Now I know that this story is going to sound like just that – a story, maybe the stuff from a cheesy movie – but it is entirely true. North Dakota has had a lot of insane happenings over the years but in my opinion, this one takes the cake as the craziest, and it involves one of the most influential men who ever called the state home.
In 1886, before the place was named what it is today, the man it was named after was there for the winter at Elkhorn Ranch.
That place is Theodore Roosevelt National Park today, but then it was just the North Dakota badlands.
Roosevelt had a hunting camp established along the Little Missouri river there that winter.
He had two hunting companions, Bill Sewall and Wilmot Dew. They purchased a boat to get them across the frozen river, tied it up, went hunting for the day, came back - and it was gone.
They were none too thrilled about this, of course, and Roosevelt - being the roughrider he was - decided that something was to be done.
Roosevelt wasn't just going to let this slide despite the fact that there was no evidence of where the thieves went. But he assumed that they had to be on the river somewhere. But the problem now was that they didn't have any boat, and no way to deal with the icy river.
The solution? Just build a makeshift boat to get through this, of course. The hunting party spent three days building their boat from scratch, all the while dealing with the harsh winter conditions. Roosevelt's two hunting companions were starting to think this was going a little too far, but nonetheless, they carried on with him and set off in their boat.
For three days they navigated the river, knowing that eventually they would stumble across the stolen boat. Temperatures were below zero but they kept on - Roosevelt was just that determined.
What happened next just proves why the entire park is named after him and why his cabin remains intact in the park all these years later.
They actually found the perpetrators, a known gunslinger in the area and his two partners in crime. Roosevelt just proceeded to knock the men out and tied them up like it was nothing, then planned to head back with their prisoners and hunting bounty. The group reached an ice dam that took eight days to cross. All the while, Roosevelt read to the criminals and stayed awake for over 40 hours watching them.
When they made it back, he formally arrested them and let the legal process begin, instead of taking any sort of revenge. They got their boat back, they captured the thieves, and made it back like it was a walk in the park - I mean, it partially was, just in the Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Pretty well fitting!
Roosevelt loved North Dakota and he loved justice, too. His stories in the badlands and plains of the state are some of the craziest stories I’ve ever heard. Do you know any other stories that are even more insane?