Lee Stetson (John Muir) and Joe Wiegand (President Theodore Roosevelt) will celebrate the Centennial of the Appalachian Society of American Foresters in January of 2021 in the superlative production, “The Tramp and the Roughrider” . And for this special occasion, Gifford Pinchot, (Tom Davidson) will join these historic characters as they romp about the Yosemite wilderness.
The Tramp and the Roughrider
In May of 1903, President Theodore Roosevelt, planning a tour of the western forests, invited the naturalist John Muir to a four-day camping trip in the Yosemite wilderness. The Tramp and the Roughrider illuminates this extraordinary encounter, with the action unfolding at sunset on Glacier Point, overlooking the magnificent Yosemite Valley. Both of these characters were feisty and opinionated, and had sharp disagreements on issues like hunting, animal rights, and forest management. Muir’s poetic and evangelistic temperament, clashing with Roosevelt’s political (and boyish) enthusiasms, naturally spawned both tension and humor. Both skillful storytellers, it seems natural that both would seek to top one another by relating some of their many adventures in the American wilderness – Roosevelt bringing a frontier ruffian to justice, for example, or Muir telling of his hair-raising ‘interview’ with a Yosemite bear. At the time of this historic meeting, many millions of acres of our western forest, with little or no governmental supervision, were being exploited and abused by hunting, lumber, stock and mining interests.
The federal government had established only five national parks and one small wildlife preserve (Pelican Island) and was without a Park Service. The Yosemite Valley, though surrounded by a national park, was controlled by the state of California, and was frowsy and neglected. But around the campfire, in sifting through their histories and their hopes, these very different men slowly discover how the other had been shaped by the wilderness they loved, opening up some rich possibilities of “doing some forest good.” And by the end of Roosevelt’s presidency, America could boast of an additional 200 million acres of forest wilderness, five more national parks, and 65 wildlife preserves. Bully!