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Oklahoma Journeys

Abernathy Boys Ride to the Big Apple

2010-04-24

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April seemed to be a busy month for the Abernathy family. It was in April 1905 that Jack Abernathy hosted President Theodore Roosevelt on a wolf hunt near Frederick, and in April 19010 his sons Bud and Temple, ages five and nine, took a long horseback to New York to meet their friend Roosevelt. The Abernathy's this week on Oklahoma Journeys from the Oklahoma History Center.

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Journeys. I'm Michael Dean.

Jack Abernathy was born in Texas and began riding and working cattle at an early age. At 15 he was hired as a “First Saddle,” a cowboy whose job it is to break the roughest and meanest horses on the ranch. In 1905 President Theodore Roosevelt heard about Abernathy's unique hunting skills. Roosevelt requested that Jack demonstrate his technique of capturing wolves with his bare hands. Roosevelt met jack in Frederick and began the Great Salt Plains Wolf Hunt. Roosevelt then named Abernathy U.S. Marshall for the Western District of the Oklahoma Territory. In 1908, he sent a Thomas Edison film crew out to film Abernathy catching prairie wolves as he had on the hunting trip. The wolf hunt took place in April 1905.

Abernathy and his wife had a total of six children before she died in 1908. Two of them were boys, Bud and Temple. In 1909, Bud and Temple convinced their father to let them ride from near Woodward to Santa Fe, New Mexico, where the family knew the governor of that territory. Shortly after their return, Jack received a letter; it was from some outlaws. They had escorted the boys for days, protecting them from harm. The boys didn't know who they were. They wrote to Jack that while they didn't respect him as a federal marshal, they “liked what those boys were made of.”

The next year, April 1910, Roosevelt was returning from a safari in Africa and began his campaign for reelection. Roosevelt invited the boys to ride in his welcome home parade in New York. The boys, Bud and Temple, now ages 10 and 6, decided to ride 2,000 miles to New York to greet their friend Roosevelt on his return from Africa. That began one of their greatest adventure.

Every town along the way welcomed the boys as they were becoming heroes. Newspapers in every town along the way printed stories about the boys from Oklahoma.
Wilbur Wright gave them a tour of his airplane factory in Dayton, Ohio. A conductor in another town allowed them to drive a train. Upon arriving in New York, they met Roosevelt and rode in his parade. Jack met them in the Big Apple. They boys urged their father to try “that new mode of transportation”…an automobile. The Brush Automobile Company of Detroit, Michigan, underwrote the return trip to Oklahoma providing the boys and Jack with two of their autos.

Back to Oklahoma they chugged along in their cars - 2,512 miles in 23 days - Temple so small that he had to sit on the edge of the seat and lean against the steering wheel just to reach the pedals. They set the cross-country record at the time. While the boys' car ran OK, Jack was not so lucky his car caught fire and was destroyed.

Bud later graduated from the University of Oklahoma law school and became a judge; Temple was an oil wildcatter. Their adventures became a book and a movie, Bud and Me. You can learn more about their amazing adventures by visiting the research library at the Oklahoma History Center, just east of the state capitol in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma Journeys is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to collecting, preserving, and sharing our state's past. I'm Michael Dean.