Determined to greet former President Theodore Roosevelt upon his return from an African safari in 1910, two young brothers from tiny Frederick straddled their horses and headed east on a 2,000-mile journey to New York.
Louis “Bud” Abernathy, 9, and Temple “Temp” Abernathy, 6, rode by themselves out of southwestern Oklahoma and across what remained of the American frontier.
Alta Abernathy wrote their story as told to her by her husband, Temple, before he died. Bud & Me is published by the Pioneer Townsite Museum and Tillman County Historical Society in Frederick. Other information comes from a 1910 article in the New York Times and the museum.
Jack Abernathy allowed his sons to ride halfway across the continent. Known by his nickname Catch-’em-Alive for capturing wolves barehanded, he instilled in his boys a sense of adventure from his own exploits. Roosevelt, who befriended Abernathy after a wolf hunting trip, appointed him U.S. marshal of Oklahoma Territory in 1906.
Jack Abernathy grew up in Texas, played piano in a saloon at age 6, worked cattle at 7, and rode as a cowboy on Charles Goodnight’s range at 10. He and his wife, Jessie Pearl, homesteaded a ranch just north of the Red River near Frederick, where she bore the boys and their four sisters. She died in 1907.
The boys departed April 1; Bud rode Sam Bass and Temp had Geronimo. As they left, a frantic woman yelled: “Where are your parents? Are you runaways?”
The boys camped out some, but many people supplied lodging.
Quanah Parker, the famous Comanche, met them on his front porch outside Cache and put them up overnight. Reformed train robber Al Jennings, later an unsuccessful candidate for governor in 1912, welcomed the boys to Lawton.
In Dayton, Ohio, they visited the Wright Brothers’ fledgling airplane factory and met Wilbur. In West Virginia, they saw Halley’s comet.
Bud and Temp were famous by the time they reached St. Louis. Reporters mobbed them. An Indiana reporter asked Temp what he wanted to do when he grew up.
“I want to drive a train,” he said.
The reporter arranged just that.
Some trouble arose. Geronimo foundered from drinking too much creek water. A deputy sheriff in Hominy secured a new mount for Temp, who named the horse Wylie Haynes after the kind lawman.
After more than two months of travel, the boys rode into Washington, where President William Howard Taft gave them a personal tour of the White House.
Jack Abernathy joined them in Jersey City, N.J., at the Pennsylvania Railroad ferry. Roosevelt’s ship arrived in New York Harbor at 7:20 a.m. June 18. The three Abernathys accompanied the ship’s fleet aboard the U.S.S. Dolphin, as arranged by Taft. More than a million people waited to greet the former president.
Roosevelt had the Abernathys come forward and introduced them.
“You made a long ride to see me,” he said warmly.
In the subsequent ticker tape parade, Bud and Temp rode their horses behind Roosevelt’s carriage and in front of his famous Rough Riders.
The Brothers Abernathy had succeeded in what they set out to do.