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Josiah, the White House badger.

Folks came from miles around to the train depot of Sharon Springs, Kansas, on May 3, 1903. Dressed in their Sunday best, they eagerly awaited the arrival of the Pacific Coast Special.

President Theodore Roosevelt was coming to town.

Roosevelt was on a western tour through 25 states. He was sharing his goals for the future, including the importance of protecting "the majesty and beauty of the wilderness and of wild life." He'd even camped in Yellowstone National Park before continuing on to Kansas.

Puffing coal smoke, the train pulled into the depot. The crowd began to cheer.

At half-past ten in the morning, Roosevelt stepped out of his private train car. Dozens of children led him to church in the center of town. After the service, Roosevelt shook hands all around. Then, he borrowed a horse for a refreshing ride across the open prairie.

A Special Gift

When Roosevelt returned to his train, a little girl asked him if he would like a baby badger that her brother Josiah had caught.

Roosevelt loved animals and encouraged his family to love them as well. His six children had many pets at the White House: horses, dogs, guinea pigs, rabbits, a blue macaw, and even a snake. But they didn't have a badger! How could Roosevelt say no?

The little badger reminded Roosevelt of "a small mattress, with a leg at each corner." He named it "Josiah," after the boy who had caught it.

As thanks for the gift, Roosevelt invited the girl and her friends to tour his presidential train car, richly appointed with gleaming mahogany and plush velvet. There were two little bedrooms with brass beds, two bathrooms, a kitchen, a dining room, and a living room with big windows.

The girls marveled at the house-on-wheels. After the tour was over, they hung around outside the train, looking in the windows and blowing kisses at the President.

Josiah Takes a Ride

When the train pulled out of the depot, Josiah the badger was on it. He slept in a cage on the train's platform, often joining Roosevelt inside the train as the trip continued.

Roosevelt delighted in his new companion. He wrote home to his family from California a few days later:

"I have collected a variety of treasures, which I shall have to try to divide up equally among you children. One treasure, by the way, is a very small badger, which I named Josiah, and he is now called Josh for short. He is very cunning and I hold him in my arms and pet him.... Josh is very well and eats milk and potatoes. We took him out and gave him a run in the sand to-day. So far he seems as friendly as possible."

In California, Roosevelt camped again, this time in Yosemite National Park. Nestled on the forest floor amid the towering sequoia trees, he felt like he was "lying in a great solemn cathedral, far vaster and more beautiful than any built by the hands of man." A few days later, he gave a presidential order to increase the size of Yosemite. Then he returned to his train and his new companion, Josiah.

Heading east toward home, Roosevelt wrote to his family again:

"I rather think you will like Josiah the badger. So far he is very good tempered and waddles around everywhere like a little bear... spending much of his time in worrying the ends of anybody's trousers."

Josiah at Home

When Roosevelt arrived home, the children couldn't wait to meet Josiah. They ran out to play, petting him and watching him waddle. They even built a special house for him so that he could dig elaborate burrows in the White House lawn.

Josiah remained a favorite White House pet of the Roosevelt family. The funny little badger was a treasured reminder to Roosevelt of the wild places he was determined to preserve.

What happened to Josiah?

Josiah became Archie Roosevelt's pet. When Josiah got bigger, he found a new home at the Bronx Zoo in New York City. He lived there for many years. The President said that his son could visit Josiah at the zoo whenever he wanted.

Some historians call Theodore Roosevelt the "father of conservation." As President, he authorized the creation of

150 National Forests

18 National Monuments

5 National Parks

4 National Game Preserves

51 Federal Bird Reservations

Learn more about Roosevelt's visit to Yosemite on HighlightsKids.com.
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Title Annotation:President Theodore Roosevelt gets a baby badger!
Author:Kerley, Barbara
Publication:Highlights for Children
Geographic Code:1U4KS
Date:Apr 1, 2006
Words:741
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