Periodical: Albuquerque Tribune

Date: undated

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"The funniest thing I ever saw," pint-sized Billy McGinty, the president of the Rough Riders Assn., was saying, "was when they turned those eastern boys loose to break their horses."

McGinty, an impish 82-year-old, grinning under a large black ten-gallon hat in the lobby of El Fidel Hotel. Other spry veterans of that famous brigade gathered for their 54th annual reunion over the week end.

"These fellas were pretty good riders," he went on, "sure, they had to be to get in. But, they hadn't ridden anything but polo ponies in college. These horses hadn't been broke but once if that.

"Well sir, they got 'em out thee with the rest of 'em at the Fair Grounds at San Antonio. There must have been a thousand horses out in that field. Then they told 'em all to scramble for a horse and break one.

"By the time the dust cleared, them eastern boys were scattered all over Texas."

Eastern Boys

About 30 of the surviving 80 or so veterans of the celebrated charge up San Juan Hill in 1898 were in town for the reunion. Al-most all of the volunteers (ex- cept 110 of the "eastern boys") enlisted from New Mexico, Arizona and Oklahoma in reply to Teddy Roosevelt's challenge to men who wanted "rough living, rough coun- try and rough riding."

They voted last year to hold their reunions here until the "last man of the select 1200 originally picked for the 1st U. S. volunteer cavalry in 1898.

Tonight, everyone had a story to tell, and they naturally concerned the Spanish-American War, horses or Col. Roosevelt.

Arthur Anderson, 83, of Stockton, Cal., broke in with his tale of the most stubborn horse ever born. In Tampa, Fla., where the Rough Riders shipped out to Cuba, his company had a horse that "kicked, bit and just generally tried to kill anyone who climbed on him."

Anderson said he thought if he took the horse into the shallow waters of the gulf where it couldn't keep its head down to buck, he could break him. It didn't work: "That dumb thing just put his head down and start- ed bucking. Never raised it up until he floated on his side. Dead from pure stubbornness."

Anderson took some kidding about being "an old-timer" when he said he couldn't ride in the parade which opened the gathering. The kidding, stopped when he said the reason was that he had been riding the day before and still ached.

Story of General

Trooper Robert. "Buck" Denny of Whittier, Cal., added the inevitable general story. "Remember the time old (Gen.) "Shafty" Shafter tried to get on one bf those Cuban ponies? He weighed 300 pounds. Took three orderlies just to get him in the saddle, and then the poor horse caved in and they had to get another one."

The men who followed Col. Roosevelt in the 20-minute charge up San Juan Hill speak of him with respect approaching awe. "He grandstanded a lot," Hunter commented, "but he had the nerve to back it up." "He never asked any of his men to do what he wouldn't do himself I can tell you that," McGinty added.

To illustrate, 80-year-old H. H. Wynkoop of Santa Fe told the story of a group of the Rough Riders under their first shelling at El Paso: "We got caught up on the hill side and the Spaniards really had us zoned in. It was the 'first time we had ever been Un- der fire, and all of us just ducked behind some rocks and buried our heads.

"And who comes riding up but the colonel himself. He yelled 'You men! Are you sheep? Get up and stand at attention!'"

They did, Wynkoop said, and while the shells screamed and blasted around them T. R. marched them ramrod-straight off the hillside to cover.

A leathery veteran named Jess Langdon who lives in East Rockaway, N.Y., explained how he enlisted in the Riders when he was 16. (At 72, the six-foot, 200-pound. Langdon is the "kid" of the troop.)

Langdon said he met Roosevelt at the door to the recruiting office and told him what he wanted. "Can you ride?" Roosevelt snapped. "Anything with hair," Langdon snapped back. The colonel laughed: "Then go ahead and tell them I sent you."

The veterans, some of whom hadn't seen each other in 20 years, drifted in and out of the conversation, but the stories went on:

Tales Rescued

Langdon, who broke two ribs the previous day breaking a horse, went on to tell of the luckiest mistake he ever made. The Riders were entrenched above the Spanish lines, taking turns sniping. When Langdon's turn came up, he drew a bead, pulled the trigger, and nothing happened. He ducked back into the trench and found he hadn't unlocked his rifle, a bullet whizzed through his campaign hat.

"If I hadn't been so dumb I wouldn't be here to tell about it."

Hunter told the one about the time the officers (who had practically the only horses on the island) offered to pay him $5 apiece for same. Hunter and another private raided the officer's corral one night and sold the lieutenant 25 horses the next morning. "Their own horses and they paid us for 'em!"

One recalled the time they captured 'the distillery at Siboney and some of the troopers filled up their canteens with rum. Only to be stranded without water for the next three days. McGinty told how he was running across an open field with an imponded case of canned tomatoes when the Spaniards spotted him. "Didn't hurt me," he said, "but they must have hit those tomatoes 10 times. I was red from head to foot when I got back."

When the Rough Riders embarked from Tampa on the troopship Yucatan, only 484 made the trip. The rest of the contingent of 1200 had to be left behind.

"They never come to the reunions," McGinty said sadly. "They felt so (damn) bad about it we never See 'em out here. It ís too bad. There just wasn't enough room."


Periodical: Albuquerque Tribune

Date: undated

Topic: Congress of Rough Riders

Keywords: Rough Riders Association Spanish American War Cavalry

People: Roosevelt, Theodore, 1858-1919 McGinty, William M., 1871-1961

Places: San Juan Hill Cuba

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