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Title: Camping with President Roosevelt
Author: Burroughs, John, 1837-1921
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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[Transcriber's Note: Every effort has been made to replicate this
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spellings and other inconsistencies.]






    COPYRIGHT, 1906

    _Reprinted from
    The Atlantic Monthly
    May, 1906_



At the time I made the trip to Yellowstone Park with President
Roosevelt in the spring of 1903, I promised some friends to write up
my impressions of the President and of the Park, but I have been slow
in getting around to it. The President himself, having the absolute
leisure and peace of the White House, wrote his account of the trip
nearly two years ago! But with the stress and strain of my life at
"Slabsides,"--administering the affairs of so many of the wild
creatures of the woods about me,--I have not till this blessed season
found the time to put on record an account of the most interesting
thing I saw in that wonderful land, which, of course, was the
President himself.


When I accepted his invitation I was well aware that during the
journey I should be in a storm centre most of the time, which is not
always a pleasant prospect to a man of my habits and disposition. The
President himself is a good deal of a storm,--a man of such abounding
energy and ceaseless activity that he sets everything in motion around
him wherever he goes. But I knew he would be pretty well occupied on
his way to the Park in speaking to eager throngs and in receiving
personal and political homage in the towns and cities we were to pass
through. But when all this was over, and I found myself with him in
the wilderness of the Park, with only the superintendent and a few
attendants to help take up his tremendous personal impact, how was it
likely to fare with a non-strenuous person like myself, I asked? I had
visions of snow six and seven feet deep where traveling could be done
only upon snowshoes, and I had never had the things on my feet in my
life. If the infernal fires beneath, that keep the pot boiling so out
there, should melt the snows, I could see the party tearing along on
horseback at a wolf-hunt pace over a rough country; and as I had not
been on a horse's back since the President was born, how would it be
likely to fare with me there?


I had known the President several years before he became famous, and
we had had some correspondence on subjects of natural history. His
interest in such themes is always very fresh and keen, and the main
motive of his visit to the Park at this time was to see and study in
its semi-domesticated condition the great game which he had so often
hunted during his ranch days; and he was kind enough to think it would
be an additional pleasure to see it with a nature-lover like myself.
For my own part, I knew nothing about big game, but I knew there was
no man in the country with whom I should so like to see it as


Some of our newspapers reported that the President intended to hunt in
the Park. A woman in Vermont wrote me, to protest against the hunting,
and hoped I would teach the President to love the animals as much as I
did,--as if he did not love them much more, because his love is
founded upon knowledge, and because they had been a part of his life.
She did not know that I was then cherishing the secret hope that I
might be allowed to shoot a cougar or bobcat; but this fun did not
come to me. The President said, "I will not fire a gun in the Park;
then I shall have no explanations to make." Yet once I did hear him
say in the wilderness, "I feel as if I ought to keep the camp in meat.
I always have." I regretted that he could not do so on this occasion.

I have never been disturbed by the President's hunting trips. It is to
such men as he that the big game legitimately belongs,--men who
regard it from the point of view of the naturalist as well as from
that of the sportsman, who are interested in its preservation, and who
share with the world the delight they experience in the chase. Such a
hunter as Roosevelt is as far removed from the game-butcher as day is
from night; and as for his killing of the "varmints,"--bears, cougars,
and bobcats,--the fewer of these there are, the better for the useful
and beautiful game.

The cougars, or mountain lions, in the Park certainly needed killing.
The superintendent reported that he had seen where they had slain
nineteen elk, and we saw where they had killed a deer, and dragged its
body across the trail. Of course, the President would not now on his
hunting trips shoot an elk or a deer except to "keep the camp in
meat," and for this purpose it is as legitimate as to slay a sheep or
a steer for the table at home.

We left Washington on April 1, and strung several of the larger
Western cities on our thread of travel,--Chicago, Milwaukee, Madison,
St. Paul, Minneapolis,--as well as many lesser towns, in each of which
the President made an address, sometimes brief, on a few occasions of
an hour or more.


He gave himself very freely and heartily to the people wherever he
went. He could easily match their Western cordiality and
good-fellowship. Wherever his train stopped, crowds soon gathered, or
had already gathered, to welcome him. His advent made a holiday in
each town he visited. At all the principal stops the usual programme
was: first, his reception by the committee of citizens appointed to
receive him,--they usually boarded his private car, and were one by
one introduced to him; then a drive through the town with a concourse
of carriages; then to the hall or open air platform, where he spoke to
the assembled throng; then to lunch or dinner; and then back to the
train, and off for the next stop--a round of hand-shaking,
carriage-driving, speech-making each day. He usually spoke from eight
to ten times every twenty-four hours, sometimes for only a few minutes
from the rear platform of his private car, at others for an hour or
more in some large hall. In Chicago, Milwaukee, and St. Paul,
elaborate banquets were given him and his party, and on each occasion
he delivered a carefully prepared speech upon questions that involved
the policy of his administration. The throng that greeted him in the
vast Auditorium in Chicago--that rose and waved and waved again--was
one of the grandest human spectacles I ever witnessed.

In Milwaukee the dense cloud of tobacco smoke that presently filled
the large hall after the feasting was over was enough to choke any
speaker, but it did not seem to choke the President, though he does
not use tobacco in any form himself; nor was there anything foggy
about his utterances on that occasion upon legislative control of the


In St. Paul the city was inundated with humanity,--a vast human tide
that left the middle of the streets bare as our line of carriages
moved slowly along, but that rose up in solid walls of town and
prairie humanity on the sidewalks and city dooryards. How hearty and
happy the myriad faces looked! At one point I spied in the throng on
the curbstone a large silk banner that bore my own name as the title
of some society. I presently saw that it was borne by half a dozen
anxious and expectant-looking schoolgirls with braids down their
backs. As my carriage drew near them, they pressed their way through
the throng, and threw a large bouquet of flowers into my lap. I think
it would be hard to say who blushed the deeper, the girls or myself.
It was the first time I had ever had flowers showered upon me in
public; and then, maybe, I felt that on such an occasion I was only a
minor side issue, and public recognition was not called for. But the
incident pleased the President. "I saw that banner and those flowers,"
he said afterwards; "and I was delighted to see you honored that way."
But I fear I have not to this day thanked the Monroe School of St.
Paul for that pretty attention.


From stereograph, copyright 1906, by Underwood & Underwood, New York.]


The time of the passing of the presidential train seemed well known,
even on the Dakota prairies. At one point I remember a little brown
schoolhouse stood not far off, and near the track the school-ma'am,
with her flock, drawn up in line. We were at luncheon, but the
President caught a glimpse ahead through the window, and quickly took
in the situation. With napkin in hand, he rushed out on the platform
and waved to them. "Those children," he said, as he came back, "wanted
to see the President of the United States, and I could not disappoint
them. They may never have another chance. What a deep impression such
things make when we are young!"


At some point in the Dakotas we picked up the former foreman of his
ranch, and another cowboy friend of the old days, and they rode with
the President in his private car for several hours. He was as happy
with them as a schoolboy ever was in meeting old chums. He beamed with
delight all over. The life which those men represented, and of which
he had himself once formed a part, meant so much to him; it had
entered into the very marrow of his being, and I could see the joy of
it all shining in his face as he sat and lived parts of it over again
with those men that day. He bubbled with laughter continually. The
men, I thought, seemed a little embarrassed by his open-handed
cordiality and good-fellowship. He himself evidently wanted to forget
the present, and to live only in the memory of those wonderful ranch
days,--that free, hardy, adventurous life upon the plains. It all came
back to him with a rush when he found himself alone with these heroes
of the rope and the stirrup. How much more keen his appreciation was,
and how much quicker his memory, than theirs! He was constantly
recalling to their minds incidents which they had forgotten, and the
names of horses and dogs which had escaped them. His subsequent life,
instead of making dim the memory of his ranch days, seemed to have
made it more vivid by contrast.

When they had gone, I said to him, "I think your affection for those
men very beautiful."

"How could I help it?" he said.

"Still, few men in your station could or would go back and renew such

"Then I pity them," he replied.


He said afterwards that his ranch life had been the making of him. It
had built him up and hardened him physically, and it had opened his
eyes to the wealth of manly character among the plainsmen and

Had he not gone West, he said, he never would have raised the Rough
Riders Regiment; and had he not raised that regiment and gone to the
Cuban War, he would not have been made governor of New York; and had
not this happened, the politicians would not unwittingly have made his
rise to the Presidency so inevitable. There is no doubt, I think, that
he would have got there some day; but without the chain of events
above outlined, his rise could not have been so rapid.

Our train entered the Bad Lands of North Dakota in the early evening
twilight, and the President stood on the rear platform of his car,
gazing wistfully upon the scene. "I know all this country like a
book," he said. "I have ridden over it, and hunted over it, and
tramped over it, in all seasons and weather, and it looks like home to
me. My old ranch is not far off. We shall soon reach Medora, which was
my station." It was plain to see that that strange, forbidding-looking
landscape, hills and valleys to Eastern eyes utterly demoralized and
gone to the bad,--flayed, fantastic, treeless, a riot of naked clay
slopes, chimney-like buttes, and dry coulees,--was in his eyes a land
of almost pathetic interest. There were streaks of good pasturage here
and there where his cattle used to graze, and where the deer and the
pronghorn used to linger.


When we reached Medora, where the train was scheduled to stop an hour,
it was nearly dark, but the whole town and country round had turned
out to welcome their old townsman. After much hand-shaking, the
committee conducted us down to a little hall, where the President
stood on a low platform, and made a short address to the standing
crowd that filled the place. Then some flashlight pictures were taken
by the local photographer, after which the President stepped down,
and, while the people filed past him, shook hands with every man,
woman, and child of them, calling many of them by name, and greeting
them all most cordially. I recall one grizzled old frontiersman whose
hand he grasped, calling him by name, and saying, "How well I remember
you! You once mended my gunlock for me,--put on a new hammer." "Yes,"
said the delighted old fellow; "I'm the man, Mr. President." He was
among his old neighbors once more, and the pleasure of the meeting was
very obvious on both sides. I heard one of the women tell him they
were going to have a dance presently, and ask him if he would not stay
and open it! The President laughingly excused himself, and said his
train had to leave on schedule time, and his time was nearly up. I
thought of the incident in his "Ranch Life," in which he says he once
opened a cowboy ball with the wife of a Minnesota man, who had
recently shot a bullying Scotchman who danced opposite. He says the
scene reminded him of the ball where Bret Harte's heroine "went down
the middle with the man that shot Sandy Magee."

Before reaching Medora he had told me many anecdotes of "Hell Roaring
Bill Jones," and had said I should see him. But it turned out that
Hell Roaring Bill had begun to celebrate the coming of the President
too early in the day, and when we reached Medora he was not in a
presentable condition. I forget now how he had earned his name, but no
doubt he had come honestly by it; it was a part of his history, as was
that of "The Pike," "Cold Turkey Bill," "Hash Knife Joe," and other
classic heroes of the frontier.


It is curious how certain things go to the bad in the Far West, or a
certain proportion of them,--bad lands, bad horses, and bad men. And
it is a degree of badness that the East has no conception of,--land
that looks as raw and unnatural as if time had never laid its shaping
and softening hand upon it; horses that, when mounted, put their heads
to the ground and their heels in the air, and, squealing defiantly,
resort to the most diabolically ingenious tricks to shake off or to
kill their riders; and men who amuse themselves in bar-rooms by
shooting about the feet of a "tenderfoot" to make him dance, or who
ride along the street and shoot at every one in sight. Just as the old
plutonic fires come to the surface out there in the Rockies, and hint
very strongly of the infernal regions, so a kind of satanic element in
men and animals--an underlying devilishness--crops out, and we have
the border ruffian and the bucking broncho.

The President told of an Englishman on a hunting trip in the West,
who, being an expert horseman at home, scorned the idea that he could
not ride any of their "grass-fed ponies." So they gave him a bucking
broncho. He was soon lying on the ground, much stunned. When he could
speak, he said, "I should not have minded him, you know, _but 'e 'ides
'is 'ead_."


At one place in Dakota the train stopped to take water while we were
at lunch. A crowd soon gathered, and the President went out to greet
them. We could hear his voice, and the cheers and laughter of the
crowd. And then we heard him say, "Well, good-by, I must go now."
Still he did not come. Then we heard more talking and laughing, and
another "good-by," and yet he did not come. Then I went out to see
what had happened. I found the President down on the ground shaking
hands with the whole lot of them. Some one had reached up to shake
his hand as he was about withdrawing, and this had been followed by
such eagerness on the part of the rest of the people to do likewise,
that the President had instantly got down to gratify them. Had the
secret service men known it, they would have been in a pickle. We
probably have never had a President who responded more freely and
heartily to the popular liking for him than Roosevelt. The crowd
always seem to be in love with him the moment they see him and hear
his voice. And it is not by reason of any arts of eloquence, or charm
of address, but by reason of his inborn heartiness and sincerity, and
his genuine manliness. The people feel his quality at once. In Bermuda
last winter I met a Catholic priest who had sat on the platform at
some place in New England very near the President while he was
speaking, and who said, "The man had not spoken three minutes before I
loved him, and had any one tried to molest him, I could have torn him
to pieces." It is the quality in the man that instantly inspires such
a liking as this in strangers that will, I am sure, safeguard him in
all public places.

I once heard him say that he did not like to be addressed as "His
Excellency;" he added laughingly, "They might just as well call me His
Transparency, for all I care." It is this transparency, this direct,
out-and-out, unequivocal character of him that is one source of his
popularity. The people do love transparency,--all of them but the

A friend of his one day took him to task for some mistake he had made
in one of his appointments. "My dear sir," replied the President,
"where you know of one mistake I have made, I know of ten." How such
candor must make the politicians shiver!


I have said that I stood in dread of the necessity of snowshoeing in
the Park, and, in lieu of that, of horseback riding. Yet when we
reached Gardiner, the entrance to the Park, on that bright, crisp
April morning, with no snow in sight save that on the mountain-tops,
and found Major Pitcher and Captain Chittenden at the head of a squad
of soldiers, with a fine saddle-horse for the President, and an
ambulance drawn by two span of mules for me, I confess that I
experienced just a slight shade of mortification. I thought they might
have given me the option of the saddle or the ambulance. Yet I entered
the vehicle as if it was just what I had been expecting.

The President and his escort, with a cloud of cowboys hovering in the
rear, were soon off at a lively pace, and my ambulance followed close,
and at a lively pace, too; so lively that I soon found myself gripping
the seat with my hands. "Well," I said to myself, "they are giving me
a regular Western send-off;" and I thought, as the ambulance swayed
from side to side, that it would suit me just as well if my driver
did not try to keep up with the presidential procession. The driver
and his mules were shut off from me by a curtain, but, looking ahead
out of the sides of the vehicle, I saw two good-sized logs lying
across our course. Surely, I thought (and barely had time to think),
he will avoid these. But he did not, and as we passed over them I was
nearly thrown through the top of the ambulance. "This _is_ a lively
send-off," I said, rubbing my bruises with one hand, while I clung to
the seat with the other. Presently I saw the cowboys scrambling up the
bank as if to get out of our way; then the President on his fine gray
stallion scrambling up the bank with his escort, and looking ominously
in my direction, as we thundered by.


"Well," I said, "this is indeed a novel ride; for once in my life I
have sidetracked the President of the United States! I am given the
right of way over all." On we tore, along the smooth, hard road, and
did not slacken our pace till, at the end of a mile or two, we began
to mount the hill toward Fort Yellowstone. And not till we reached the
fort did I learn that our mules had run away. They had been excited
beyond control by the presidential cavalcade, and the driver, finding
he could not hold them, had aimed only to keep them in the road, and
we very soon had the road all to ourselves.


Fort Yellowstone is at Mammoth Hot Springs, where one gets his first
view of the characteristic scenery of the Park,--huge, boiling springs
with their columns of vapor, and the first characteristic odors which
suggest the traditional infernal regions quite as much as the boiling
and steaming water does. One also gets a taste of a much more rarefied
air than he has been used to, and finds himself panting for breath on
a very slight exertion. The Mammoth Hot Springs have built themselves
up an enormous mound that stands there above the village on the side
of the mountain, terraced and scalloped and fluted, and suggesting
some vitreous formation, or rare carving of enormous, many-colored
precious stones. It looks quite unearthly, and, though the devil's
frying pan, and ink pot, and the Stygian caves are not far off, the
suggestion is of something celestial rather than of the nether
regions,--a vision of jasper walls, and of amethyst battlements.

With Captain Chittenden I climbed to the top, stepping over the rills
and creeks of steaming hot water, and looked at the marvelously clear,
cerulean, but boiling, pools on the summit. The water seemed as
unearthly in its beauty and purity as the gigantic sculpturing that
held it.

[Illustration: FORT YELLOWSTONE.

From stereograph, copyright 1904, by Underwood & Underwood, New


The Stygian caves are still farther up the mountain,--little pockets
in the rocks, or well-holes in the ground at your feet, filled with
deadly carbon dioxide. We saw birds' feathers and quills in all of
them. The birds hop into them, probably in quest of food or seeking
shelter, and they never come out. We saw the body of a martin on the
bank of one hole. Into one we sank a lighted torch, and it was
extinguished as quickly as if we had dropped it into water. Each cave
or niche is a death valley on a small scale. Near by we came upon a
steaming pool, or lakelet, of an acre or more in extent. A pair of
mallard ducks were swimming about in one end of it,--the cool end.
When we approached, they swam slowly over into the warmer water. As
they progressed, the water got hotter and hotter, and the ducks'
discomfort was evident. Presently they stopped, and turned toward us,
half appealingly, as I thought. They could go no farther; would we
please come no nearer? As I took another step or two, up they rose and
disappeared over the hill. Had they gone to the extreme end of the
pool, we could have had boiled mallard for dinner.


Another novel spectacle was at night, or near sundown, when the deer
came down from the hills into the streets, and ate hay a few yards
from the officers' quarters, as unconcernedly as so many domestic
sheep. This they had been doing all winter, and they kept it up till
May, at times a score or more of them profiting thus on the
government's bounty. When the sundown gun was fired a couple of
hundred yards away, they gave a nervous start, but kept on with their
feeding. The antelope and elk and mountain sheep had not yet grown
bold enough to accept Uncle Sam's charity in that way.

The President wanted all the freedom and solitude possible while in
the Park, so all newspaper men and other strangers were excluded. Even
the secret service men and his physician and private secretaries were
left at Gardiner. He craved once more to be alone with nature; he was
evidently hungry for the wild and the aboriginal,--a hunger that seems
to come upon him regularly at least once a year, and drives him forth
on his hunting trips for big game in the West.

We spent two weeks in the Park, and had fair weather, bright, crisp
days, and clear, freezing nights. The first week we occupied three
camps that had been prepared, or partly prepared, for us in the
northeast corner of the Park, in the region drained by the Gardiner
River, where there was but little snow, and which we reached on


The second week we visited the geyser region, which lies a thousand
feet or more higher, and where the snow was still five or six feet
deep. This part of the journey was made in big sleighs, each drawn by
two span of horses.

On the horseback excursion, which involved only about fifty miles of
riding, we had a mule pack train, and Sibley tents and stoves, with
quite a retinue of camp laborers, a lieutenant and an orderly or two,
and a guide, Billy Hofer.


The first camp was in a wild, rocky, and picturesque gorge on the
Yellowstone, about ten miles from the fort. A slight indisposition,
the result of luxurious living, with no wood to chop or to saw, and no
hills to climb, as at home, prevented me from joining the party till
the third day. Then Captain Chittenden drove me eight miles in a
buggy. About two miles from camp we came to a picket of two or three
soldiers, where my big bay was in waiting for me. I mounted him
confidently, and, guided by an orderly, took the narrow, winding trail
toward camp. Except for an hour's riding the day before with Captain
Chittenden, I had not been on a horse's back for nearly fifty years,
and I had not spent as much as a day in the saddle during my youth.
That first sense of a live, spirited, powerful animal beneath you, at
whose mercy you are,--you, a pedestrian all your days,--with gullies
and rocks and logs to cross, and deep chasms opening close beside you,
is not a little disturbing. But my big bay did his part well, and I
did not lose my head or my nerve, as we cautiously made our way along
the narrow path on the side of the steep gorge, with a foaming torrent
rushing along at its foot, nor yet when we forded the rocky and rapid
Yellowstone. A misstep or a stumble on the part of my steed, and
probably the first bubble of my confidence would have been shivered at
once; but this did not happen, and in due time we reached the group of
tents that formed the President's camp.


The situation was delightful,--no snow, scattered pine trees, a
secluded valley, rocky heights, and the clear, ample, trouty waters of
the Yellowstone. The President was not in camp. In the morning he had
stated his wish to go alone into the wilderness. Major Pitcher very
naturally did not quite like the idea, and wished to send an orderly
with him.

"No," said the President. "Put me up a lunch, and let me go alone. I
will surely come back."

And back he surely came. It was about five o'clock when he came
briskly down the path from the east to the camp. It came out that he
had tramped about eighteen miles through a very rough country. The
day before, he and the major had located a band of several hundred elk
on a broad, treeless hillside, and his purpose was to find those elk,
and creep up on them, and eat his lunch under their very noses. And
this he did, spending an hour or more within fifty yards of them. He
came back looking as fresh as when he started, and at night, sitting
before the big camp fire, related his adventure, and talked with his
usual emphasis and copiousness of many things. He told me of the birds
he had seen or heard; among them he had heard one that was new to him.
From his description I told him I thought it was Townsend's solitaire,
a bird I much wanted to see and hear. I had heard the West India
solitaire,--one of the most impressive songsters I ever heard,--and I
wished to compare our Western form with it.


The next morning we set out for our second camp, ten or a dozen miles
away, and in reaching it passed over much of the ground the President
had traversed the day before. As we came to a wild, rocky place above
a deep chasm of the river, with a few scattered pine trees, the
President said, "It was right here that I heard that strange bird
song." We paused a moment. "And there it is now," he exclaimed.


Sure enough, there was the solitaire singing from the top of a small
cedar,--a bright, animated, eloquent song, but without the richness
and magic of the song of the tropical species. We hitched our horses,
and followed the bird up as it flew from tree to tree. The President
was as eager to see and hear it as I was. It seemed very shy, and we
only caught glimpses of it. In form and color it much resembles its
West India cousin, and suggests our catbird. It ceased to sing when we
pursued it. It is a bird found only in the wilder and higher parts of
the Rockies. My impression was that its song did not quite merit the
encomiums that have been pronounced upon it.

At this point, I saw amid the rocks my first and only Rocky Mountain
woodchucks, and, soon after we had resumed our journey, our first blue
grouse,--a number of them like larger partridges. Occasionally we
would come upon black-tailed deer, standing or lying down in the
bushes, their large ears at attention being the first thing to catch
the eye. They would often allow us to pass within a few rods of them
without showing alarm. Elk horns were scattered all over this part of
the Park, and we passed several old carcasses of dead elk that had
probably died a natural death.


From stereograph, copyright 1904, by Underwood & Underwood, New


In a grassy bottom at the foot of a steep hill, while the President
and I were dismounted, and noting the pleasing picture which our pack
train of fifteen or twenty mules made filing along the side of a steep
grassy slope,--a picture which he has preserved in his late volume,
"Out-Door Pastimes of an American Hunter,"--our attention was
attracted by plaintive, musical, bird-like chirps that rose from the
grass about us. I was almost certain it was made by a bird; the
President was of like opinion; and I kicked about in the tufts of
grass, hoping to flush the bird. Now here, now there, arose this
sharp, but bird-like note. Finally we found that it was made by a
species of gopher, whose holes we soon discovered. What its specific
name is I do not know, but it should be called the singing gopher.

Our destination this day was a camp on Cottonwood Creek, near "Hell
Roaring Creek." As we made our way in the afternoon along a broad,
open, grassy valley, I saw a horseman come galloping over the hill to
our right, starting up a band of elk as he came; riding across the
plain, he wheeled his horse, and, with the military salute, joined our
party. He proved to be a government scout, called the "Duke of Hell
Roaring,"--an educated officer from the Austrian army, who, for some
unknown reason, had exiled himself here in this out-of-the-way part
of the world. He was a man in his prime, of fine, military look and
bearing. After conversing a few moments with the President and Major
Pitcher, he rode rapidly away.


Our second camp, which we reached in mid-afternoon, was in the edge of
the woods on the banks of a fine, large trout stream, where ice and
snow still lingered in patches. I tried for trout in the head of a
large, partly open pool, but did not get a rise; too much ice in the
stream, I concluded. Very soon my attention was attracted by a strange
note, or call, in the spruce woods. The President had also noticed it,
and, with me, wondered what made it. Was it bird or beast? Billy Hofer
said he thought it was an owl, but it in no way suggested an owl, and
the sun was shining brightly. It was a sound such as a boy might make
by blowing in the neck of an empty bottle. Presently we heard it
beyond us on the other side of the creek, which was pretty good proof
that the creature had wings.

"Let's go run that bird down," said the President to me.

So off we started across a small, open, snow-streaked plain, toward
the woods beyond it. We soon decided that the bird was on the top of
one of a group of tall spruces. After much skipping about over logs
and rocks, and much craning of our necks, we made him out on the peak
of a spruce. I imitated his call, when he turned his head down toward
us, but we could not make out what he was.

"Why did we not think to bring the glasses?" said the President.

"I will run and get them," I replied.


"No," said he, "you stay here and keep that bird treed, and I will
fetch them."

So off he went like a boy, and was very soon back with the glasses. We
quickly made out that it was indeed an owl,--the pigmy owl, as it
turned out,--not much larger than a bluebird. I think the President
was as pleased as if we had bagged some big game. He had never seen
the bird before.

Throughout the trip I found his interest in bird life very keen, and
his eye and ear remarkably quick. He usually saw the bird or heard its
note as quickly as I did,--and I had nothing else to think about, and
had been teaching my eye and ear the trick of it for over fifty years.
Of course, his training as a big-game hunter stood him in good stead,
but back of that were his naturalist's instincts, and his genuine love
of all forms of wild life.


I have been told that his ambition up to the time he went to Harvard
had been to be a naturalist, but that there they seem to have
convinced him that all the out-of-door worlds of natural history had
been conquered, and that the only worlds remaining were in the
laboratory, and to be won with the microscope and the scalpel. But
Roosevelt was a man made for action in a wide field, and laboratory
conquests could not satisfy him. His instincts as a naturalist,
however, lie back of all his hunting expeditions, and, in a large
measure, I think, prompt them. Certain it is that his hunting records
contain more live natural history than any similar records known
to me, unless it be those of Charles St. John, the Scotch

The Canada jays, or camp-robbers, as they are often called, soon found
out our camp that afternoon, and no sooner had the cook begun to throw
out peelings and scraps and crusts than the jays began to carry them
off, not to eat, as I observed, but to hide them in the thicker
branches of the spruce trees. How tame they were, coming within three
or four yards of one! Why this species of jay should everywhere be so
familiar, and all other kinds so wild, is a puzzle.

In the morning, as we rode down the valley toward our next
camping-place, at Tower Falls, a band of elk containing a hundred or
more started along the side of the hill a few hundred yards away. I
was some distance behind the rest of the party, as usual, when I saw
the President wheel his horse off to the left, and, beckoning to me
to follow, start at a tearing pace on the trail of the fleeing elk. He
afterwards told me that he wanted me to get a good view of those elk
at close range, and he was afraid that if he sent the major or Hofer
to lead me, I would not get it. I hurried along as fast as I could,
which was not fast; the way was rough,--logs, rocks, spring runs, and
a tenderfoot rider.


Now and then the President, looking back and seeing what slow progress
I was making, would beckon to me impatiently, and I could fancy him
saying, "If I had a rope around him, he would come faster than that!"
Once or twice I lost sight of both him and the elk; the altitude was
great, and the horse was laboring like a steam-engine on an upgrade.
Still I urged him on. Presently, as I broke over a hill, I saw the
President pressing the elk up the opposite slope. At the brow of the
hill he stopped, and I soon joined him. There on the top, not fifty
yards away, stood the elk in a mass, their heads toward us and their
tongues hanging out. They could run no farther. The President laughed
like a boy. The spectacle meant much more to him than it did to me. I
had never seen a wild elk till on this trip, but they had been among
the notable game that he had hunted. He had traveled hundreds of
miles, and undergone great hardships, to get within rifle range of
these creatures. Now here stood scores of them, with lolling tongues,
begging for mercy.

After gazing at them to our hearts' content, we turned away to look up
our companions, who were nowhere within sight. We finally spied them a
mile or more away, and, joining them, all made our way to an elevated
plateau that commanded an open landscape three or four miles across.
It was high noon, and the sun shone clear and warm. From this lookout
we saw herds upon herds of elk scattered over the slopes and gentle
valleys in front of us. Some were grazing, some were standing or lying
upon the ground, or upon the patches of snow. Through our glasses we
counted the separate bands, and then the numbers of some of the bands
or groups, and estimated that three thousand elk were in full view in
the landscape around us. It was a notable spectacle. Afterward, in
Montana, I attended a council of Indian chiefs at one of the Indian
agencies, and told them, through their interpreter, that I had been
with the Great Chief in the Park, and of the game we had seen. When I
told them of these three thousand elk all in view at once, they
grunted loudly, whether with satisfaction or with incredulity, I could
not tell.

In the midst of this great game amphitheatre we dismounted and enjoyed
the prospect. And the President did an unusual thing, he loafed for
nearly an hour,--stretched himself out in the sunshine upon a flat
rock, as did the rest of us, and, I hope, got a few winks of sleep. I
am sure I did. Little, slender, striped chipmunks, about half the size
of ours, were scurrying about; but I recall no other wild thing save
the elk.


From here we rode down the valley to our third camp, at Tower Falls,
stopping on the way to eat our luncheon on a washed boulder beside a
creek. On this ride I saw my first and only badger; he stuck his
striped head out of his hole in the ground only a few yards away from
us as we passed.

Our camp at Tower Falls was amid the spruces above a cañon of the
Yellowstone, five or six hundred feet deep. It was a beautiful and
impressive situation,--shelter, snugness, even cosiness,--looking over
the brink of the awful and the terrifying. With a run and a jump I
think one might have landed in the river at the bottom of the great
abyss, and in doing so might have scaled one of those natural obelisks
or needles of rock that stand up out of the depths two or three
hundred feet high. Nature shows you what an enormous furrow her plough
can open through the strata when mowing horizontally, at the same time
that she shows you what delicate and graceful columns her slower and
gentler aerial forces can carve out of the piled strata. At the Falls
there were two or three of these columns, like the picket-pins of the
elder gods.


Across the cañon in front of our camp, upon a grassy plateau which was
faced by a wall of trap rock, apparently thirty or forty feet high, a
band of mountain sheep soon attracted our attention. They were within
long rifle range, but were not at all disturbed by our presence, nor
had they been disturbed by the road-builders who, under Captain
Chittenden, were constructing a government road along the brink of the
cañon. We speculated as to whether or not the sheep could get down the
almost perpendicular face of the chasm to the river to drink. It
seemed to me impossible. Would they try it while we were there to see?
We all hoped so; and sure enough, late in the afternoon the word came
to our tents that the sheep were coming down. The President, with coat
off and a towel around his neck, was shaving. One side of his face was
half shaved, and the other side lathered. Hofer and I started for a
point on the brink of the cañon where we could have a better view.

"By Jove," said the President, "I must see that. The shaving can wait,
and the sheep won't."


So on he came, accoutred as he was,--coatless, hatless, but not
latherless, nor towelless. Like the rest of us, his only thought was
to see those sheep do their "stunt." With glasses in hand, we
watched them descend those perilous heights, leaping from point to
point, finding a foothold where none appeared to our eyes, loosening
fragments of the crumbling rocks as they came, now poised upon some
narrow shelf and preparing for the next leap, zigzagging or plunging
straight down till the bottom was reached, and not one accident or
misstep amid all that insecure footing. I think the President was the
most pleased of us all; he laughed with the delight of it, and quite
forgot his need of a hat and coat till I sent for them.


By kind permission of Forest and Stream.]

In the night we heard the sheep going back; we could tell by the noise
of the falling stones. In the morning I confidently expected to see
some of them lying dead at the foot of the cliffs, but there they all
were at the top once more, apparently safe and sound. They do,
however, occasionally meet with accidents in their perilous climbing,
and their dead bodies have been found at the foot of the rocks.
Doubtless some point of rock to which they had trusted gave way, and
crushed them in the descent, or fell upon those in the lead.


The next day, while the rest of us went fishing for trout in the
Yellowstone, three or four miles above camp, over the roughest trail
that we had yet traversed on horseback, the President, who never
fishes unless put to it for meat, went off alone again with his lunch
in his pocket, to stalk those sheep as he had stalked the elk, and to
feel the old sportsman's thrill without the use of firearms. To do
this involved a tramp of eight or ten miles down the river to a bridge
and up the opposite bank. This he did, and ate his lunch near the
sheep, and was back in camp before we were.

We took some large cut-throat trout, as they are called, from the
yellow mark across their throats, and I saw at short range a
black-tailed deer bounding along in that curious, stiff-legged,
mechanical, yet springy manner, apparently all four legs in the air at
once, and all four feet reaching the ground at once, affording a very
singular spectacle.


We spent two nights in our Tower Falls camp, and on the morning of the
third day set out on our return to Fort Yellowstone, pausing at
Yancey's on our way, and exchanging greetings with the old
frontiersman, who died a few weeks later.


While in camp we always had a big fire at night in the open near the
tents, and around this we sat upon logs or camp-stools, and listened
to the President's talk. What a stream of it he poured forth! and what
a varied and picturesque stream!--anecdote, history, science,
politics, adventure, literature; bits of his experience as a ranchman,
hunter, Rough Rider, legislator, Civil Service commissioner, police
commissioner, governor, president,--the frankest confessions, the most
telling criticisms, happy characterizations of prominent political
leaders, or foreign rulers, or members of his own Cabinet; always
surprising by his candor, astonishing by his memory, and diverting by
his humor. His reading has been very wide, and he has that rare type
of memory which retains details as well as mass and generalities. One
night something started him off on ancient history, and one would have
thought he was just fresh from his college course in history, the
dates and names and events came so readily. Another time he discussed
palæontology, and rapidly gave the outlines of the science, and the
main facts, as if he had been reading up on the subject that very day.
He sees things as wholes, and hence the relation of the parts comes
easy to him.

At dinner, at the White House, the night before we started on the
expedition, I heard him talking with a guest,--an officer of the
British army, who was just back from India. And the extent and variety
of his information about India and Indian history and the relations of
the British government to it were extraordinary. It put the British
major on his mettle to keep pace with him.


One night in camp he told us the story of one of his Rough Riders who
had just written him from some place in Arizona. The Rough Riders,
wherever they are now, look to him in time of trouble. This one had
come to grief in Arizona. He was in jail. So he wrote the President,
and his letter ran something like this:--

"DEAR COLONEL,--I am in trouble. I shot a lady in the eye, but I did
not intend to hit the lady; I was shooting at my wife."

And the presidential laughter rang out over the treetops. To another
Rough Rider, who was in jail, accused of horse stealing, he had loaned
two hundred dollars to pay counsel on his trial, and, to his surprise,
in due time the money came back. The Ex-Rough wrote that his trial
never came off. "_We elected our district attorney_;" and the laughter
again sounded, and drowned the noise of the brook near by.

On another occasion we asked the President if he was ever molested by
any of the "bad men" of the frontier, with whom he had often come in
contact. "Only once," he said. The cowboys had always treated him with
the utmost courtesy, both on the round-up and in camp; "and the few
real desperadoes I have seen were also perfectly polite." Once only
was he maliciously shot at, and then not by a cowboy nor a _bona fide_
"bad man," but by a "broad-hatted ruffian of a cheap and commonplace
type." He had been compelled to pass the night at a little frontier
hotel where the bar-room occupied the whole lower floor, and was, in
consequence, the only place where the guests of the hotel, whether
drunk or sober, could sit. As he entered the room, he saw that every
man there was being terrorized by a half-drunken ruffian who stood in
the middle of the floor with a revolver in each hand, compelling
different ones to treat.


"I went and sat down behind the stove," said the President, "as far
from him as I could get; and hoped to escape his notice. The fact that
I wore glasses, together with my evident desire to avoid a fight,
apparently gave him the impression that I could be imposed upon with
impunity. He very soon approached me, flourishing his two guns, and
ordered me to treat. I made no reply for some moments, when the fellow
became so threatening that I saw something had to be done. The crowd,
mostly sheep-herders and small grangers, sat or stood back against the
wall, afraid to move. I was unarmed, and thought rapidly. Saying,
'Well, if I must, I must,' I got up as if to walk around him to the
bar, then, as I got opposite him, I wheeled and fetched him as heavy a
blow on the chin-point as I could strike. He went down like a steer
before the axe, firing both guns into the ceiling as he went. I
jumped on him, and, with my knees on his chest, disarmed him in a
hurry. The crowd was then ready enough to help me, and we hog-tied him
and put him in an outhouse." The President alludes to this incident in
his "Ranch Life," but does not give the details. It brings out his
mettle very distinctly.

He told us in an amused way of the attempts of his political opponents
at Albany, during his early career as a member of the Assembly, to
besmirch his character. His outspoken criticisms and denunciations had
become intolerable to them, so they laid a trap for him, but he was
not caught. His innate rectitude and instinct for the right course
saved him, as it has saved him many times since. I do not think that
in any emergency he has to debate with himself long as to the right
course to be pursued; he divines it by a kind of infallible instinct.
His motives are so simple and direct that he finds a straight and easy
course where another man, whose eye is less single, would flounder and


The President unites in himself powers and qualities that rarely go
together. Thus, he has both physical and moral courage in a degree
rare in history. He can stand calm and unflinching in the path of a
charging grizzly, and he can confront with equal coolness and
determination the predaceous corporations and money powers of the

He unites the qualities of the man of action with those of the scholar
and writer,--another very rare combination. He unites the instincts
and accomplishments of the best breeding and culture with the broadest
democratic sympathies and affiliations. He is as happy with a
frontiersman like Seth Bullock as with a fellow Harvard man, and Seth
Bullock is happy, too.

He unites great austerity with great good-nature. He unites great
sensibility with great force and will power. He loves solitude, and he
loves to be in the thick of the fight. His love of nature is equaled
only by his love of the ways and marts of men.

He is doubtless the most vital man on the continent, if not on the
planet, to-day. He is many-sided, and every side throbs with his
tremendous life and energy; the pressure is equal all around. His
interests are as keen in natural history as in economics, in
literature as in statecraft, in the young poet as in the old soldier,
in preserving peace as in preparing for war. And he can turn all his
great power into the new channel on the instant. His interest in the
whole of life, and in the whole life of the nation, never flags for a
moment. His activity is tireless. All the relaxation he needs or
craves is a change of work. He is like the farmer's fields, that only
need a rotation of crops. I once heard him say that all he cared
about being President was just "the big work."

During this tour through the West, lasting over two months, he made
nearly three hundred speeches; and yet on his return Mrs. Roosevelt
told me he looked as fresh and unworn as when he left home.


We went up into the big geyser region with the big sleighs, each drawn
by four horses. A big snowbank had to be shoveled through for us
before we got to the Golden Gate, two miles above Mammoth Hot Springs.
Beyond that we were at an altitude of about eight thousand feet, on a
fairly level course that led now through woods, and now through open
country, with the snow of a uniform depth of four or five feet, except
as we neared the "formations," where the subterranean warmth kept the
ground bare. The roads had been broken and the snow packed for us by
teams from the fort, otherwise the journey would have been impossible.

The President always rode beside the driver. From his youth, he said,
this seat had always been the most desirable one to him. When the
sleigh would strike the bare ground, and begin to drag heavily, he
would bound out nimbly and take to his heels, and then all three of
us--Major Pitcher, Mr. Childs, and myself--would follow suit,
sometimes reluctantly on my part. Walking at that altitude is no
fun, especially if you try to keep pace with such a walker as the
President is. But he could not sit at his ease and let those horses
drag him in a sleigh over bare ground. When snow was reached, we would
again quickly resume our seats.


From stereograph, copyright 1904, by Underwood & Underwood, New York.]

As one nears the geyser region, he gets the impression from the
columns of steam going up here and there in the distance--now from
behind a piece of woods, now from out a hidden valley--that he is
approaching a manufacturing centre, or a railroad terminus. And when
he begins to hear the hoarse snoring of "Roaring Mountain," the
illusion is still more complete. At Norris's there is a big vent where
the steam comes tearing out of a recent hole in the ground with
terrific force. Huge mounds of ice had formed from the congealed vapor
all around it, some of them very striking.


The novelty of the geyser region soon wears off. Steam and hot water
are steam and hot water the world over, and the exhibition of them
here did not differ, except in volume, from what one sees by his own
fireside. The "Growler" is only a boiling teakettle on a large scale,
and "Old Faithful" is as if the lid were to fly off, and the whole
contents of the kettle should be thrown high into the air. To be sure,
boiling lakes and steaming rivers are not common, but the new features
seemed, somehow, out of place, and as if nature had made a mistake.
One disliked to see so much good steam and hot water going to waste;
whole towns might be warmed by them, and big wheels made to go round.
I wondered that they had not piped them into the big hotels which they
opened for us, and which were warmed by wood fires.

At Norris's the big room that the President and I occupied was on the
ground floor, and was heated by a huge box stove. As we entered it to
go to bed, the President said, "Oom John, don't you think it is too
hot here?"

"I certainly do," I replied.

"Shall I open the window?"

"That will just suit me." And he threw the sash, which came down to
the floor, all the way up, making an opening like a doorway. The night
was cold, but neither of us suffered from the abundance of fresh air.

The caretaker of the building was a big Swede called Andy. In the
morning Andy said that beat him: "There was the President of the
United States sleeping in that room, with the window open to the
floor, and not so much as one soldier outside on guard."

The President had counted much on seeing the bears that in summer
board at the Fountain Hotel, but they were not yet out of their dens.
We saw the track of only one, and he was not making for the hotel. At
all the formations where the geysers are, the ground was bare over a
large area. I even saw a wild flower--an early buttercup, not an inch
high--in bloom. This seems to be the earliest wild flower in the
Rockies. It is the only fragrant buttercup I know.


As we were riding along in our big sleigh toward the Fountain Hotel,
the President suddenly jumped out, and, with his soft hat as a shield
to his hand, captured a mouse that was running along over the ground
near us. He wanted it for Dr. Merriam, on the chance that it might be
a new species. While we all went fishing in the afternoon, the
President skinned his mouse, and prepared the pelt to be sent to
Washington. It was done as neatly as a professed taxidermist would
have done it. This was the only game the President killed in the Park.
In relating the incident to a reporter while I was in Spokane, the
thought occurred to me, Suppose he changes that _u_ to an _o_, and
makes the President capture a moose, what a pickle I shall be in! Is
it anything more than ordinary newspaper enterprise to turn a mouse
into a moose? But, luckily for me, no such metamorphosis happened to
that little mouse. It turned out not to be a new species, as it should
have been, but a species new to the Park.

I caught trout that afternoon, on the edge of steaming pools in the
Madison River, that seemed to my hand almost blood-warm. I suppose
they found better feeding where the water was warm. On the table they
did not compare with our Eastern brook trout.

I was pleased to be told at one of the hotels that they had kalsomined
some of the rooms with material from one of the devil's paint-pots. It
imparted a soft, delicate, pinkish tint, not at all suggestive of
things satanic.


One afternoon at Norris's, the President and I took a walk to observe
the birds. In the grove about the barns there was a great number, the
most attractive to me being the mountain bluebird. These birds we saw
in all parts of the Park, and at Norris's there was an unusual number
of them. How blue they were,--breast and all. In voice and manner they
were almost identical with our bluebird. The Western purple finch was
abundant here also, and juncos, and several kinds of sparrows, with an
occasional Western robin. A pair of wild geese were feeding in the
low, marshy ground not over one hundred yards from us, but when we
tried to approach nearer they took wing. A few geese and ducks seem to
winter in the Park.

The second morning at Norris's, one of our teamsters, George Marvin,
suddenly dropped dead from some heart affection, just as he had
finished caring for his team. It was a great shock to us all. I never
saw a better man with a team than he was. I had ridden on the seat
beside him all the day previous. On one of the "formations" our teams
had got mired in the soft, putty-like mud, and at one time it looked
as if they could never extricate themselves, and I doubt if they could
have, had it not been for the skill with which Marvin managed them. We
started for the Grand Cañon up the Yellowstone that morning, and, in
order to give myself a walk over the crisp snow in the clear, frosty
air, I set out a little while in advance of the teams. As I did so, I
saw the President, accompanied by one of the teamsters, walking
hurriedly toward the barn to pay his last respects to the body of
Marvin. After we had returned to Mammoth Hot Springs, he made
inquiries for the young woman to whom he had been told that Marvin was
engaged to be married. He looked her up, and sat a long time with her
in her home, offering his sympathy, and speaking words of consolation.
The act shows the depth and breadth of his humanity.


At the Cañon Hotel the snow was very deep, and had become so soft from
the warmth of the earth beneath, as well as from the sun above, that
we could only reach the brink of the Cañon on skis. The President and
Major Pitcher had used skis before, but I had not, and, starting out
without the customary pole, I soon came to grief. The snow gave way
beneath me, and I was soon in an awkward predicament. The more I
struggled, the lower my head and shoulders went, till only my heels,
strapped to those long timbers, protruded above the snow. To reverse
my position was impossible till some one came, and reached me the end
of a pole, and pulled me upright. But I very soon got the hang of the
things, and the President and I quickly left the superintendent
behind. I think I could have passed the President, but my manners
forbade. He was heavier than I was, and broke in more. When one of his
feet would go down half a yard or more, I noted with admiration the
skilled diplomacy he displayed in extricating it. The tendency of my
skis was all the time to diverge, and each to go off at an acute angle
to my main course, and I had constantly to be on the alert to check
this tendency.

Paths had been shoveled for us along the brink of the Cañon, so that
we got the usual views from the different points. The Cañon was nearly
free from snow, and was a grand spectacle, by far the grandest to be
seen in the Park. The President told us that once, when pressed for
meat, while returning through here from one of his hunting trips, he
had made his way down to the river that we saw rushing along beneath
us, and had caught some trout for dinner. Necessity alone could induce
him to fish.

Across the head of the Falls there was a bridge of snow and ice, upon
which we were told that the coyotes passed. As the season progressed,
there would come a day when the bridge would not be safe. It would be
interesting to know if the coyotes knew when this time arrived.

The only live thing we saw in the Cañon was an osprey perched upon a
rock opposite us.

Near the falls of the Yellowstone, as at other places we had visited,
a squad of soldiers had their winter quarters. The President always
called on them, looked over the books they had to read, examined their
housekeeping arrangements, and conversed freely with them.

In front of the hotel were some low hills separated by gentle valleys.
At the President's suggestion, he and I raced on our skis down those
inclines. We had only to stand up straight, and let gravity do the
rest. As we were going swiftly down the side of one of the hills, I
saw out of the corner of my eye the President taking a header into the
snow. The snow had given way beneath him, and nothing could save him
from taking the plunge. I don't know whether I called out, or only
thought, something about the downfall of the administration. At any
rate, the administration was down, and pretty well buried, but it was
quickly on its feet again, shaking off the snow with a boy's
laughter. I kept straight on, and very soon the laugh was on me, for
the treacherous snow sank beneath me, and I took a header, too.

"Who is laughing now, Oom John?" called out the President.

The spirit of the boy was in the air that day about the Cañon of the
Yellowstone, and the biggest boy of us all was President Roosevelt.


The snow was getting so soft in the middle of the day that our return
to the Mammoth Hot Springs could no longer be delayed. Accordingly, we
were up in the morning, and ready to start on the home journey, a
distance of twenty miles, by four o'clock. The snow bore up the horses
well till mid-forenoon, when it began to give way beneath them. But by
very careful management we pulled through without serious delay, and
were back again at the house of Major Pitcher in time for luncheon,
being the only outsiders who had ever made the tour of the Park so
early in the season.

A few days later I bade good-by to the President, who went on his way
to California, while I made a loop of travel to Spokane, and around
through Idaho and Montana, and had glimpses of the great, optimistic,
sunshiny West that I shall not soon forget.

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use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.