Skip to main content

A Parting Shot

May 2024
1min read

Teddy Roosevelt’s battle with writers of imaginative wildlife stories (“T.R. and the ‘Nature Fakers,’” February, 1971) appears to be not quite concluded. One of the targets of the President’s verbal assaults was the Reverend William J. Long, who was convinced that birds and animals conducted schools to train their young for the hardships of life. Long, in turn, attacked Roosevelt as a senseless trophy hunter. And now, more than sixty years later, his daughter, Mrs. Lois Long Fox, of Easton, Pennsylvania, has joined the fray. The editors of the Easton Express showed her a copy of our article and asked her to comment on it. Mrs. Fox, who has been with The New Torker magazine since 1925, admitted that no one in her home ever mentioned Roosevelt’s deeds as a conservationist; on the other hand, she felt that her father’s “election” to Roosevelt’s Ananias Club was unwarranted. As Mrs. Fox put it:
… Daddy was an Irishman, with the vivid imagination and dislike of being overliteral that is peculiar to the breed. But, as to his being a liar, my family can scotch one of T.R.’s accusations. He was irked by Daddy’s contention that a woodcock, his leg broken by birdshot, would, sometimes, encase it in a plaster cast. When my father died in 1952, my brother found many woodcock skeletons in his safe, presumably sent by hunters rallying to his cause. They all bore primitive, hardened clay on one leg or another. No orthopedic surgeon would acknowledge any as his handiwork, but a broken leg is inflamed, right? And what gives more coolth than slapping on mud or, preferably, wet clay?
We spent every summer of my early life deep in Maine, north of Moosehead Lake. … Even if you are not overly patient (I am not), fascinating things go on in this solitude, with. animals and birds going about their business and disregarding you as just another bump on a log. …
It is true that wild animals seem to have a workable substitute for “rational” thinking.
Foxes, for instance, like to bedevil the pursuing hounds by taking to water (no scent). Or backtracking on their own course (confusing scent). … And why do raccoons wash everything before they eat it? They have read about germs, perhaps? And a possum does SO play dead, the sly boots. …
Casual observations, nothing like Father’s after a lifetime of study, but still my own. Try to explain these and a thousand others in human terms. Nature knows. Maybe we should get closer to her.

We hope you enjoy our work.

Please support this magazine of trusted historical writing, now in its 75th year, and the volunteers that sustain it with a donation to American Heritage.

Donate