6 Completely Insane Teddy Roosevelt Stories That Are Somehow Completely True

He’d beat you in a debate, or into a pulp, whichever you preferred
6 Completely Insane Teddy Roosevelt Stories That Are Somehow Completely True

Politicians these days, especially in the Republican Party, sure want to seem like fountains of machismo. They want to be seen as warriors, even if the toughest thing theyve ever dealt with is an overcooked steak at the country club. Thats why they put out political ads featuring them in cowboy boots and well-worn denim, hauling rope or hay or some other old-school good over their shoulder. 

One politician of the past, however, never had to answer any questions about his fortitude, and that was Teddy Roosevelt. Youd have been ill-advised to challenge him to a tale-telling competition in a rough barroom, much less a debate parlor.

History often exaggerates. But here are six Teddy Roosevelt stories that didnt need any spicing up over time…

He Shot a Lion That Was Charging Him

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The idea of big game and trophy hunting was even controversial in the early 1900s. For a moment, however, lets put aside issues of morality and just look at the actual danger, which, when Roosevelt went on his famous safari in 1909 — something he defended as gathering a collection of specimens for the Smithsonian — was very real. This wasnt an exotic form of farm fishing with complimentary Range Rover rides. When it came time to go toe-to-toe with big game, they had a fighting chance. Something confirmed when a lion charged Roosevelt, and instead of soaking his jodphurs in piss, Roosevelt aimed straight at the approaching mauling and felled the beast with a single rifle shot. 

Any non-believers are free to head to the Smithsonian, where you can still see that very same lion taxidermied.

He Stabbed a Cougar to Death in a Fight

You could say that much of the credit in the above story goes to the technology of the rifle, and not to the operator. Its a lily-livered kind of argument, but I can see how you could make it. You can’t, though, do the same for Roosevelt’s famous battle with a cougar, which he took down with nothing more than a bowie knife. The source for the story is a pretty ironclad one, too: A letter from Roosevelt to his children.

Now, he was hunting with his dogs, so it wasnt exactly a 1v1 battle, but regardless, jumping in the fray to stab a cougar in the heart? Takes some balls. Or as he put it in the letter, “I have always wished to kill a cougar as I did this one, with dogs and the knife.” 

Cool dream, Teddy. A little more intense than mine, which are things like “get out of debt” and “own a couch.”

He Delivered a Speech Immediately After Being Shot

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Maybe the most famous story about Roosevelt — and one that seems primed for a little poetic license over the years. I fully expected to find that the speech was actually a couple of weeks after the shooting, or that the wound was more of a shoulder graze. Nope. Instead of holes (pun unavoidable), I just kept finding increasingly insane details. 

First and foremost, yes, Roosevelt was shot immediately before the speech, directly in the chest. You know, where all your important organs sit? His reaction? He asked the man who had just shot him, “What did you do it for?” When the man, who probably thought he was looking into the eyes of some sort of unkillable being, said nothing, Roosevelt delivered an exasperated “Oh, whats the use? Turn him over to the police.” 

Roosevelt then reached into his overcoat, found a bullet hole in his chest and remarked, “He pinked me.” Roosevelt coughed into his hand, looking for blood that would indicate damage to his lungs, and seeing none, ordered to his driver, “You get me to that speech.” 

The driver did, and Roosevelt delivered one of the most iconic speeches in world history, which opened with a real attention-grabbing pair of sentences: “Friends, I shall ask you to be as quiet as possible. I dont know whether you fully understand that I have just been shot.” He followed those words by revealing his bloody shirt and uttering the famous line, “It takes more than that to kill a bull moose.” 

He spoke for a total of 90 minutes, reading his speech off a manuscript with two fresh bullet holes blown through it.

He Beat Up a Guy Who Aimed a Gun at Him Before Locking the Guy in a Shed

Another feat for which we have direct record from Roosevelt himself. (I swear, this guys diary reads like a synopsis of John Wick.) Here, because it needs no additional color, is his record of the incident from his autobiography: It was late in the evening when I reached the place. I heard one or two shots in the bar-room as I came up, and I disliked going in. But there was nowhere else to go, and it was a cold night. Inside the room were several men, who, including the bartender, were wearing the kind of smile worn by men who are making believe to like what they don’t like. A shabby individual in a broad hat with a cocked gun in each hand was walking up and down the floor talking with strident profanity. He had evidently been shooting at the clock, which had two or three holes in its face.

As soon as he saw me he hailed me as ‘Four Eyes,’ in reference to my spectacles, and said, ‘Four Eyes is going to treat.’ I joined in the laugh and got behind the stove and sat down, thinking to escape notice. He followed me, however, and though I tried to pass it off as a jest this merely made him more offensive, and he stood leaning over me, a gun in each hand, using very foul language. In response to his reiterated command that I should set up the drinks, I said, ‘Well, if I’ve got to, I’ve got to,’ and rose, looking past him.

As I rose, I struck quick and hard with my right just to one side of the point of his jaw, hitting with my left as I straightened out, and then again with my right. He fired the guns, but I do not know whether this was merely a convulsive action of his hands, or whether he was trying to shoot at me. When he went down he struck the corner of the bar with his head. If he had moved, I was about to drop on my knees, but he was senseless. I took away his guns, and the other people in the room, who were now loud in their denunciation of him, hustled him out and put him in the shed.

I’m pretty sure Roosevelt can lay claim to being the only president to give a literal gunslinger the old one-two, and stuff his unconscious body in a shed, hitman-style.

He Built a New Boat After Thieves Stole His Old One and Then Used It to Track Down and Arrest the Thieves

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When Roosevelt was 24, thieves stole the boat he’d been planning to use to cross the Little Missouri River. If you’re the thieves, you probably think it’s a pretty solid plan: Steal someone’s only boat, and they can’t chase you, right? Unfortunately, Roosevelt decided a lesson needed to be taught here, saying “to submit tamely and meekly to theft … is to invite almost certain repetition of the offense.” 

And so, he wrangled two of his ranch hands, and they built a new boat in three days — in which they set off in pursuit. They tracked down the three thieves, who understandably didn’t expect to be trailed, and Roosevelt arrested them at gunpoint. He then hauled them to a jail 300 miles from the original spot of the theft, spending the downtime reading Tolstoy.

He Did It All With Asthma

Yup, Roosevelt lived with the classic ailment of gym-class spectators everywhere. He had severe asthma as a child. It improved with time, but given that these tales would all be worth a novella with full physical function, they’re all the more impressive.

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