2. The Road Less Traveled
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17 chapter 2 The Road Less Traveled Two roads diverged in a wood, and I I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference. —Robert Frost, from “The Road Not Taken” More than strength or perseverance, Bob Straub always credited his success in life to good luck. “I’ve had a lot of good luck, and the best luck I’ve probably had in my whole life was meeting my wife on the top of a mountain in New Hampshire, having the chance to go to a good college like Dartmouth, and then having the good luck of having a good family and good jobs—and there’s nothing more to it than that. Even getting into politics was luck and even getting elected state treasurer was luck. It’s been luck so much.”1 Surely it seemed that way to him as a young man and perhaps even more so years later. Looking in from the outside, one could ascribe his growing successes partly to good fortune, but just as much to following heartfelt choices. It was in enduring his setbacks and overcoming his difficulties and recognizing his opportunities that Bob, like any successful person, moved forward when times got difficult. But Bob was right. Without a doubt, the luckiest break Bob Straub ever got in all his years was a chance meeting in August of 1941 with a camp counselor, an incoming freshman at Smith College named Patricia Stroud, and her brood of young campers on a steep path in the mountains of New Hampshire. Straub was a sophomore at Dartmouth College by then, working for his second summer at Dartmouth’s Summit House on the top of Mt. Moosilauke. Straub cut a striking figure, six foot four, tanned, in terrific shape from working hard all summer, and carrying a large, impressive pack board. Describing the scene years later, while fingering that pack, a striking object— easily mistaken for a Native American artifact—which he had made by hand by bending soaked hickory wood and fitting it with canvas, he would laugh, “Pat didn’t know that the box I had lashed to the back didn’t have anything in it.” He had carried his laundry down to a woman in nearby Glencliff and was 18 Standing at the Water’s Edge walking back with an empty pack up to the lodge.2 It may not have been love at first sight, but she couldn’t help being impressed. He shyly noticed her as well. Little did either of them know that this chance meeting would lead to a lifelong love and a close marriage. Prior to that sunshine-dappled day in 1941, Straub had spent two productive and exciting years in Hanover, studying with some of the country’s brightest and best-prepared students. Though Dartmouth, like other Ivy League schools, attempted to broaden its student body, it was mostly made up of young men from the better East Coast preparatory schools. Dartmouth, like many colleges of its day, was not coeducational in the fall of 1939, and unlike many of the Ivy League schools, it didn’t have a sister institution for women nearby. This environment of privileged young men was a new one for Straub, but his year off working and traveling had toughened him to new experiences and he soon found he was able to compete well enough, receiving better than average grades, in the company of his more socially advantaged peers.3 Straub was unsure what to specialize in initially, though he thought, even then, he might pursue a career in politics, or in the law, as his father had done.4 He soon found himself involved in the campus’ Roosevelt Club, supporting President Franklin Roosevelt’s second reelection bid in 1940 against Republican Wendell Willkie. This was Straub’s first overt political action and would have been something of a traitorous act to his diehard Republican mother, had she known about it.5 Straub continued to hold tight to his egalitarian beliefs. On October 29, just before Roosevelt’s landslide victory, Dartmouth’s student newspaper published a barbed letter from Straub, chastising a previous writer, a Mr. Barstow. Barstow, an opponent of military conscription, made reference to the “extreme prevalence” of prostitutes and venereal disease, making the military “draft highly undesirable,” and calling soldiers “robots instead of men.” Straub chided, “surely Mr. Barstow doesn’t feel it would be more contaminating to live with the sons of...


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