By Schenectady Sheriff Harry C. Buffardi© 1998. The History of the Office of Sheriff was published and copyrighted in 1998 by Schenectady County Sheriff Harry C. Buffardi.
Theodore Roosevelt went to the Dakota Territory in 1883 to spend a vacation shooting buffalo. While in the Badlands, he fell in love with the beautiful yet savage country. Roosevelt lost himself in the charisma of what he called "the never ending plains."
While in the West, he decided to build a log ranch house as a getaway retreat from his native New York and the political toils of his life. During a stay in the West, Teddy had a famous encounter with a frontier bully in Mingasville, West of Medora. One evening he entered Nolan's Hotel and Saloon just as two shots were fired by a drunken cowboy. The gunslinger then pointed his weapon at Roosevelt, whom he referred to as "four eyes", and demanded that he buy a drink for the entire house. Teddy laughed, which distracted the outlaw just long enough, before TR struck the desperado twice square on the jaw with left and right punches. As the man was going down, he convulsively squeezed off another shot, which missed Roosevelt. The corner of the bar met with the falling man's head and placed him into unconsciousness. The unconscious man was locked in a shed overnight until he was jailed the next day.
Theodore Roosevelt was traveling West from New York after attending to his politics when another adventure occurred.
In 1886, three "hard characters" made off with his boat. He was enraged with the theft but could not pursue the thieves down river due to severe weather. The loss of the small boat was not the primary reason for his anger. He knew that if the band of thieves was successful, it would signal others to plunder his ranch during frequent vacancies.
On the frontier, where justice was a six-shooter on a man's hip, Roosevelt knew he had to pursue the trio, capture them, and turn them over to the law for punishment.
Roosevelt wrote to his friend, Henry Cabot Lodge, and described the incident:
...as soon as it lightens up I shall start downriver with two of my men in a boat we have built indoors, after some horse thieves who took our boat the other night to get out of the country with it.
As soon as the storm subsided, the posse made provisions for a three-week trek to hunt the thieves. They packed supplies of bacon, flour, and coffee. Roosevelt brought his camera and a copy of Tolstoy's Anna Karenina to occupy his time. Roosevelt cites the event in his 1897 book Ranch Life and the Hunting Trail:
The next eight days were as irksome and monotonous as ever I have spent: there is very little amusement in combining the functions of a sheriff with those of an arctic explorer.
The posse located and arrested the violators and returned them to the authorities. While on the trip back Roosevelt relates:
...all the time, of course, we had to keep guard over the captives, who had caused so much trouble that we were bound to bring them in, no matter what we lost.
Bring them in he did and as a result, he served the function of a Billings County deputy sheriff and received a fee of $50 for making the arrests. After this he would go on as a politician, leader of his party, New York City Police Commissioner, New York State Governor, Vice President, and President of the United States.