A Puritan in Babylon: The Story of Calvin Coolidge

By William Allen White | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XXXII
Our Hero Plays Sphinx

THIS was the world of the summer of 1927, when Calvin Coolidge, followed by heralds, news hawks, camera men proclaiming his divine vicegerency in the best possible world, with experts, soothsayers and wise men in his entourage, wended his way in a special train from Washington to the Black Hills of South Dakota. There he established his summer White House. The executive offices were set up in the school house at Rapid City, South Dakota. The executive residence was a ramshackle, pine board, paper-lined, hotel-like structure, eight or ten miles further up in the hills. It was surrounded by pine woods. The altitude was around five thousand feet. Being in the north, it was reasonably cool, save in the heat of the day. The natives of the western hills were happy about the royal invasion. For- the most part they were not unlike the President's neighbors in Vermont, except that their fathers, grandfathers and great-grandfathers had moved westward with the generations. They were a kindly, hospitable people as the Vermonters are, and the President sincerely tried to neighbor with them. If they brought him a cowboy outfit, including sombrero, leather chaps, a tight jacket, and a red shirt, by way of being kind--and they did so--to be appreciative he wore it. He kept on wearing it when the photographers assembled, and he stood and let them photograph him, looking just as retching as he felt. He had no notion he was costuming himself as a bold, bad man in those western movie cowboy togs. He ambled lumberingly down the steps of his summer house, looking every bit as awkward and unhappy in his clanking spurs as he was. But he made this holy show of himself only by way of indicating his appreciation of a bit of neighborly kindness. When the pictures appeared in the newspapers and when he clickety-clacked down those steps in spurs and the creaking leather armor

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