‘Rough Rider’ Roosevelt rides again at McKinley library

NILES — About 40 people spent some time on Veterans Day Saturday listening to “Rough Rider” tales of life in the West at The National McKinley Birthplace Memorial Library and Museum.

The audience, including veterans and their wives, listened to tales of President Theodore Roosevelt, who was responsible for leading the Rough Riders, a nickname given to the 1st United States Volunteer Cavalry — one of three regiments raised in 1898 for the Spanish American War. The regiment, the only one of the three to see action, was one of many influences on Roosevelt’s presidency.

Larry Marple portrayed the 26th president of the United States. Joined by his wife, Julia Marple, portraying first lady Edith Roosevelt, he told tales surrounding the battle and those that affected the way the man saw his power as a leader.

“I had observed during the war many of the regular officers weren’t able to do the work of the regular men,” Larry Marple, as Theodore Roosevelt, said.

The time Roosevelt spent in the Rough Riders had lasting effect on the makeup of the military, Marple said, as Roosevelt instituted the ideas of testing officers alongside their soldiers, he said.

“I wanted to make sure that our Army and Navy had regulations that worked,” Marple said while in character.

Historians have documented how Roosevelt’s experience in the West defined his character and his eventual rise to the presidency, Marple said.

“It was there he learned about the hardiness of work. It gave him the experience of working with all kinds of workers,” said Julia Marple while in character as Edith.

Larry Marple, a third-grade teacher, knows from experience about dedication and hard work.

“One of my students told me I looked like Theodore Roosevelt,” Larry Marple said.

Twenty years later, he said he is still learning and studying his character, whom he has portrayed for nine years.

Spending his summers with his wife, in Medora, S.D., close to Theodore Roosevelt National Park, one of six dedicated to the president, Larry Marple works and plays in the Badlands, some of the lands preserved by Roosevelt’s hands in the town of Little Missouri.

Roosevelt, Larry Marple said, was concerned about conservation and used his authority to protect wildlife by creating the U.S. Forest Service and fighting for the protection approximately 230 million acres of public land.

Carl Antonelli, 74, of Champion, a U.S. Army veteran, came to hear Marple’s portrayal, in large part, he said, because of his own interest in the conserved lands of the west.

“One reason we came out here is we have been out west,” Carl Antonelli said. “We fell in love with the place. You can see why it was so revered. It is stunning.”

Antonelli and his wife, Gladys, said the park, because it has been preserved, shows no signs of comercialism. The untouched land that was preserved through legislation and battling with Congress during his presidency is a lasting legacy of Roosevelt.

“What Roosevelt did, preserving national land, that made a difference,” Gladys Antonelli said.