Saturday with Shutter – Wednesday Edition
4 July 2018
Louis Van “Bud” Abernathy was born in Texas on December 17, 1899 to parents Jack and Jessie. Five years later on March 25, 1904 his brother Temple Reeves “Temp” Abernathy was born. By this time the family had relocated to Tipton, and then later Fredrick, Oklahoma. Bud and Temp’s father Jack was a full time cowboy, and a U.S. Marshall. He was also in a small way, a friend of then President Theodore Roosevelt.
Bud and Temp spent much of their young lives in Fredrick, Oklahoma. When their mother Jessie passed away and with Jack spending much of his time on the road he told the boys it was time to “toughen up”. Jack after all was notorious for catching wolves live buy thrusting his hand into their mouths and then tying their legs together.
So in the Spring of 1909 Bud devised a plan to show, well, just how tough they really were. With the helpful planning of their father Jack, Bud and Temp would ride their horses from Fredrick, Oklahoma to Santa Fe, New Mexico and back. A scant distance of 1,300 miles round trip. Bud was only nine years old, his brother had just turned five.
In June 1909 the boys set off on what was to be the first of their grand adventures. Bud astride his fathers horse Sam Bass and Temp on his own Shetland Pony Geronimo. Oklahoma had only been a state a scant two years at this time. There were few roads and the time between towns and any chance of help should something happen was often days away. They navigated their way through the countryside by know landmarks and sun direction.
At one point Temp became very sick when he drank water that was tainted with gypsum. Bud sometimes had to sit up all night firing his gun at circling wolves so that his five year old brother could safely sleep. Along the way they ran out of food and water and only survived with the help of strangers.
The News papers soon picked up on the story and for a short time Bud and Temp were the best known kids in America. The following year when they heard that Theodore Roosevelt would be returning to New York from a fifteen month trip abroad they determined to ride from Oklahoma to New York to see him. A distance of about 1,600 miles each way. With their father Jacks consent and help with the planning, the boys set out on their horses for the month long trip at the ripe young age of ten and six, respectively.
Though they were often greeted at cities and towns along the way with red carpets, cheers, and speeches, the journey itself was by no means an easy one. Bud and Temp often slogged it out over a country side that still as yet had no roads and exposed to all manner of weather as well as dangers both natural and man made. But despite the hazards Bud and Temp made it to New York and just in time to follow their former President and his “Rough Riders” in a parade through the streets of New York City to the cheers of more than a million people.
For their trip home the boys took their meager savings and after a day learning to drive it, they bought a Brush Automobile. Shipping their horses home by train they set out for Oklahoma in their new automobile. There were no interstate highways, service areas, road side assistance, and damn few roads. The trip back to Oklahoma took twenty three days. And there were still more adventures ahead.
In the summer of 1911 the boys were challenged for the enormous sum of $10,000 to ride their horses from New York to San Francisco in 60 days or less. The conditions were that they could not have any adult supervision and that they would not be permitted to sleep in doors. Bud and Temp were twelve and seven years old.
Though it took 62 days instead of the agreed upon 60 and thus they failed to win the $10,000 dollars. Still, Bud and Temp set a cross country record for riding on horseback from New York City to San Francisco that still holds today.
On their final adventure Bud and Temp, now with their step brother Anton, bought an Indian motorcycle. Taking turns at the handlebars the three rode the new Indian from Oklahoma to New York. One of the first such cross country trips by motorcycle ever made.
And with this Bud and Temp slipped quietly from the pages of history.
Bud grew up and went to Law School at the University of Oklahoma and became a lawyer in Wichita Falls, Texas. Bud died in Austin, Texas in 1979.
Temp went on to become successful in the oil and gas business. He died in Teague, Texas in 1986 at the age 0f 82.
On this 4th of July 2018 as we celebrate our nations 242 birthday, we owe it to ourselves and our children, to reflect upon the qualities that have helped make us who we are today. From the iron that was struck at Lexington and Concord through two and a half centuries of growth, strife, magnificent achievements, as well as civil and global conflicts. To hold firm to those qualities that have inspired us by the feats and daring of those two small boys. And lastly, that the essence of what has made America the beacon of freedom across the globe still burns bright in each and every one of us, and illuminates our country still, from sea to shining sea.
Have a safe and happy 4th.