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210   My Brother Theodore Roosevelt

those who have studied the conditions of American politics, and the merits of the particular economic question involved, so far as they are intelligible to us, or last but by no means least, the character and personality of President Roosevelt. It would now seem that the people of the United States are at the parting of the ways between the corrupt, old political system and a newer, manlier, honester conception of public rights and duties."

Perhaps this sentence foreshadows more than any other contemporary expression the enormous instrument for honesty in high places in the history of his country which it was Theodore Roosevelt's destiny to be.

Mingled with these great cares and far-reaching issues came, later, brighter moments, and it was about that time that during an interval of play at Oyster Bay, he started the custom of his famous "obstacle walks." He would gather all the little cousins and his own children and mine, if I could bring them down for a week-end, on Sunday afternoon at Sagamore Hill (even an occasional "grown person" was considered sufficiently adventurous to be included in the party), and would start on one of the strenuous scrambles which he called an "obstacle walk." It was more like a game than a walk, for it had rules and regulations of its own, the principal one being that each participant should follow the presidential leader "over or through" any obstacle but never "around." There were sometimes as many as twenty little children as we stood on the top of Cooper's Bluff, a high sand-bank overlooking the Sound, ready for the word "go," and all of them children were agog with excitement at the probable obstacles in their path. As we stood on the brink of the big sand-bank, my brother would turn with an amused twinkle in his eye and say: "There is a little path down the side, but I always jump off the top." This, needless to say, was in the form of a challenge, which he always accompanied by a laugh and a leap into the air, landing on whatever portion of his body happened to be the one that struck the lower part of the sandbank first. Then there would be a shout from the children, and

Home Life in the White House 211

every one would imitate his method of progress, I myself, generally the only other grown person, bringing up the rear rather reluctantly but determined not to have to follow the other important rule of the game, which was that if you could not succeed in going "over or through" that you should put your metaphorical tail between your physical legs and return home. You were not jeered at, no disagreeable remark was directed at you, but your sense of failure was humiliation enough.

Having reached the foot of the bank in this promiscuous fashion, we would all sit on stones and take off our shoes and stockings to shake the quantities of sand therefrom, and then start on the real business of the day. With a sense of great excitement we watched our leader and the devious course he pursued while finding the most trying obstacles to test our courage. I remember one day seeing in our path an especially unpleasant-looking little bathing-house with a very steep roof like a Swiss chalet. I looked at it with sudden dismay, for I realized that only the very young and slender could chin up its slippery sides, and I hoped that the leader of the party would deflect his course. Needless to say, he did not, and I can still see the somewhat sturdy body of the then President of the United States hurling itself at the obstruction and with singular agility chinning himself to the top and sliding down on the other side. The children stormed it with whoops of delight, but I thought I had come to my Waterloo. Just as I had decided that the moment had come for that ignominious retreat of which I have already spoken, I happened to notice a large rusty nail on one side of the unfinished shanty, and I thought to myself : "If I can get a footing on that nail, then perhaps I can get my hands to the top of that sloping roof, and if I can get my hands there, perhaps by Herculean efforts I too can chin myself over the other side." Nothing succeeds like success, for having performed this almost impossible feat and having violently returned into the midst of my anxious group of fellow pedestrians, very much as the little boy does on his sled on the steepest snow-clad hill,

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