Adventurous Boys: Bud and Temple Abernathy

Sometimes a story comes along that you just swear has to be pure fiction. This one is that. How could two kids – eight and five – ride off on their own over a long distance? How could parents let them?

Louis (the oldest, who was called Bud) and Temple Abernathy were born to parents Jack and Jessie Pearl. Jack was a cowboy and a U.S. Marshal who was well-known for capturing wolves alive by sticking his hand into their mouths, wiring their muzzles shut and tying their legs. He must’ve been really quick and have nerves of steel is all I’ve got to say. But at age 6, Jack had worked as a saloon pianist in Sweetwater, Texas and at 9, he was a full-time range rider on the A-K-X Ranch then the JA Ranch.

It’s important to know this about the father to understand this story.

In June 1909, he allowed Bud and Temple who were 8 and 5 to ride alone from their home in Frederick, Oklahoma to Santa Fe, New Mexico by horseback. A round trip distance of 1,300 miles. Their mother had died or I don’t think she would’ve allowed this.

As newspapers got wind of it, they became the two best known kids in the U.S.

Bud rode his father’s horse Sam Bass and Temple his Shetland pony Geronimo. The trip was not without problems. Five-year-old Temple drank some gypsum water and came down with a bad case of diarrhea. Plus, he sprained both ankles jumping from his pony. Bud sat up all night firing at circling wolves while Temple slept. Once they got riding again, they ran out of food and water and were forced to rely on strangers.

At some point, a group of outlaws followed them. The outlaws scribbled a note with the lead tip of a bullet and delivered it to The Marshal of Oklahoma. Here’s what it said: “I don’t like one hair on your head, but I do like the stuff that is in these kids. We shadowed them through the worst part of New Mexico to see that they were not harmed by sheepherders, mean men, or animals.”

It was signed with the initials of a rustler whose friend Jack Abernathy had killed in a shootout.

Against all odds, the brothers made it to Santa Fe and back. Newspapers were full of the adventure.

The following year, they heard about a grand parade that was to be given in New York City to honor Teddy Roosevelt who’d be returning from fifteen months abroad. The boys were now old hands at 9 and 6. Their father said they could go and helped them plan the trip, again by horseback.

Each town they passed through had red carpets rolled out, bands played, and speeches were made. Even so, the boys had long, lonely stretches and more problems to face. Temple’s horse collapsed before they got out of Oklahoma and they had to buy a new horse and leave him behind. Temple named his new horse Wylie Haynes. Temple had his Navajo saddle blanket stolen at a livery in Chicago. They faced fights with other kids who were jealous of their fame. Bud nearly crushed his leg in a fall but they rode on in driving rain and on muddy roads. Temple came down with a bronchial infection and a fever of 103 and a doctor in New Jersey ordered him to rest.

Despite everything, they arrived in New York City in time for Teddy Roosevelt’s parade. They were VIPs and rode directly behind the flotilla up Madison Avenue. Jack had arrived by train and joined his boys.

Yet, their adventures weren’t over. They decided to ship their horses back home and the boys bought a motorcycle. After spending a day learning to drive it, they left New York City heading home. The boys took turns driving. The trip back, a distance of 2,512 miles took 23 days.

From there, things got real crazy. They starred in silent movie about them, were hired as spokesmen for the motorcycle company, were paid to sit astride their horses on Coney Island and talk about their adventures, and even participated in an elephant and donkey race.

One promoter challenged them to ride from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific in 60 days by horseback. They were now 11 and 7. They traveled over the Rockies, across the Continental Divide, and the Great Salt Lake where they awakened one morning to find their horses gone. They lost three days searching for them and finally found one and eventually caught up with the other but the heat had drained them and they had depleted their water.

Exhausted, they arrived at their destination two days late. But they broke the record for crossing the continent on horseback.

When their celebrity childhood wound down, they enrolled in a military school in San Antonio. Bud went on to law school in Oklahoma and became a lawyer then a judge. Temple joined his father who’d become a wildcatter in the oil and gas business in Wichita Falls, Texas.

Father, Jack Abernathy

You know, when I write about young kids doing unusual great things in my stories, some readers and reviewers say it’s impossible. But Bud and Temple Abernathy prove that nothing is far fetched.

Would you have let your kids do something like this when the land was still so untamed, or in today’s time with modern conveniences? I don’t think I would have. A five-year-old is still technically a baby. Leave a comment to be in the drawing for a $10 Amazon gift card.


Adventurous Boys: Bud and Temple Abernathy — 21 Comments

  1. Good morning Linda- Wow, Wow!!! No way would I have let my kids do that, whether it was in an untamed land of years ago or in today’s modern times. That’s just way to young. Even to just travel across one state, a small one by themselves would of been too scary. But I applaused their courage. Bud and Temple were fearless and seemed years older than their age as far as keeping their heads on their shoulders. I’ve heard of Jack and the JA Ranch. He must of had ice water running through his veins to have been able to let his kids ride off like that. Thanks for such an amazing story.
    You have a wonderful day, love you, and happy soon to be release day for Christmas In A Cowboys Arms.

    • Hi Tonya……I’m glad you enjoyed reading about these boys. I totally agree. That’s just way too young and I’m way to scared of what would happen to them. In the article I read, Temple Abernathy revealed in later years that on each of their journeys they always reached a point when they wanted to turn back. But they never did. That took real courage.

      Yes, Christmas in a Cowboy’s Arms releases tomorrow! I’m excited.

      Love and great big hugs!

  2. Wow! I don’t know why I didn’t know about these boys! It seems so impossible! Just think about kids of this day and time, they wouldn’t make it to the city limit most likely. What a couple of courageous boys. Your teaching me history as always and please don’t stop! I love the child characters in your books so keep on adding them!

    • Hi Stephanie…….I’m glad I could tell you something else that would blow your mind. It sure did mine. A five year old going across the United States with only his eight year old brother? No way. And you’re right…kids this young today wouldn’t hardly make it across the street much less on a horse with outlaws roaming around and fighting off wolves. Good heavens!! Just amazing. All I’ve got to say is that it’s a good thing the mother wasn’t alive or she’d have kept their little butts at home.

      Love you, lady!

  3. Heck no!! I would no way let my kids did all this! I still get apprehensive about my girls driving back and forth to Memphis to work with a Mission group in the ghettos of Memphis. I pray constantly for their safety

    • Hi Glenda…….I totally agree! This is really beyond insanity. Their father needed to have his head examined. Just crazy that a parent would let their kids do this.

      Love you, lady!

  4. I didn’t raise my kids to be quite this self reliant although our daughter who was 7 years old at the time did handle an interview with an ad agency to star in a promotional video for a local children’s hospital by herself. She told her father to wait outside while she went into the interview, talked with the interviewers, and got the part (and the money she earned went into her college fund.) But crossing mountains and prairies by themselves? Absolutely not!

    • Hi Karlene……Thanks for coming over. I’m so happy to see you. Your daughter sounds like she might have some of these boy’s courage. Good for her! But I agree. Crossing the untamed West, followed by outlaws, facing off against wolves? Not on your life!

      Big hugs and thanks again for coming!

  5. wow…. No way , no way !!! would i let my babies do something that crazy…… But I was fascinated by their story…. Amazing 2 courageous children doing this… Their daddy had to be crazy…… lol. but i applaud them…

    • Hi Tonya Cherry…….Yes, they were amazing…but their father should’ve been whipped. This is the craziest thing I ever heard. Just blows my mind. It’s a wonder they didn’t get killed.

      Love you, lady!

  6. That is one heck of a story! And, there is NO way those kids would have been allowed do that if their mother had been alive. She would have put her foot down. They certainly were tough little boys. Thanks for sharing, sister.

    • Hi Jan……It’s pretty bizarre. Can you imagine Sydney or Joshua…even Ryan for that matter saddling a horse and riding thousands of miles by themselves? Sydney is so scared of everything. But Temple Abernathy wasn’t very much older than Connor or Samantha. Can you see their mothers letting them do this? Oh, I guarantee if these boys’ mother had been alive they’d be lucky to get out of the yard, for heaven’s sake!

      Love you, sister!

    • Jan, I’m sure Clint’s grandfather and dad would’ve known Jack and probably Temple too. I keep trying to think if I ever heard the Abernathys mentioned in Wichita Falls. They were probably very well known.

  7. I know I wouldn’t let my babies go out on their own, but I guess that’s a mother talking. Men then and now see adventure where we see danger.

    • Hi Allison……Thanks for coming. You’re right about men. They think a whole lot differently–and sometimes it’s not a good thing.

      Hugs, lady!

  8. Good Afternoon Linda Broday. That story was absolutely fascinating. The father must have been completely crazy to let those boys go on those adventures. I agree, if the mother had been there, she would have put a stop to it. No ***** way would I have let my kids off like that. If it just had to be done, I would have been with them, but on their own, no way. Even in today’s times, I would not have let them go. I have horror flashes when my children let my grandkids go off to the store on their own. Thanks for the story and the history lesson also. Please keep it up and please never take the children out of your books. Love and hugs to you.

    • Hi Cricket……..If that father wasn’t crazy, he was awful close to it. What in the world was he thinking? The youngest one was barely out of diapers. He’s so little on that horse and standing with his brother. Just a baby. This is the most bizarre thing I’ve ever heard.

      Love and hugs!

  9. Absolutely mind-boggling story. I am appalled at the father’s attitude, and wholly impressed with the toughness of those boys.

    • Hi Cheryl C……They really were something. I still can’t believe that father though. Just irresponsible to me.

      Much love!

  10. Hi Linda great post. There is no way I would let my kids do something like this. I didn’t even let him ride his bike on the street in front of our house so there was no way I was going to send him on a trip like this.

    • Hi Quilt Lady……I had to laugh at your comment but I totally agree. I never would’ve let my kids ride out of my yard.

      Much love and hugs!