“We are against his politics, but we like his grit.” W.A. Rogers for New York Herald, Cabinet of American Illustration, Library of Congress
Andrew Stevens, October 1912
John trumpets, “Teddy Roosevelt’s as crazy as a bull moose in spring, that’s what he is.”
“His secretary tackled the shooter before he could get off a second shot,” says Mr. K before turning toward Andy. “No offense meant concerning your qualifications for this position, Andy, but it seems having a former football player for your secretary is not a bad investment. You could benefit from training with the Turnverein.”
“That crowd in Milwaukee,” adds the Colonel, “would have lynched that insane Bavarian on the spot if Roosevelt hadn’t assured them he was fine.”
John shakes his head in wonder. “A hole right through in his overcoat. His shirt soaked in blood. Yet the former President insisted, ‘I will give this speech or die.’ And he almost did. Talked for fifty minutes before his doctor dragged him off the stage.”
Mr. K holds up his empty glass toward him, so Andy leaps up to tend to it. “Not one to miss an opportunity to fire back at the media, Teddy Roosevelt claimed it only was a matter of time before some weak-minded soul was inflamed to violence by the newspapermen’s foul mendacity and abuse. Said the papers’ vitriol was heaped upon him in the interests of Wilson and Taft.”
“No,” objects the Colonel. “Newspapers weren’t the cause. That Bavarian man is bekloppt. He stalked Roosevelt all around the country, waiting for the right opportunity. Claimed he was inspired by the ghost of President William McKinley, and the ghostly visitor accused Teddy Roosevelt of assassinating him.”
Andy hates it when his brother is behind him, but John keeps pacing around this half of the room. “A bunch of malarkey! The anarchist who shot President McKinley received a fair trial before he was sent to sizzle in the electric chair.”
“And where’d they find President Taft?” As is often the case, the Colonel answers his own question. “Naturally, the glutton was sitting at a banquet table.”
John laughs, finally taking a seat again. “Lucky he wasn’t stuck in his bathtub.”
“But he did stop eating, gentlemen,” puts in Mr. K, “long enough to opine, ‘There are too many assassins in this country.’”
“It appears the unpopular portly president,” says the Colonel, “will soon be without a running mate. They say Vice President Sherman has turned as purple as a grape. Poisoned by his own kidneys. Sunny Jim has not been out of bed since his acceptance speech in August.”
John resumes his pacing. “Which is how we are left supporting a persnickety professor for president.”
The Colonel grunts. “Tom Campbell’s in Ohio on the stump for Wilson as we speak. What good can a has-been politician from Texas do in Ohio?”
“Kind of like sending in the Giants’ I’ve-got-it Snodgrass.” John reaches his arm up as though to catch a ball, only to let it fall. “He dropped a fly ball from his glove like a hot potato. Wrapped up the World Series like a Christmas gift for the Boston Red Sox. The people of Ohio do love Texans, though. Texas might still be part of Mexico if the generous citizens of Cincinnati had not shipped the Twin Sisters cannons to Galveston in time for the Battle of San Jacinto.”
The merger of Mr. K’s eyebrows progresses. “What worries me is that Tom Campbell and Woodrow Wilson appear cut from the same Pro cloth. How many times, Colonel, is Governor Colquitt going to milk us for contributions to forward to the Democratic National Committee? Surely, this last $150 from each of us is enough.”
“I hope so. This morning during the Harvest Jubilee Parade, Governor Colquitt seemed pleased with the credit he’s receiving for his fundraising efforts. At the opening, he extoled the virtues of our city, ‘the Queen of the great Southwest,’ for a half-hour.”
John sits again and leans forward toward the Colonel. “It certainly helps raise your profile, Colonel, to have the Governor and Mayor riding with you in your car at the head of the parade. The election will soon be upon us.”
“I’m ready for another beer, Andy,” says the Colonel. “Instead of staying in the hospitably wet comfort of the German Village, the Jubilee organizers immediately dragged us off for a tour of the Women’s Pavilion. Parched as I was, I was guided straight to the exhibit of the Equal Franchise Club. Eleanor Brackenridge set it up like an art gallery of portraits of the supporters and champions of her cause.”
“Art?” Mr. K makes his head and shoulders quiver. “I shudder to think of having to face a lineup of those homely sourpusses.”
Impatient with Andy’s lack of attentiveness, John holds up his near-empty glass. “You were spared other excitement as well, Otto. The Daughters of the Republic of Texas proudly displayed a pair of dingy yellow silk stockings worn by Santa Anna. So they claim. Fashions of yesteryear included a lacey baby dress, cap and wee shoes worn by Mayor Jones during his tender years. The insulting part was that the fashions of former years included Bettie’s wedding gown. You would think we were antiques, ready to be discarded and set ablaze on a bonfire.”
Mr. shakes his head. “That tragic fire the other night. I sent a sizable donation from the brewery to the Sisters of Charity.”
“Amazing only two of the tiny orphans perished,” adds the Colonel.
“And that the fire,” says John, “didn’t spread from Saint John’s Orphanage to Santa Rosa Hospital next door.”
“But six sisters lost their lives.” Mr. K seems close to tears. “The nuns’ efforts to find their charges in the thick smoke, hurling them to safety in the nets held out down below, were no less than heroic.”
John shakes his head. “Ah, poor blessed Mother of Mary of the Cross bravely went down with the ship. Irish she was. The Mother Superior fell backwards into the flames of the orphanage just as she cast a three-year old down into a waiting fireman’s outstretched arms. The earth’s angels are all too few. Heaven now overflows.”
All of these events occurred in October 1912, but the Author compressed the timeline a bit.
Presidents blaming things on the media appears not new. Bright’s disease claimed the life of Vice President James Sherman on October 30.
St. John’s Orphan Home next to Santa Rosa Hospital housed 87 children at the time of the tragic fire.