For part of his life, retired Master Sgt. David Larrison is Teddy, the mascot of the 91st Missile Wing “Rough Riders” at Minot Air Force Base.
Larrison, who lives in Minot, has been portraying Teddy Roosevelt going on 11 years.
Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt, who became the 26th president of the United States, earlier was a rancher in the Badlands in the Dakotas in the late 1880s and also formed the “Rough Riders,” a volunteer cavalry regiment that fought in Cuba.
Larrison explained how he became Teddy, the “Rough Riders” mascot.
“It actually started in the year 2000 when they expanded the competition into allowing the missile chefs to compete. I was a trainer so I trained a group of airmen that went to Vandenberg (AFB, Calif.) for competition. I kind of got caught up in the whole experience in watching the previous mascot do his thing on stage. I thought that was kind of neat and unique.
“I had always done theater before the Air Force so when the opportunity came in 2002, he (the previous mascot) was stepping down and there was going to be a competition for a new mascot,” Larrison said.
Larrison and four other people volunteered but apparently when the other four people’s supervisors found out the amount of time it could take away from their jobs, they stepped out.
“I kind of won the role by default, so in 2002 I became the mascot for the 91st,” he said.
Larrison, originally from St. Petersburg, Fla., was in the Air Force for 26 years. “I actually started my career in the Air Force here in Minot,” he said. “My first assignment in the Air Force was in the 91st Missile Wing or it was the 91st Strategic Missile Wing back then in 1983.”
Larrison left Minot AFB in 1987 and had the opportunity to come back in 1998. “I volunteered and came back,” he said. Since, he has retired and remained in Minot. In the Air Force he was in the Services career field food service, lodging, fitness a hospitality career field.
When Larrison became Teddy he got the outfit that was handed down to him from the previous Teddy. “He was a little huskier than myself so I had to research and find a smaller outfit to wear,” he said. He said he went to Internet sites that sell authentic period costumes, found what he needed and the wing funded the new costume.
Larrison has two costumes to wear as Teddy.
“Actually, I have the original ‘Rough Rider’ outfit which is the khaki pants, the blue shirt and the scarf like all the individuals who rode up San Juan Hill wore,” he said.
He also has a ceremonial uniform. “If you ever see Teddy like in a dress uniform when he was staff officer, I have that one also,” he said.
As Teddy, Larrison cheers on a crowd to get them ready for a speaker, competition or whatever event it is.
“I’m there to kind of motivate the crowd, get them ready to go for an event, get their blood flowing, get their excitement going,” he said.
As part of the portrayal, Teddy has a gun. “We recently upgraded the old gun to a new gun. It’s an actual 1879 replica and it’s actually called the ‘Rough Rider,’ ” he said.
“The gun is one of the key parts of my entrance because a lot of times they’ll (the crowd) be facing one way and I’ll come from behind (and) fire the gun off,” he said, adding, “I enjoy getting the crowd off their feet.”
Larrison, who is operations manager at Souris Valley Suites in Minot, said his employer is very supportive of what he does for the base, as were past employers.
Larrison’s role as Teddy has peaked his interest in Theodore Roosevelt.
“I’ve been to Medora to watch the musical and then to read about Teddy’s time he spent in Medora. That’s actually one of the reasons why the 91st adopted Teddy,” Larrison said.
Roosevelt had said he would not have been president if it hadn’t been for his experience in North Dakota.
“The 91st adopted Teddy to instill those same values in our young airmen the future leaders in the military,” Larrison said.
He said he’s also read many books about Teddy Roosevelt.
Larrison has met one of Theodore Roosevelt’s relatives.
“That was one of my greatest honors,” he said. Several years ago Larrison went to Wild Things Gallery in Minot with Col. Daniel S. Adams Jr., the wing commander at the time, and met Tweed Roosevelt, Theodore Roosevelt’s great-grandson, there.
Larrison said he was quite nervous about the meeting. “I mean, you’re dressed as Teddy Roosevelt meeting a Roosevelt,” he said, adding, “He (Tweed) signed my bully stick that I use.”
Larrison has one dream he hopes he can complete during his role as Teddy.
“There will be one day that I’m going to ride into an event on a horse. That’s one of my future goals. I think that would be one of the most unique things to really portray Teddy Roosevelt for the 91st. It would be cool,” he said.
As Teddy representing the 91st, he said, “It is an honor.”
(Prairie Profile is a weekly feature profiling interesting people in our region. We welcome suggestions from our readers. Call Regional Editor Eloise Ogden at 857-1944 or Managing Editor Kent Olson at 857-1939. Either can be reached at 1-800-735-3229. You also can send e-mail suggestions to email@example.com.)