Teddy Roosevelt and Buffalo Bill: From Sustenance to Slaughter, From Excess to Conservation
The most thrilling moments of an American hunter's life are those in which, with every sense on the alert, and with nerves strung to the highest point, he is following alone into the heart of its forest fastness the fresh and bloody footprints of an angered grizzly; and no other triumph of American hunting can compare with the victory to be gained. (Roosevelt, in DiNunzio 266—267)
[L]eaving my saddle and bridle with the wagons, we rode to the windward of the buffaloes, as usual, and when within a few hundred yards of them we dashed into the herd. I soon had thirteen laid out on the ground, the last one of which I had driven down close to the wagons, where the ladies were. It frightened some of the tender creatures to see the buffalo coming at full speed directly toward them; but when he had got within fifty yards of one of the wagons, I shot him dead in his tracks. This made my sixty-ninth buffalo. (Cody 173—174)
Theodore Roosevelt's life was a grizzly hunt or, more accurately, one grizzly hunt after another. William “Buffalo Bill” Cody's life was a buffalo hunt. Roosevelt and Cody have become figures in the American imagination who suggest physical and political expansion across the continent and the globe. In their personae, the hunter becomes a metaphor for domestic and foreign power. These two figures represent the departure of the United States from nineteenth century isolationist political policies and social sentiments. They were literal hunters whose prowess made them nationally and internationally recognizable. They traveled extensively in their capacities as world leader and world entertainer, respectively, and their names became synonymous with American influence.