To Santa Fe by horse, boys


I used to think I'd read or heard all the astounding stories relating to New Mexico. I was proved wrong, though, when friends loaned me a small book and suggested I read it.

It was titled "Bud & Me, The True Adventures of the Abernathy Boys," by Alta Abernathy. It opens with Temple "Temp" Abernathy's account of a horseback ride that he and his brother Louis "Bud" made alone in 1909. Temp was age 5 at the time and his brother, 9.

The pair traveled from the family ranch near Frederick, Okla., to Santa Fe. The inspiration for attempting such a feat came inadvertently from their father, Jack Abernathy, a U.S. Deputy Marshal. More than once, he had vividly described to his boys a trip to New Mexico made two years earlier that led him to Roswell, then up the Pecos River and finally into Santa Fe.

The highlight of the senior Abernathy's journey was a visit to his friend Gov. George Curry's new home, a $10,000 mansion. Before entering politics, Curry had been sheriff of Lincoln County and a Rough Rider with Teddy Roosevelt.

The father's tale of this ride to New Mexico had fired the imagination of the two sons.

"With Dad as our role model," Temp would say much later, "Bud and I decided we would go and see things for ourselves and have a great adventure."

The youngsters' mother had died two years before, but Mr. Abernathy still had to be won over. At last he gave his consent, warning, "Boys, this will not be an easy ride."

Promptly, he established a checking account of $100 for each one and handed them their own checkbooks to cover expenses.

Abernathy also gave Bud a New Testament, commanding him and his brother to say their prayers nightly. Wrapping the book in a silk handkerchief, the boy stowed it away in his saddlebags. Then they were off.

Days later, the young adventurers reached the Red River in the southwest corner of Oklahoma, and, avoiding quicksands their father had warned them about, they crossed into Texas at the base of the Panhandle.

On and on they rode, sweltering under the summer sun, drinking water laced with gypsum. Temp got sick from that, but he kept encircling their camp late at night.

"We never thought about being afraid, but we often were tired, dirty and discouraged." That was Temple's recollection long afterward.

Passing into New Mexico, the Abernathys began a series of small adventures that brought them eventually to Roswell. As they rode through town, people came out to wave and welcome them.

Their fame had preceded them via the newspapers. In fact, a local editor put them up in his house for two days.

From that place, the boys made their way north to Vaughn and a few days more of riding took them to Santa Fe, where they guided their horses right into the plaza.

Gov. Curry made the little newcomers welcome, lodging both in his elegant mansion. He also bought them new clothes to replace their trail-worn rags.

The governor wired Mr. Abernathy in Oklahoma that his children had arrived safely. So the father caught the next train and soon joined them at the Governor's Mansion.

Two days later, the boys began the long journey home, now on a more direct route. Jack Abernathy arranged to go with them for a couple of days on a horse borrowed from Curry.

In Las Vegas he took the train home, while leaving his trail-hardened kids to make their way back and accumulate new adventures. One of those occurred in still-wild eastern New Mexico where the duo stumbled into a camp of cattle rustlers, who treated them cordially.

This story of adventuring to Santa Fe is merely the first chapter in "Bud & Me." Related also is an account of the Abernathy boys' ride from Oklahoma to Washington D.C. in 1910, and their return home in a new-fangled Bird automobile driven by Bud.

Another long chapter covers their astounding horseback ride from New York to San Francisco in 62 days, a record. The book contains news photos and clips from along the way verifying their achievement. For a while, they were national celebrities.

The Abernathy saga, with the boys taking responsibility for themselves on the trail, illustrates character-building of a high order.

Bud & Me can be ordered from the Tillman Co. Hist. Soc. P.O. Box 833, Frederick, OK 73542. Book $22, postage $3. Or through It's a glittering treasure.