Kids These Days.

Imagine wanting to go from Frederick, Oklahoma to Santa Fe, New Mexico. According to googlemaps, the trip is about 480 miles and will take you over 7 hours by car.

Now imagine that you are two brothers named Abernathy – 9-year-old Louis “Bud” Abernathy and his 5-year-old brother, Temple who want to make the journey. Now what?

In 1909, Bud Abernathy and his brother asked their father if they could ride by horse from Oklahoma to Santa Fe. The father, law man Jack Abernathy, said “yes” in order to “toughen up” his two young children whose mother had died.

Off the brothers went.

The trip was not without perils.

Despite the hoopla surrounding their first trek, the Santa Fe trip had been riddled with near-disasters. Bud’s horse Sam Bass, borrowed from his father, and the Shetland pony mix named Geronimo were sure-footed. But Temple contracted diarrhea by drinking gypsum water and sprained both ankles trying to dismount. Bud was forced to lie awake one night, firing his shotgun into the darkness toward a pack of wolves that circled while his brother slept. The boys ran out of both food and water between stops, and were saved by the kindness of strangers.

Their trips did not end there.

As school was about to shut down for summer, the boys asked if they could go to New York City to witness the reception for [Teddy] But the boys still had long, lonely stretches by themselves. The pony Geronimo foundered in Hominy, Oklahoma, and Temple was forced to leave him behind and buy a new horse: a red-and-white pinto he named Wylie Haynes. Temple’s Navajo saddle blanket was stolen at a livery in Chicago. Unimpressed kids challenged them to fight. They pressed ahead in driving rain and muddy roads, guided only by directions from one stable to the next. Bud nearly crushed his leg in a fall. Temple suffered a bronchial infection, and a doctor in New Jersey measured his temperature at 103 and ordered him to rest.

Even so, they drove a train in St. Louis, slept in a firehouse in Cincinnati, were made deputies for the day in Dayton and were guests of honor at a Halley’s Comet viewing party in West Virginia. In Washington, the House of Representatives stopped its proceedings so members could hear of their adventures. In New Jersey, they were followed by “local armies of small boys” riding stick horses. In describing the mob scene at the boys’ hotel in Manhattan, New York Times headlines blared:

Fearless Youngsters, Who Have Ridden Here From Oklahoma, Mobbed by Women. Surrounded by Mounted Police, They Have a Triumphal March to Their Broadway Hotel.Roosevelt, which was planned to welcome his return from 15 months abroad on safari in Africa and speaking in the capitals of Europe.

Jack asked how they planned to pay for their train ticket. Temple said it was all settled: Their round-trip tickets were “out in the barn eatin’ hay.” The brothers argued that a trip east, though longer, would likely have better roads and more amenities. Jack agreed and planning was under way.

Almost famous after their Santa Fe trip, by the time they set out for New York in 1910, the Abernathy Boys approached celebrity status. Easterners were fascinated by the brothers’ pluck and by the growing legend of their father. Red carpets were unrolled, bands were assembled, speeches were made. An account noted: “Kids envied them. Women adored them. Grown men pulled hair from their horses’ tails to keep as souvenirs.”

(We love how the boys put a ban on being kissed by women. COOTIES! We guess to them it was like being kissed by one’s aunts at family gatherings or something. The aversion did not last, however as later in life Temple met a young woman by the name of Alta. They were married and their 64 year union produced three daughters, six grandchildren, and seven great-grandchildren.)

This public frenzy ended when Bud and Temple rode their Oklahoma ponies alongside Teddy Roosevelt and the Rough Riders in a victory parade witnessed by more than a million cheering New Yorkers.

Then came the issue of getting back to Oklahoma and home.

For the return journey, the boys used their meager savings and “bought” a Brush automobile, then drove it home to Oklahoma. One has to think that the PR opportunities offered to the pair must have been numerous at this point and to lead one to think the the Brush Company must have helped them out.

Even though they were only six and ten years old, Temple and Bud Abernathy were a national sensation. In the summer of 1911, they did the impossible. They rode nearly 4,000 miles, from New York to San Francisco, in only sixty-two days. Once again, the Abernathy Boys had made a historic ride without any adult assistance and accomplished an equestrian feat which has never been equaled.

In 1913 the pair did it again when the rode from Oklahoma to New York City at the ages of nine and thirteen on the Indian Motorcycle seen in the photo.

Amazing stuff.

We can’t help but compare the Abernathy brothers and their father to kids and parents today. We wonder if the Jack Abernathy (who used to catch wild wolves with his bare hands) would listen to two kids whining about an Xbox not working or not having a cell phone. We see a parent who was raising kids to be independent and challenged.

We somehow think that we have lost something in the last one hundred plus years in the way we raised kids. The Abernathy brothers would laugh, scoff, and disdain the so called “snowflakes” of today who somehow think they are entitled to things instead of going out and making it happen in their lives.

You can find out more about these two adventurers and their family at the “Bud and Me” site. A book by the same name in many formats is available there as well.

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