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Inspiring Kids!    by Garry Stauber

Heroes are hard to find these days.  But this week I read about Jeannette Hall, who was inspired by two of my heroes. These two heroes were little boys in 1910. Jeannette Hall is a 27-year-old equestrian from Pennsylvania.  She has always wanted to ride long distances, and she was inspired by Bud and Temple Abernathy.

Jeannette will leave Frederick, Okalahoma and follow the route taken by Bud and Temple Abernathy in 1910, when they rode from Oklahoma to New York, to ride in the parade welcoming  President Theodore Roosevelt home from Europe.

But I am sure Jeannette knows that this was not the Abernathy's most famous long  ride. Bud and Temple Abernathy, then nine- and six-year-old brothers, hold what will probably be the all-time record for riding across the U.S. on horseback. Riding from New York to San Francisco in just sixty-two days was quite a feat, even in 1910. This accomplishment is so amazing, it would be unbelievable were it not so well documented.

Most of us today can’t imagine a parent allowing young children to take off on a ride of this magnitude. Bud and Temple's mom died before their famous trips. Their father was a U.S. Marshall nicknamed “Catch-em-alive Jack." President Theodore Roosevelt gave him that name after he saw Jack catch a wolf with his bare hands.

Bud and Temple’s first trip was far shorter than their ride across America. Their first journey began at their home in Frederick, Oklahoma and ended at Governor George Curry’s home in Santa Fe, New Mexico. By carefully planning every detail of the trip before discussing it with their father, the brothers convinced him to allow them to go. Temple (age five) rode Geronimo, a half Shetland Pony and Bud (age nine) rode Sam Bass, his father's Arab. Sam Bass was the horse Jack Abernathy would ride when catching wolves.

The boys' trip contained a few exciting twists, but no major problems. Temple's pony, Geronimo, stepped on a snake. That caused so much "excitement" that re-telling the snake story became a family tradition. On the same trip, outlaws met the boys and escorted them many miles, ensuring their safety. The boys had no idea the men were outlaws. Later these outlaws wrote a letter to the boys' father, telling him of the boys' safety and saying that though they didn’t respect him, a U.S. Marshall, they "liked what those boys were made of.”

The journey to Santa Fe only took two weeks, but it gave the boys a bug for travel. Soon they were planning longer rides and their success easted their father's concerns about further travels.

President Theodore Roosevelt, their father's friend, returned from vacationing in Europe and began his presidential re-election campaign. He asked the boys to ride to New York to greet him and ride in his parade. Their father let Bud and Temple ride from Oklahoma to New York, after discussing it with President Roosevelt. The ride made history and every town along the way welcomed the boys, as they were becoming heroes. Because of President Roosevelt's desire for publicity, journalists in every town wrote about the boys, and that is how we have proof of these historic rides.

On this trip Geronimo, Temple's Shetland Pony, got loose in a field of alfalfa and almost foundered. He was unable to continue on the trip. The boys used some of the emergency fund their father had given them to buy a new horse they named “Big Black” and Geronimo was shipped back home by train.

Everyone wanted to get in on the publicity the boys were generating. Governors and mayors welcomed them wherever they went. Wilbur Wright gave them a tour of the Wright Brothers Airplane Factory in Dayton, Ohio. A conductor in one town let them drive a train. People "adopted" the boys along the way and cared for them as if they were family.

After arriving in New York and riding in Theodore Roosevelt’s welcome home parade, the boys began urging their father to investigate the new mode of transportation, automobiles. The boys coaxed their father into buying a car for them to drive back home. The horses were shipped home by train. With their father following behind in a second car, the Abernathy boys drove home with no problems. The father wasn’t as lucky as the boys, however, and his car caught fire and was destroyed.

It was this trip to New York that Jeanette Hall plans to retrace. But the biggest quest was yet to come for the Abernathy brothers.  In 1910, a man bet the Abernathy boys' father $10,000, that the boys could not ride across America on horseback in less than 60 days. More than an adventure, this was a true test of survival. Sam Bass, Bud’s horse and a long-time family friend, coliced and died on this trip. The boys were devastated as Sam was a dear friend and had been a hero on previous trips. But this was not their only hardship. The last few weeks of the trip were through deserts and mountains and both boys almost died. Nothing had prepared them for this kind of peril. The boys did not finish in time to win the bet, but they did finish alive and in a record time (sixty-two days) that has yet to be broken.

Bud grew up to be a judge and Temple became an oil wildcatter. The Abernathy boys' entire story is told in the books "Bud and Me" and "The Adventures of the Abernathy Boys." As for Jeanette Hall and her trip, I wish for her great success and may it only be the beginning of her travels and adventures.

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Copyright Garry Stauber © 2004  All rights reserved. The above article is the property of the Author and may not be duplicated or redistributed in any way without permission. Visit Garry on-line at Dream Adventures.   


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