Matt Braun Dakota

ISBN 13: 9780312997830

Dakota

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9780312997830: Dakota
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HE CAME WEST HAUNTED BY DEATH AND GRIEF...
In 1884, a Harvard-educated legislator from New York set off for Dakota Territory. Staggered by the deaths of his mother and wife on the same tragic night, Teddy Roosevelt was returning to a place he had visited the year before, a place that had struck him with its fierce beauty and its bounty of big game and big opportunity. By the Little Missouri River, Teddy Roosevelt established a ranching empire, and soon stood at the center of a storm...

AND IN A VIOLENT LAND, HE WAS REBORN...
Less than a decade after an Indian rebellion and the Battle of the Little Big Horn, Dakota was being settled by the brave, the ambitious, and the restless. While some men were grabbing power, some were getting away with murder. For Roosevelt, using local cowboys and transplanted Easterners as his ranch hands, this was a place to make his mark, to make a stand and to look a killer in the eye. And this was a time to bring wild Dakota into the heart of America...

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About the Author:

MATT BRAUN was a fourth generation Westerner, steeped in the tradition and lore of the frontier era. His books reflect a heritage rich with the truths of that bygone time. Raised among the Cherokee and Osage tribes, Braun learned their traditions and culture, and their philosophy became the foundation of his own beliefs. Like his ancestors, he spent most of his life wandering the mountains and plains of the West. His heritage and his contribution to Western literature resulted in his appointment by the Governor of Oklahoma as a Territorial Marshal.

Braun was the author of forty-seven novels and four nonfiction works, including Black Fox, which was made into a CBS miniseries. Western Writers of America awarded Braun the prestigious Spur Award for his novels Dakota and The Kincaids and the 2004 Wister Award for Lifetime Achievement in Western Literature. Braun passed away in 2016.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

ONE
Roosevelt wouldn’t allow himself to believe they were dying.
The night train from Albany rattled along through the darkened countryside. Dimmed lanterns swayed overhead, lighting the passenger coach, his features reflected in the grimy window. He looked exactly the way he felt, drained and stunned, his eyes rimmed with despair. He refused to yield to the terror that pulsed in his heart.
Five days ago, when he’d left New York City, Dr. Murdock, the attending physician, had assured him there was no reason for concern. His mother was bedridden with a severe cold, and his wife, expecting their first child, seemed normal. His responsibilities as an assemblyman in the state legislature and a leading voice in the Republican Party required his vote on impending legislation. He was loathe to leave, but the doctor had again reassured him that his anxiety was unwarranted. He’d caught the Sunday train for Albany, the state capital.
Just that morning, a crisp, snowy Thursday, he had received a telegram from his brother, Elliot. The message informed him that his wife, Alice, had given birth to a healthy baby girl and was doing fairly well, considering it was her first delivery. The date was February 14, 1884, and Roosevelt, euphoric with the news, thought it auspicious that his daughter had been born on St. Valentine’s Day. His colleagues in the legislature, when he entered chambers for a critical vote on civic reform, pummeled him with congratulations. He was proud as punch.
“Wonderful news, Theodore,” one of his friends said, pumping his arm. “How does it feel to be a father?”
“By Godfrey!” Roosevelt replied with a nutcracker grin. “I never imagined it would be so grand.”
But now, as he stared out the train window, the words rang hollow. Late that afternoon, when the legislature adjourned for the day, he had returned to his office. His secretary handed him another telegram, and he’d fully expected a glowing report on mother and child. Upon opening the envelope, his face went ashen as he scanned the message, and a chilling numbness struck at his very core. The text was a death knell, short and brutal. Too much to comprehend.
Mother is dying, and Alice is dying too.
Come quickly.
Elliot
Even on the best of days, there was no quick way from Albany to New York City. The train was slowed by snow squalls in the north and thick ground fog to the south along the Hudson River. The slow, tortuous journey was all but unbearable, and mile-by-mile, alternating between prayers and a sense of desolation, Roosevelt’s thoughts skewed wildly from hope to abject fear. One moment he believed the God he worshipped would show infinite mercy, and the next he dreaded he would be too late. He cursed himself for not being there, for having left when he should have stayed.
The train pulled into Grand Central Station shortly after ten o’clock. Roosevelt was out the vestibule door before the coaches stopped rolling, and hurried up the stairway to the main terminal. The central chamber was a vast beaux arts amphitheater, with vaulted arches, massive stained-glass windows, and the constellations of the zodiac wrought in gold against blue on a majestic ceiling. He marched through the terminal as though blind to the airy marble colossus.
People invariably noticed Roosevelt and were quick not to block his path. He stood four inches shy of six feet and weighed perhaps 150 pounds when fully clothed. Yet he was unusually muscular, with a bull-like chest and a thick neck that strained against his shirt collar. His eyes were pale blue, pince-nez glasses squeezed onto his nose over a full mustache, and brushy side whiskers emphasized his hard, square jaw. His expression was offset by a mouthful of dazzling tombstone teeth and bordered on the snarl of a man peering directly into the sun. He looked like he could walk through granite.
Outside the terminal he caught a hansom cab on Forty Second Street. The broad thoroughfare and nearby buildings were all but invisible in a dense drizzling mist. For the past ten days the city had been enveloped in a fog so pervasive that there was little difference between dawn and dusk. The air smelled of sodden ashes, for homes and businesses were heated by coal, and street lamps appeared shrouded in a viscous gray gauze. The driver held his horse to a cautious walk in the soupy murk.
Roosevelt was reminded of a similar night, just six years ago. An undergraduate at Harvard, he’d taken the train from Boston after being notified his father was mortally ill. Theodore Senior was a partner in an importing firm, a millionaire several times over, and the Roosevelts were among the inner circle of New York aristocracy. Only forty-six, he had taken ill suddenly and died three days later of a malignant tumor of the bowel. A noted philanthropist, Theodore Senior had been a man of tireless vitality, whose love of family was matched by his compassion for the poor. Roosevelt still thought of him by the name he’d secretly invented as a child—Greatheart.
Three years later, in the summer of 1880, Roosevelt had graduated magna cum laude from Harvard. He and Alice had married that fall, shortly before he enrolled as a law student at New York’s Columbia University. His father’s idealism led him to consider a career generally shunned by the wealthier class but one that enabled him to champion the rights of the downtrodden. In 1881 he joined the Republican Party, and at age twenty-three he was the youngest man ever elected to the New York State Legislature. His meteoric rise was attributed to his combative stance against the corrupt politics of Tammany Hall, and last November he had been elected to a third term in the legislature. The New York Times, in a recent article, hailed him as “the most remarkable young politician of our day.”
Tonight Roosevelt would have traded it all for a reversal of what he feared awaited him at home. As the cab drew to a halt before the mansion at 6 West Fifty Seventh Street, he jumped out and handed a wad of bills to the driver. Through the fog, Roosevelt saw the dull glow of lamps inside, and he hurried up the steps and rapped sharply on the door. A moment elapsed, and he was about to knock again when the door opened. Elliot, who was two years younger, pulled him into the vestibule. Elliot’s expression was stark.
“Thank God you’re here,” he said. “I prayed you would make it in time.”
“What’s happened?” Roosevelt demanded. “Mother and Alice were perfectly fine when I left for Albany.”
“Dr. Murdock will have to explain it. I still find it all so... incomprehensible.”
Anna and Corinne, Roosevelt’s sisters, rushed from the parlor into the hallway. Anna, fondly known as “Bamie,” was the oldest at twenty-nine and seemed destined for the life of a spinster. Corinne was the baby of the family, scarcely twenty-two, and already married. Bamie threw herself into Roosevelt’s arms.
“Oh, Teddy!” she cried in a shaky voice. “I can’t bring myself to believe we might lose them.”
Roosevelt hugged her and drew Corinne into the embrace. The mansion was three stories, lavishly furnished with Persian carpets in every room and an ornate hand-carved staircase leading to the upper floors. Usually alive with laughter and gaiety, the house was now eerily quiet. Bamie sniffled, her eyes moist with tears, and Roosevelt patted her shoulder.
“Where is Dr. Murdock?” he said. “I must speak with him.”
“In the parlor,” Corinne said softly. “We’ve been waiting for you.”
Dr. Harold Murdock was a short, stout man with a mane of white hair. He was standing before a blazing fireplace when they came through the doorway to the parlor. His features were dour as he moved forward to shake hands with Roosevelt. Watching them, Elliot was struck again by his brother’s force of character. Whenever he entered a room, he radiated such a sense of voltage that he immediately became the central presence. Tonight he seemed somehow larger than life in a house of death.
“I require an explanation,” he said with a perfunctory handshake. “On Sunday, you assured me there was no reason for concern. What has happened to change your diagnosis?”
“Your mother contracted pneumonia,” Murdock said frankly. “Her condition deteriorated overnight, and the suddenness of it has no medical explanation. She was simply too frail to fight it off.”
“Are you saying there’s nothing to be done?”
“Nothing known to medical science, Mr. Roosevelt. Only the very strong of constitution survive pneumonia.”
Bamie snuffled quietly while Corinne and Elliot averted their eyes. Roosevelt stared directly at the physician. “And what of my wife?”
“Bright’s disease,” Murdock informed him. “In layman’s terms, irreversible failure of the kidneys. She’s probably had it for some time, a dormant strain. Lying in wait.”
“Lying in wait for what?”
“A stress to the system too grievous to endure. Quite likely, the rigors of childbirth unleashed toxins into her system. Her delivery was long, and difficult.”
Roosevelt frowned. “You couch these terms in a certain vagary, Doctor. Perhaps we need another medical opinion.”
“I felt so, too,” Murdock said. “Dr. John Phelps, chief surgeon at St. Luke’s, was here this afternoon. He concurs with what is now my prognosis.”
“Prognosis, as in final, if I understand the distinction. Are you convinced there’s no hope?”
“I regret to say that is correct, Mr. Roosevelt.”
“You’ve made no mention of the baby. Is she well?”
“Your daughter is quite healthy, perfectly f...

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