Roger Rouse, who lives in a room with lavender walls in Opportunity, Mont., gets a fan letter from Frankfurt am Main. It is beautifully typed. "Dear Sir," the letter begins. "May I convey today my very sincere compliments and congratulations on you and your excellent and fine and wonderful ring career as the nation's and world's No. 1 and hottest light heavyweight hero in the ring. I do recall and remember and follow your excellent and fine and wonderful ring career best, and you are indeed a great and fine and classy ring hero, a real great and kindly sportsman, and a wonderful and lasting credit for boxing always in U.S...."
Rouse has been the World Boxing Association's first-ranked light heavyweight since November 1965. But he hasn't been so hot. Indeed, until recently he despaired of ever fighting for the championship. Although he was No. 1, José Torres, who was then the champion, instead fought Wayne Thornton, Eddie Cotton, Chic Calderwood and Dick Tiger, the former middleweight champion, to whom he lost the title; Tiger and Torres were subsequently rematched with the same result. Meanwhile, Rouse made three trips to New York to be introduced from the ring in Madison Square Garden, presumably to get exposure; although he has been boxing professionally for 10 years and has won 30 of 38 fights, he has appeared only once east of Butte, Mont., losing to Babe Simmons in a preliminary bout in the Garden in 1960.
Looking somewhat ill at ease, Rouse took a bow before both Tiger-Torres fights and the Muhammad Ali-Zora Folley fight. "I was part of the scenery," he says ruefully. On each occasion Rouse wore a cowboy hat, cowboy boots and a string tie. Upon being introduced he would take off his hat to a smattering of applause, and from fight to fight he grew perceptibly balder. The western regalia was purchased in a store next to the Garden. "I didn't mind the hat and the boots," Rouse recalls. "But that little bow tie! They took my shoes and tried to throw them out the hotel window. I'll wear the boots in the ring, I told them, but not on the sidewalk. Everybody's looking at me."
After Tiger had successfully defended his newly won title, Rouse paid him a visit in his dressing room. Tiger was asked who he was going to fight next. "I'm going to fight that cowboy from Montana," he said, looking at Rouse. "Can you fight, cowboy?"
For a time it seemed that neither Tiger nor anyone else east of Butte would ever learn the answer; when Tiger returned to his native Nigeria, civil war broke out and he couldn't leave the country.
"Every day I'd go to the newsstand and buy $2 worth of papers," says Rouse's manager, Pete Jovanovich, who owns the Gay 90's Saloon in Missoula, Mont. "Los Angeles papers. Seattle papers. New York papers. I'd buy every cockeyed paper on Nigeria. I studied maps and everything, looking for routes that the Tiger could sneak out."
In September, Dick Tiger finally arrived in the U.S., and on November 17 he will defend his title against Rouse in Las Vegas. Life, however, has taught Rouse to take a dim view of things. "I haven't fought for the title yet," he said the other day. "I wouldn't be surprised at anything anymore."
Before I went to Opportunity to interview Rouse, a man who told me he was "Ben Greene with an e" called and said I should have a "meet" with him; this took place the next day in Jack Dempsey's restaurant on Broadway. Greene, who is in his late 40s and has a nose that seems not so much to have been broken as artfully bent, told me he had been in the boxing business for 30 years, did a little public relations for Rouse and was going to fill me in on him.
"My appraisal of the fella here," Greene said, "is he is a college fella who wants to go somewhere. The first time I saw him I wasn't too impressed with him. He had a lot of natural ability, but he hadn't found himself. Some of these white kids take a little longer to mature. In fact, he was a goddamn stripling. To tell you the truth, I wasn't impressed with him and I paid him no mind. The next time I saw him [Henry] Hank knocked him down. Anyone can look like a whirlwind before they're knocked down. It's what they do after they're knocked down. I liked what he did after Hank knocked him down. I tabbed it. And he actually comes out of Montana.
"I hooked up with him and his manager—this is a hotel fella, an affable fella, not a boxing man, what I would call more or less of a buff. I got him [Don] Turner, [Rudolph] Bent; in other words, I started feeding him guys. Before that I got him Eddie Cotton. I liked the style of Cotton. A guy that jabs a lot you can hit over the jab with a right hand. Rouse throws a right hand you very seldom see. You got to watch for it. A very short right hand. The kid is a student. If he sees a jab don't work, he goes with a hook. This guy knows how to think. What made Robinson a great fighter? He could adapt to all styles. This guy got a little of this. The nearest thing to him is Billy Conn.
"Rouse arced over to his right when he jabbed Cotton. You ever see a fighter who knows how to bend, he's a good fighter. Rouse got good legs, good legs. He'll knock this guy out. Tiger is 38. He took a bad body beating in the second Torres fight. You don't get over that. He'll positively knock him out. You have to fight Tiger stick and move, stick and move. But he's dead game. You can't overrate the Tiger. He's got such guts, the guy. The Tiger, he's intrepid. He's got only one weakness. He don't leave any food on the table. If there's a piece of bread left that's paid for he'll eat it, that's his only foible.
"I'm trying to sell Rouse to make the supreme effort. I tell him you got a big rep even if you tap out. You can make a living all your life if you become champion. A near champion don't mean a thing. Now I'll tell you the guy's foible. He never worked, and mixing around with these people he picked up a drinking habit. What the hell, what are you going to do there? It's rough to be in those small towns. You got to go crazy in Anaconda. It's a little on the dull side."
Opportunity is, in a manner of speaking, a suburb of Anaconda, Mont. (pop. 12,054). When I asked Rouse how Opportunity got its name he said, "Somebody was trying to be funny, I guess." Rouse's father, Jim, who, until he was pensioned five years ago, was extra foreman in zinc casting at the Anaconda smelter, related that Opportunity was a swamp up to 1913 or 1914, when the company put cement tile in and drained and leveled it. "They told the smeltermen this was an opportunity to get out of town," said Mr. Rouse, "put in a little grain, raise spuds, horses, have a milk cow."
Anaconda is where the copper ore mined in Butte, 25 miles to the southeast, is smelted. Before 1883, the year Anaconda was founded and the original smelter built, the ore was shipped to Swansea, in Wales, to be smelted. As William Parks, one of Butte's pioneer copper miners, said: "They could ship it to hell and back for smelting and still make a profit."
In 1875 Michael Hickey discovered the mine in Butte, which he called Anaconda and which gave both the company and the city their names. "I served in McClellan's army...," Hickey later wrote. "One day while in camp I picked up a New York Tribune and read one of Greeley's editorials in which he said that McClellan's army was enveloping Lee's army 'like a giant anaconda.' It struck me that the word anaconda was a mighty good word, and it always stuck to me."
Hickey was evidently not as stricken with his mine, for he sold it to Marcus Daly, who was born in Ballyjamesduff, County Cavan, and was described by a contemporary as having "a splendid, full-rounded head...and his voice in conversation [is] low and mellow." Daly was the founder of Montana's copper industry and what is now known as the Anaconda Company, and when he died in 1900 a Butte newspaper ran a colossal bank of headlines:
THE MIGHTY OAK HAS FALLEN
The Architect Of Montana's Greatness Is Gone.
Marcus Daly Is Dead;
His Name And Works Held Sacred In Montana.
Love That Was His Due In Life Now Made Manifest.
Marcus Daly Was A Gift Of Nature.
Greater Than Napoleon,
A Leader Of Men,
Died Amid The Monuments Of His Glory.
All Montana Mourns His Death.
These sentiments were widely held. When, after his death, a statue of Daly by St. Gaudens was erected in Butte so that he faced the town with his back to the hill, Matty Kiely, a legendary Butte miner, said, " 'Tis no luck will ever come of it. In life Marcus Daly never turned his arse on the mines of Butte or the miners who dug them." Nonetheless, Daly didn't have Hickey's feeling for words; his first choice for the name of what became the city of Anaconda was Copperopolis.
The two principal sights in Anaconda today are the stack of the smelter and the Marcus Daly (formerly the Montana) hotel. The stack is supposedly the largest in the world. It is 585'1½" tall, contains 2,466,392 bricks of varying sizes and shapes, or the equivalent of 6,672,214 common bricks, and has a capacity of 3,000,000 cubic feet of hot gas per minute. The stack is portrayed on the shoulder patches worn by the Anaconda police force. The hotel has been in operation since 1889 and until recently was managed by Pete Jovanovich, Rouse's manager. It now has an adjoining motel, but the dining room no longer serves choice leg of mountain sheep √† la Mormorance or pineapple fritters au Sabugon.
The Marcus Daly is best known for the Tammany Bar and Lounge, where a likeness of the head of Daly's favorite race horse, Tammany, is inlaid in the barroom floor. This portrait is composed of 1,000 squares of hardwood "varying in tone to catch the fine sheen, shades and markings of the magnificent animal," and was executed by a New York artist named Newcomb for $3,000. Daly, whose racing colors were copper and Irish green, always walked around it.
Although, according to Jovanovich, there are but four active professional fighters in Montana—Roger, his brother Jimmy, who has a 3-and-1 record, and the Gross brothers from Missoula—Butte was a thriving fight town at the turn of the century. John L. Sullivan came there in 1894, offering $1,000 to anyone who could stay four rounds with him. He was taken up by one "Boy" Robinson, who weighed 155 pounds to Sullivan's 225. Robinson was knocked down 15 times before being counted out with 20 seconds remaining in the fourth. Robinson and his backers argued that they had got a short count. Said John L. Sullivan, "Mebbe so."
When Butte was a copper camp, fight cards were often held on consecutive days. For example, on July 3 and 4, 1903, Joe Walcott, the welterweight champion, and Joe Gans, the lightweight champion, won nontitle bouts against local fighters. However, up to now only one Montanan ever fought for a world championship. In 1904 Jack Munroe, a Butte miner, met James J. Jeffries for the heavyweight title in San Francisco; Munroe was knocked out in the second round.
Roger Rouse, who is called Babe by his family, is 32 years old, 6' tall (by way of comparison, Tiger is 5'8"), has faintly ascetic features and reddish hair that he carefully combs; he is of German-Irish ancestry. As he once told a Butte saloonkeeper, "I'm Irish and Dutch. I fight like a Dutchman and drink like an Irishman." Actually, there is fighting, and, doubtless, drinking blood on both sides. Rouse's maternal grandfather, Tom Solan, did a little boxing at $5 a fight, and always claimed he was a distant cousin of Gene Tunney. "Do you remember sorting spuds in the root cellar with Grandpa?" Roger's mother asked him the other day. "He'd always tell me about Tunney and Greb down there," Roger said. " 'That bluidy Greb was a dahrty foiter.' " Several of Roger's uncles fought amateur, and Uncle Moose, who has a ranch up in the Big Hole and must go 6'4", was once renowned as the roughest man in Montana.
"The Rouses are a rough outfit," a rancher named Bill Studdert told me while I was in Anaconda. "Roger's the mildest." Roger has two sisters—Emily, 36, and Patty, 18—and four brothers—Don, 34, Jimmy, 24, Dougie, 22, and Ralphie, 16, the only one who hasn't done any real fighting. Dougie, a light middleweight, was a semi-finalist in the 1967 All-Army championships. Don, who wears a beard he grew to go to Acapulco—but he never went—was runner-up in the 1961 national AAUs, in which he fought as a light heavyweight.
Don has perhaps more intellectual pretensions than the other Rouse brothers. He and his wife Dolores, who works for Sarah Coventry, Inc., the jewelry company, plan to retire at an early age and read the Great Books. Rather, Dolly intends to retire; Rouses aren't too interested in having jobs. "I don't like to be that tied down," Roger explains. "Suppose you want to go somewhere and do something." When I asked Don what Jimmy did for a living, he said: "He keeps his fingers crossed for Roger." Jimmy, who everyone says has a lovely singing voice, carries a .22 slug. "It went in my lung, diaphragm and liver and then ricocheted around and lodged in a muscle in my back," he says. Who shot him was someone he kind of ran across in a bar.
There are 37 bars within the city limits of Anaconda—possibly more per capita than in any other city in the U.S.—and Don, Roger and Jimmy are well known in many of them. When they were younger, Don used to promote bar fights for Roger. "Once Roger got into a fight with the baddest man in Butte," Don recalls. "Roger hooked him to the head and knocked him down with a body punch. He was on his knees. I told Roger to finish him off. 'I don't hit a man when he's down," Roger said. I finally got him to agree to shove him over on his face with his foot. We were punk kids. It was just a means of dissipating our aggression. Now Roger's drinking is incidental to getting women."
"Roger is an extremist," says Jovanovich, who sticks to Seven-Up. "Drink, fight, chase. As he once told me, 'If I wasn't the sonofabitch I am I wouldn't be a fighter.' If you tame him out of the ring, you tame him in." Jovanovich said this last without much conviction.
On another occasion, Chappie Hayashi, who deals cards in Salt Lake City when he isn't being Roger's trainer, told Roger, "You better straighten up for three years. After that you can live it up." Roger replied, "If I did that I wouldn't be worth a damn. I'd be just an average Joe. If I lived the way everybody wanted me to live, I wouldn't be a fighter."
"Before we start working out for a fight," says Jovanovich, "you've got to walk Roger past the gym three times. 'I know that's the gym,' he'll tell me. But at least you've got him down in that neck of the woods."
"I don't train for the fight," Roger says. "I train for the party after it. But I'm changing. I'm beginning to get a little more settled. Maybe I'm growing up."
"Roger's come a long way," Jovanovich said the other day. "He's not near as bad as he used to be. I keep telling him, it's not that you couldn't be as good. It's that you'd be that much better that much longer. But then he gets around these orangutans. Well, you walk the ice and hope she's solid all the way across."
Roger Rouse started boxing at the age of 9 when his father gave him and Don a pair of gloves for Christmas. They learned the principles from Nat Fleischer's How to Box, and to this day Roger has a move called the Fitzsimmons Shift, which is described in Fleischer's book.
Mr. Rouse told me: "Don would say, 'Come on, Babe, let's go out in the barn and spar a little.' Roger wasn't too keen. He'd come in every night, bawling, pull the gloves off and say, 'Sonofabitch, I ain't going to fight anymore.' But the next night...."
"I wasn't persistent," Roger says. "Don was. I said I didn't want to box, so he'd beat the hell out of me. I figured I might as well box."
Roger got his first formal instruction in boxing from a reformed alcoholic who was training fighters in the back of what is now the Wonder Bar. "He worked on my jab, started on my hook a little bit," Roger recalls, "but then he wouldn't be there. He went on a drunk, picked up a deaf-and-dumb girl and got 50 years."
Roger was an all-state fullback at Anaconda High and went to the University of Montana on a football scholarship; however, he injured his knee and never played. Fortunately, he didn't care that much for football. "When he was not even 16 or 17," his mother said, "he wrote down on a form where it said Highest Ambition 'to be champ of the world.' I said, 'Oh, no, you're not handing that in. It's too fantastic'. 'Yes, I am,' he said. 'That's what I want to be. Why shouldn't I?' "
When he lost his football scholarship, Roger attended Idaho State on a boxing scholarship, but a horse fell on him, injuring his ankle. "He said if his ankle was broken he would become the world's champion bronc rider," says Don. "He even bought a $25 hat and spurs." As it happened, his ankle was only sprained and Roger was twice NCAA 165-pound boxing champion and a member of the 1956 Olympic team; he lost a split decision to Gilbert Chapron of France in the quarterfinal round.
After Roger's eligibility expired he accepted a scholarship as a student boxing coach at Montana State, but the school discontinued boxing and Roger dropped out and turned pro under Sid Flaherty, who is best known as the manager of Bobo Olson.
"I was pretty discouraged at school," Roger recalls. "I was having a hard time with my studies, I was married, my wife had a baby, we didn't have any money. I was going to the store with a quarter in my pocket for a can of soup."
Rouse joined Flaherty in Portland, Ore. in 1958 and won nine fights and drew one that year. "When I first started I was making pretty good money," Rouse says. "I was averaging about $600 a month. Then I just kind of lost interest in boxing. I couldn't help thinking I should have kept on in school. And people would tell me, you know what happens when the brain hits the skull, and I'd imagine the brain sitting in there bouncing around. Although I was winning my fights, this stuff was getting to me. Every time I got in the ring I asked myself, what am I a fighter for, why am I punching someone I don't know? Boxing's better than working in the smelter, but you could be doing something worthwhile. I'd feel tired and listless. I couldn't understand it. It was a struggle. I was just plodding along. Flaherty insisted I wasn't training right, so I'd work harder and harder and get more and more lethargic."
After winning three fights in the winter of 1959, the last by a one-round knockout, Rouse more or less gave up boxing; in the next three years he had but two fights, both of which he lost.
He said recently, "There was no enjoyment in it at all to win such dull fights, such poor fights. You can't appreciate anything like that. Flaherty thought I was anemic. I thought perhaps it had something to do with my having rheumatic fever and a heart murmur when I was 14. I went to the University of Oregon Medical School. They tested me for everything and said I was disgustingly healthy. I didn't know what the heck to think, but I had to be honest with myself. There was more to this than meets the eye.
"I couldn't find a job. It was winter in Oregon and raining. I did landscaping when it didn't rain. Gee, it rained for nine months. They took my car back. We sold our furniture and moved back to Pocatello. I did farm and irrigation work in the summer. In the winter I worked in Eddy's bakery. And I'd daydream about boxing all the time. Flaherty asked me to come back with him. I went down to Portland and got a job with an evergreen company, which I had worked for before. They go out in the woods and cut Christmas trees and boughs.
"Then Flaherty disappears. I fight Sid Carter in Tacoma and lose. Flaherty turns up in San Francisco and he wants me to come down there. I was packing crates with greens for funeral wreaths. I went down there to fight Charley Leslie, but they kept having postponements. I was down for a month and I was only supposed to be gone 12 days. The next fight there were more postponements. I told the evergreen company they might as well get somebody else. Then I realized that what had been bothering me was a mental thing. I told myself I was going to try to go all the way. I knew I could make it. I realized I could fight a little. But the money wasn't there anymore.
"Then Flaherty decided to move to San Jose. I went to San Jose. We fought out of there for a while, but I wasn't making any money. I got $200 for winning the state title. There wasn't anybody there. I kept after Flaherty to fight in Montana. Let's just go get a payday, I said. Maybe San Jose will develop into a fight town, but I'll be too old."
In 1964 Rouse finally got back to Montana and, in Butte, on November 23 achieved his most notable win up to then, a one-round knockout of Johnny Persol, who was ranked seventh. More important, it was the Persol fight that brought Roger and Pete Jovanovich together.
Jovanovich is 42, has a rosy complexion, gray hair and calls everyone "cousin." He is from Bearcreek, Mont. (pop. 61), where his father was a coal miner, and he first came to Anaconda to work on the Butte, Anaconda & Pacific.
Jovanovich heard that Butte wouldn't put up the $3,000 to bring Persol in. "What a crying shame," Jovanovich remembers thinking. "Here's a kid with all the potential, and he can't get off the ground. I went out on the street and caught a couple of guys on the way to the post office. 'Hey,' I said, 'we got a chance to get Persol.' " Within an hour and a half Jovanovich had raised 53,000 from 10 businessmen who later incorporated themselves as Montana Boxing Enterprises to promote Rouse's fights in Montana. But after knocking out Persol, Roger went back to San Jose, where he was on probation for 10 months for slapping a girl around on a boccie court, and fought Henry Hank in front of 400 people for $150 and lost.
"I had no money for a room," Rouse says. "I slept in my car for about four days. Once in a while I'd get a room for $1.50 a night. Flaherty got a hold of me and told me he had a fight lined up in Boise in five days. 'Are you kidding?' I said. 'How can I fight? I've been sleeping in my car, I haven't been eating.' Flaherty asked me whether I had been doing my running. 'Running!' I said. 'How can I run when I haven't been eating?' At the time I was ranked seventh or eighth, 'Oh,' Flaherty said, 'it's just some kid. You won't have any trouble with him. You'll get $500.' So I went down in some basement and punched the heavy bag and fought George Gaston, who was the Prospect of the Month. I knocked him out in the fifth. When I went to get my $500, Flaherty had drawn half of it. I had to pay my trainer's way back from Boise out of that. When I got back to San Jose I had $15. The same old story. Before, Flaherty would talk to me for hours about the glories of boxing, and I'd feel sorry for him and go back to him. This time I left.
"When I think about all the time I tried to make it as a fighter when I could have been working and eating...I always seemed to have an old rattletrap, had to rent a little house that didn't have any conveniences and had broken windows and leaky faucets. I never had a place that had heat in the bathroom. I got a feeling people don't want me to live in those places. I wouldn't say it's all been worth it. Give me another year. Then I'll figure it out. I had to starve too much. There was too much hell."
After leaving Flaherty, Rouse asked Jovanovich to manage him. "I guess everyone likes to get tied in with an athlete," Jovanovich says. "When I first took over Roger, I had nothing to offer him. I knew nothing about boxing. I never went in with intentions that here's a gold mine, and I haven't taken a nickel out of his purses. What the hell is there to take out? I felt I could do something for him, get a few bucks in his pocket. He never had nothing. I thought by cleaning up his bills....Once he saw there was something in front of him I thought my problems would be over. He had a grudge against the world, a grudge against his manager. Well, we got off the ground. What kind of landing we'll make is something else. It's like waiting for the paint to dry.
"We didn't have equipment. We sat on a bed in the Marcus Daly and ordered equipment out of a catalogue. There was just us two. No sparring partners. He's out there on that lonely road by himself. I tried to run with him. I got pretty good at it. But poor Roger, he's got no trainer, no nothing. We've got to have somebody to watch the clock and hold the towel. I called Salt Lake—spent $100 on phone calls. Finally I get a trainer and then he can't come because he's got to take a hike with the Boy Scouts. I didn't know how to get opponents. I called Eddie Cotton [at the time the third-ranked light heavyweight] in Seattle. I didn't even have brains enough to talk to the manager."
Rouse fought Cotton twice in Butte. The first fight ended in a draw; in the second Cotton's manager threw in the towel in the seventh round. Rouse beat Cotton again on points in Seattle and defeated Hank in Missoula in a rematch. Since then he has marked time waiting for a title shot. "We'd spend a lot of time up to the house," Jovanovich says of this period. "The wife would cook us a meal. I'd strum the guitar and he'd sing; we'd listen to records, tape, horse around. I kept telling Roger we're next. He'd get all hopped up. Then he'd open the morning paper and read we'd been bypassed. I'd plead with him. Our day will come. We fought Leslie Borden for the North American Light Heavyweight Championship. We were bound to get a title even if we composed it ourself. We were bypassed five times. How many more times could I have kept him together?"
Roger Rouse, who is divorced, has two sons, Matthew, 9, and Bill, 2; his ex-wife recently remarried. He now lives at home with his parents in Opportunity, because, he says, the cooking is better. The Rouses' home is nothing fancy; the furniture is worn, and the floors are covered with linoleum and tremble to the Rouses' tread. The rooms are painted different colors—apple green, peach, lavender, so that there is something childlike about the house. "We're waiting for Roger to get that big loot," his mother said the other day. "Then we'll have a mansion." Roger gave her a look. "We can dream," said Mrs. Rouse.
We were in the kitchen by the wood-burning stove, drinking coffee—Roger, Don, Jimmy, Mrs. Rouse, Pete Jovanovich, Chappie Hayashi. The conversation turned to Roger's character.
"I'm an easygoing personality," he was saying. "Maybe I'm schizophrenic. Sometimes I'm kind of unpleasant."
"Moody," Don said.
"Mean," Jimmy said.
"I was born under the sign of Gemini," Roger said. "I never know what I'm going to do next."
"He has a real good nature," Mrs. Rouse said. "He always gets up in the morning singing. Of course, if he doesn't like something, he's right there to tell you. He was a very good boy, the quietest of the boys. I always thought Roger and Doug were the best natured."
"I used to be," Roger said. "Life is getting more complex."
"He used to try to avoid responsibility," Don said. "But he's found he's getting farther into it. Roger used to be the quietest. Now he's a talkative character. He's very sociable. He can't get away from a conversation. Why, the other day he was talking to someone in the supermarket for five hours."
"I'm shylike," Roger said. "A nice, quiet boy."
"Moody," Don said.
"Nice, quiet," Roger said.
"Other than that he's all right," Jimmy said.
"He's a good kid when he sleeps," said Chappie, who then showed us how his bicep was like Popeye's.
"Have you told him how you used to show your chest for a nickel?" Don said. "There used to be a streetcar that went to town and cost a nickel, and Roger would go up to people and offer to show them his chest for a nickel. I used to egg him on. 'Rog,' I'd tell him, 'go show them your chest.' "
"I was a Boy Scout for a month," Roger said. "We had to bring magpies in—or their eggs? I was nominated for student-body president. I said I didn't want it. I told the principal I hope I don't win it. Jeez, I don't want the thing. I don't care about that stuff. But I was elected. I went to the meetings and sat there like a boob. When the yearbook came out, they had the runner-up in there as student-body president. That wasn't right."
"Did he tell you about the little black horse he broke?" Don said. "We'd run a bunch of wild horses in. I'd ride one. He'd ride one. He lost the little black horse. It ran away to the mountains."
"He likes poetry and music," Mrs. Rouse said.
"He used to read poetry before he went to bed," Don said. "He and his wife used to read poetry to each other in bed."
"Sentimental stuff," Roger said.
"Here's one book he put out under the name of Robert Service," Don said.
"You see what I have to put up with?" Roger said.
"He wrote a poem on a shirt cardboard in Seattle," Jovanovich said, "but he threw it away."
"Was it about love?" Roger asked.
"I told him if I could write, I'd write a poem called Tomorrow Today Will Be Yesterday," Jovanovich said, "and he had taken off on that. I found it in the waste can, and he polished it up."
"My poems have to do with life and kindness," Roger said.
I asked him if I could see a poem, and he began looking for one. The first place he looked was in a silver cup he had won boxing; then he looked in or under other trophies and beneath plaster figurines of little Dutch girls and of old men sitting in a row. Don and Jimmy looked, too.
"Patty'll come across one while cleaning and throw it away," Roger said.
"Jimmy will come in drunk and eat them," Don said.
No one could find any poems. Pete Jovanovich and I went down the kitchen steps into the backyard. There was Sam, Roger's white dog, who runs with him in the morning, and the white cat with the black mustache Roger and Jimmy brought home from the Midget Bar after one of their parties. In the yard, too, were engine blocks and sunflowers; beyond these, the mountains where the little black horse ran away.
As we were getting into our car, Roger came out carrying a poem someone had finally found:
It isn't true that men don't cry—
I've heard them through the years.
Soldiers see their buddies die
And I have seen the tears.
A man will cry for his love grown cold
When he fails that love so true
And when memories fade and he grows old—
Yet, he cries a tear or two.
It is said a man should never cry
Or give in to the pain—
But some have cried and once more tried
And won the world again.
Each man has his cross to bear—
And each must bear his own.
He can cry and die or cry and try
But he must do it all alone.
Before he went to Las Vegas to complete his training, Rouse worked out in the Serbian Church Home in Anaconda. "It's the only way Pete can get his fighter to come to church," says Bob Boyd, the former county attorney of Anaconda. "Roger used to be quite religious," Don says. "Now he's an atheist. That is, he thinks he is."
One afternoon while Rouse was sparring, I sat on a church bench between Dolly Rouse and Jeanne Stratton, Roger's girl friend, who works in a camera store in Butte and has made 29 sky dives. We were talking about Roger.
"He's really moody," Dolly said, "but one of the most compassionate people I know. He's so warm and tender. He's always been quiet, but if you get to talking to him, he'll talk your head off. But he doesn't have a positive mental attitude."
Jeanne kept turning away from the ring. "I don't like it when he gets hit," she explained.
"You're missing a beautiful, beautiful fighter," said Dolly.
"I watch it until I see one coming," Jeanne said.
After Rouse had finished boxing, Jeanne said, "He's real set in his ways. He's not at all conceited. He's real softhearted to animals. It struck me kind of funny, him being a boxer, because he won't go hunting. He said it's wrong. He has a lot of compassion. He's real easygoing, but he doesn't really like large groups of people."
"He's real personable," Dolly said. "He's got a good sense of humor. He really needs the company of women."
Roger came over to where we were sitting and he and Jeanne talked about her father's gold mine.
"You don't know how fast I'd marry you if that mine came in," Roger said.
"What makes you think I'd marry you then?" Jeanne asked.
We are sitting in the Gold Room of the Marcus Daly, about to watch a film of the first Gene Fullmer-Tiger fight, in which Tiger won the middleweight championship.
"Do you think Tiger's as good now as he was then?" Rouse asks while Jovanovich threads the projector. "I think I should be a better man than Tiger. He's not full-fledged. And you've got to get old. It would hurt my pride if he beat me. I've got all the physical advantages."
After the film has been on a few minutes, Roger says "ouch" in the dark as Fullmer gets hit.
Farther along in the film Rouse says, "I can see that Fullmer's fighting his fight. I can see where you can jab him. Right uppercuts. Right hooks. It gives me butterflies. The crowd and the noise, knowing what it's like, knowing that I'm going to be in there with him."
And still later, "It looks as though he was hitting harder than with Torres. Just keep moving, moving," he tells himself. "He's open for a short, straight right. Tiger misses a lot. He's a one-track fighter. But if you leave yourself open, he gets in there. Gee. Oh. Mmmm. He puts punches together pretty good. It kind of makes you nervous."
When the film is over and the lights are turned on, Roger says, "Well, it looks like a lot of fun. I might try that sport some time."
"I'd say you'd be very good at it," Jovanovich says. "If you can duck punches like you duck me you'd be all right."
We go out into the parking lot. Someone says it will soon snow. Indeed, every day the snow is getting lower on the mountains.
"To have courage you've got to feel you're worth something," Roger says as we are standing around. "That's why I feel for so many colored fighters. The way things are, it's got to be that much tougher for them to feel they're something." After a bit he says, "What was it Maeterlinck said about boxing? 'Violence civilized' or something? 'Some thing to be honored'?"