No president has ever come from our corner of the nation. So many here feel the closest kinship with Theodore Roosevelt, the great builder and protector of the West.

What great luck to have him here in Astoria Friday, if not literally in the flesh, then at least as close in resemblance as possible.

The Oregon and Clatsop County historical societies joined forces, along with corporate sponsor Wells Fargo Bank, to bring Roosevelt impersonator Joe Wiegand to entertain and educate an audience at the Liberty Theater. It didn’t take much squinting to feel the presence of ol’ Trust Buster. There was his big-bellied laugh, his monocle, his propensity to entertain with outlandish stories of hunting, adventuring and general oneupmanship. It was every American history class come to life.

Yet speaking human-to-human with such a monument of American history is an unsettling exercise. It reminds us how modern Roosevelt remains. Yet, at the same time, his stories of the Spanish-American War and hunting bison in the Dakotas seem so ancient. We see him in clear, sharp photographs, for instance, where we see Washington only in paintings. Yet we also remember him struggling to a near fatal degree with asthma, losing his 21-year-old wife to typhoid fever.

Roosevelt himself is enjoying a bit of a modern rebirth. In this era of political partisanship he remains well-revered by people of most political bents.

Roosevelt’s legacy as an outdoorsman and naturalist resonates most in the West. Roosevelt was not a conservationist as we think of them now. He killed more than 250 species while living in Africa after his presidency. He came West as a young man in the search for bison, because he had heard they were becoming fewer in number and he wanted to kill one before they went extinct.

Yet he did have an eye on the long view. Yellowstone became the world’s first national park, the most striking of Western landscapes set aside for the benefit of everyone.?And as timber and cattle barons carved up their Western empires, Roosevelt set aside millions of acres for protection from development and destruction.

There are many who seethe about the amount of federally owned land across the West, and others upset about how our national forests are managed. But there are very few who aren’t happy there are such places as Yellowstone and Yosemite, Crater Lake and Mt. St. Helens national parks.

None of it would be possible without Roosevelt. It boggles the mind to think how the West would look if he never set foot in 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. He understood – maybe better than any other president – the value of this country’s great unfenced land.