was poorer than usual. He shouted and there was no answer. Ejellykoot our Quilliniklat guide was with us. He stalked forward like a hunter on the alert, then stopped, turned, and raised both his hands in alarm.


Father thought Ejellykoot was signaling that he had sighted prey. He whispered excitedly to me that he saw a movement that he describes as “simian” or ape-like. Things happened very quickly. We saw that the figure had a rifle. Father declared, “The Saysquack is armed! Let fly!” He was mounted on Butterscotch at the time, and I was riding Strawberry. He brought out the Fox 12-guage that was slung over his shoulder and fired both barrels. When the smoke cleared, the figure had disappeared and then could be seen running at the edge of the forest approximately 50 yards from us. Seeing as he missed with the 12-guage, he grabbed the Springfield .30-06 and squeezed off several rounds. I raised my Winchester but did not fire because I could not be sure if we were viewing beast or man. Our guide was yelling for us to stop firing the whole time, but Father paid him no heed. He would not be parted from his quarry.


Father and I galloped toward the edge of the forest and as the figure grew larger, we could see it was indeed a man. He was dressed in a ragged suit and top hat, and he had a Lee-Enfield aimed right at Father’s head. “Lay down your rifle and state your business!” Father shouted.


The man said, “You first,” in an English accent. “You may have fired the first shot sir, but I shall fire the last!”


Father guffawed heartily at this and lowered his rifle. He dismounted Butterscotch, and with the Englishmen still pointing his Lee-Enfield at his face, Father approached him with open arms and in as good a humor as if he were greeting you Mother. He walked closer until the end of the Englishman’s rifle was an inch from his nose and said, “You cannot take your shot with the safety catch engaged, sir. May I?” He uttered these words with such disarming magnanimity, that the Englishman wordlessly lowered his rifle and handed it to Father. Father adjusted his spectacles and quickly inspected the weapon, turning it over in his hands and then clicking the safety off. “A fine weapon, your Lee-Enfield. Here, now you may take your shot.”

There was a lengthy pause and then the Englishman said, “I have no wish to fire upon a gentleman, so long as he does not initiate hostilities against my person.”


“I owe you my sincere apologies for that,” said Father. “A man should always positively identify his target before pulling the trigger. The mistake is mine. This is what I teach my soldiers and my sons,” he said, nodding over his shoulder to me. I should add that even though Father lowered his rifle immediately, I kept mine trained on the Englishman until now. Be assured that whatever risks Father might take with his own life, I will safeguard it with my own.


“Well, I see no need to linger over it. Let us shake hands and forget it ever happened,” the Englishman said, his stoic face suddenly breaking into a smile.


“Bully!” exclaimed Father, extending his hand. With that, Father placed his arm around the shoulder of the man as though they were old friends and they walked a short distance away, speaking in low tones for a few minutes. After that, they came back and Father said, “Kermit, I’d like to introduce you to Dr. Horace S. Browntrout. He’s here for the same reason we are, to hunt the great Saysquack. He has graciously invited us to his camp this evening where well will join him for dinner.”


That is all for now, Mother.


Love, Your Son,


Kermit








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