Cheryl Pierson: The Adventures of the Abernathy Brothers

In the summer of 1909, two young brothers under the age of ten set out to make their own “cowboy dreams” come true.  They rode across two states on horseback.  Alone.Temple_&_Bud_in_Manhattan--1910page81-2[1]

It’s a story that sounds too unbelievable to be true, but it is.

Oklahoma had been a state not quite two years when these young long riders undertook the adventure of a lifetime.  The brothers, Bud (Louis), and Temple Abernathy rode from their Tillman County ranch in the southwest corner of the state to Santa Fe, New Mexico.  Bud was nine years old, and Temple was five.

They were the sons of a U.S. Marshal, Jack Abernathy, who had the particular talent of catching wolves and coyotes alive, earning him the nickname “Catch ’Em Alive Jack.”

Jack Abernathy

Odd as it seems to us today, Jack Abernathy had unwavering faith in his two young sons’ survival skills.  Their mother had died the year before, and, as young boys will, they had developed a wanderlust listening to their father’s stories.

Jack agreed to let them undertake the journey, Bud riding Sam Bass (Jack’s own Arabian that he used chase wolves down with) and Temple riding Geronimo, a half-Shetland pony.  There were four rules the boys had to agree to:  Never to ride more than fifty miles a day unless seeking food or shelter; never to cross a creek unless they could see the bottom of it or have a guide with them; never to carry more than five dollars at a time; and no riding on Sunday. Temple_and_Bud_in_Amarillo2[1]

The jaunt into New Mexico to visit their father’s friend, governor George Curry, took them six weeks.  Along the way, they were escorted by a band of outlaws for many miles to ensure their safe passage.  The boys didn’t realize they were outlaws until later, when the men wrote to Abernathy telling him they didn’t respect him because he was a marshal.  But, in the letter, they wrote they “liked what those boys were made of.”

One year later, they set out on the trip that made them famous.  At ten and six, the boys rode from their Cross Roads Ranch in Frederick, Oklahoma, to New York City to meet their friend, former president Theodore Roosevelt, on his return from an African safari.  They set out on April 5, 1910, riding for two months.

Along the way, they were greeted in every major city, being feted at dinners and amusement parks, given automobile rides, and even an aeroplane ride by Wilbur Wright in Dayton, Ohio.

Their trip to New York City went as planned, but they had to buy a new horse to replace Geronimo.  While they were there, he had gotten loose in a field of clover and nearly foundered, and had to be shipped home by train.

They traveled on to Washington, D.C., and met with President Taft and other politicians.

It was on this trip that the brothers decided they needed an automobile of their own.  They had fallen in love with the new mode of transportation, and they convinced their father to buy a Brush runabout.  After practicing for a few hours in New York, they headed for Oklahoma—Bud drove, and Temple was the mechanic.

Pierson blog 1

They arrived safe and sound back in Oklahoma in only 23 days.

But their adventures weren’t over.  The next year, they were challenged to ride from New York City to San Francisco.  If they could make it in 60 days, they would win $10,000.  Due to some bad weather along the 3,619-mile-long trip, they missed the deadline by only two days.  Still, they broke a record—and that record of 62 days still stands, nearly one hundred years later.

The boys’ last cross country trip was made in 1913 driving a custom designed, two-seat motorcycle from their Cross Roads Ranch to New York City.  They returned to Oklahoma by train.

As adults, Temple became an oilman, and Bud became a lawyer.  There is a statue that commemorates the youngest long riders ever in their hometown of Frederick, Oklahoma, on the lawn of the Tillman County Courthouse.



+ posts

86 thoughts on “Cheryl Pierson: The Adventures of the Abernathy Brothers”

  1. Hi Cheryl, welcome to Wildflower Junction. I hope you enjoy your time here. These boys, wow. I feel like a very overprotective mother LOL. Good luck with the books.

  2. Cheryl,Welcome ,what a interesting post,I cant imagine 2 little boys traveling alone like that,again welcome!


  3. wow cheryl!
    that is quite the story!!
    child services woulda stepped in long before that
    i have a five year old daughter and i wouldn’t even let her walk down the lane to the neighbor’s house alone yet, lol

    i like that the outlaws helped them out 🙂
    it also made me happy to hear geronimo was sent home after near founder
    what about sam bass after they got the car? what happened to him
    i’m always concerned about the horses 🙂

    thanks for the chance at your books!

  4. Cheryl,

    Your books sound so intruging. I must admit that I have been trying to get my hands on Fire Eyes or really any of your work. I know you will do well.

    Your post today was wonderful also. I love horses and it amazed me about the wolves. I love them too. I am big about animals and the way they are connected to us and to Mother Earth.

    I write Native American so I believe everything is connected

    Well have a wonderful day. Hope to win one of your books

    Walk in harmony,

  5. Hi,Cheryl! Thank you for a truly delightful post, which I have saved to reread. I also plan to investigate further information on the “Adventuresome Abernathys” : ) I’ve not yet read one of your books, but I have only read the highest reviews of your work. I’ve always thought that the sepia-toned cover for “Fire Eyes” is very beautiful!

  6. Morning Cheryl and welcome to The Junction! We’re so happy to have you with us today.

    What an amazing story. I’ve often wondered how early is too early to have a child character take “control” of a situation. I must admit, I never imagined as young as five. Wow.

    Thanks for the glimpse of Bud and Temple.

  7. TANYA!!!
    Thanks so much for reading and commenting–that just means the earth to me, knowing how busy you are with everything. Thanks for the kind words–you are a dear friend.

  8. Hi Mariska,

    It’s hard to believe that was true, but I’ve read several comments their father Jack made about how they had raised them to take care of themselves, and he wasn’t worred about them, etc.

    So glad you like the cover of Fire Eyes–I really do, too.


  9. Hi Vickie,

    I KNOW!!! It’s hard to imagine. Their mother had died, so I’m sure that’s why the father was “all right” with doing it. LOL (That’s such a “man thing” isn’t it?)


  10. That is an amazing story! It sounds just like something out of a novel–outlaws helping them out on the way, all that jazz. Your books sounds very interesting, too. I can’t wait to read them.

  11. Wow! What an amazing story, Cheryl! It’s one of those cases where the truth really is stranger than fiction.

    Love your cover, BTW!

  12. Hi Tabitha,

    A couple of sources say that Sam Bass and Geronimo were both shipped home in boxcar, safe and sound, which I’m sure THEY were glad of–getting to ride in style rather than walking back all the way to Oklahoma. LOL

    I’m like you, at the time my kids were five years old, I was very overprotective! When my daughter started to kindergarten, she wanted to ride the bus to school. I drove behind the bus all the way to school! LOL

    Glad you enjoyed the post! Thanks so much for your comments.

  13. Hi Melinda!

    Thank you so much for your kind words! I know you have a book coming out soon and I can’t wait to read it.

    I’m so glad you stopped by to comment! Yes, catching wolves by hand had to be really tough! But Jack had to be a really tough guy to be a marshal in those times.


  14. Hi Virginia,

    What kind words you have for me and my cover for Fire Eyes! I have to confess, I have always loved that cover too, and I’m so glad it was mine. I’ve been so fortunate with my covers. My daughter did my cover for Time Plains Drifter, and I’ve had many compliments on that, too. I’m glad you saved the post to re-read. That was one extraordinary family!


  15. Hi Tracy,

    You are welcome! I have a special fondness in my heart for these boys and their story. I just can’t imagine them DOING these things–what adventures! To me, it’s amazing. Thanks for commenting, Tracy!


  16. Hi Cheryl,
    What a great post! I can’t believe I had never heard this story before but I want to read a lot more about it now.
    Do we want to know what their father did with live wolves? Did the boys ever outgrow their wanderlust or did they continue to have adventures as adults? I can’t imagine what kind of father would let his children do such a thing and at the same time I love the idea of it!
    Thanks for sharing this incredible story!

  17. Hi Kaitlin,

    Thanks so much for the kind words about my books. I appreciate that. I, too, loved this story about the Abernathy boys. Seems just like you say–something out of a novel!


  18. Hi Cheryl,

    Just want to chime in and say how glad we are to have you blog with us. We hope you enjoy it so much you want to come back.

    The Abernathy boys make a fascinating story. They must’ve had quite a yearning for adventure! Bet they didn’t know they were making history when they set off alone like that. I wonder if they gave any thought to the gray hairs they were giving their mother. Ha!

    Your book covers are captivating. They sure make you want to read the stories. Hope you have lots of sales!

  19. Hi Julie,

    Thanks! yes, this is one story that certainly IS stranger than fiction! And talking about “stranger than fiction”, there is also a pic that I didn’t include of the father and kids standing beside the mother’s open casket at her funeral. A very odd “family portrait” but I know that was done a lot in those times.


  20. Hi Judy,

    From what I can tell from my research, the father, Jack, turned the wolves loose. It was all about the sport of catching them alive. That’s how he and Teddy Roosevelt got to be such good friends.

    As for the boys, I believe that they continued to travel into their early teen years, but then settled into “regular” careers, got married, etc.

    LOL I’M WITH YOU!!! I am both shocked that Jack Abernathy thought it was okay to let the boys do the traveling they did at such a young age, and yet, it was “different times” and I’m sure he felt that they were capable. I’d be scared to death as a parent, and wouldn’t even THINK of allowing that. LOL

    Thanks for your comments!

  21. Hi Linda,

    Bless your heart for the wonderful warm welcome I’ve gotten here at P&P!!! This is a great place! You can bet I would love to come back and blog with you! E-mail me and we can work out when.

    You’re right about their yearning for adventure! I tend to believe if their mother hadn’t been dead, that never would have happened, though. They still hold the record for being the youngest longriders.

    Thanks so much for your comment about my book covers, Linda. I have been so fortunate in my covers.I have loved every one of them.

    Thanks again for having me, and I look forward to hearing from you!

  22. Hi Crystal,

    Yes, they were. I know it was a big adventure for them, but they must have been afraid, as well. I have marveled at them being so young and being able to stay on their course so well–not get lost, etc.

    Thanks for commenting!

  23. Welcome, Cheryl. I am intrigued with this amazing story which is captivating. How brave and determined these young boys were. Wonderful post today.

  24. Hi Ruth!

    Thanks so much for the warm welcome. I appreciate that! I love this story so much. They made a movie of it a few years ago, but it didn’t do all that well, surprisingly. I’m thinking there wasn’t enough publicity about it. I’m glad you enjoyed the post–it’s one of my favorite “Oklahoma” stories.


  25. How could I have lived most of my life in Oklahoma and never have heard of these two fascinating boys? As a mom of four boys, I cringed at the idea of two so young traveling alone like the Abernathy boys. It’s rather mind-boggling.

  26. Wow, what an amazing piece of history! I did not know any of that… all of that travel for such young boys… my goodness!

  27. Cheryl, I read every word of that post and kept referring back for details. My mind is boggled. 9 and 5 year olds?

    It’s illegal to leave 9 and 5 year olds home alone today.

    My mind is boggled. Two presidents. The Wright brothers. Outlaw escorts. Driving a CAR at that age.

    What a strange and fascinating upbringing them must have had. I’d love to know what kind of man their father was to have raised such self-confident children and know so many important people.

    I think we need to know more about the father. Fascinating slice of history.

  28. I have a very elderly man in my church who ran away from home (or just left) at about age 15 and tramped across country and helped build the Hoover Dam. Really fun to listen to his stories.

    He said that he was helped all along the way and in the ‘village’ of men building that dam, he was never approached in any of the creepy ways we worry about today with our children.

    Fistfights, yep. Drinking, yep. But no perversion of any kind. it was just a different world. Children were safe.

  29. What a wonderful story. It’s hard to believe that two little boys could achieve such things. It’s amazing. I can’t even imagine letting my kids do that.

  30. Hi Vickie!

    Where do you live in Oklahoma? I’m in OK City, but was raised in Seminole. Good to meet a fellow Okie! Yes, I cringed too, reading and learning about them. It’s really unbelievable, isn’t it? So fascinating!


  31. Hi Colleen,

    Most people don’t know about them. It was a long time ago and everything was more isolated when all that was going on and they were having their adventures. I don’t know why they don’t put some interesting facts like these in history books!

  32. Mary,

    I am like you! I’ve wondered and wondered what kind of man their father was. On one hand, it almost seems like he was uncaring or something, but on the other hand, I know that times were different and he may have just looked at it like he had faith in them that they would be all right. Still, I think of accidents, snakes, etc. LOL

    Don’t you love the stories the elderly people tell? I could listen for hours. That man in your church sounds like he would have all kinds of wonderful tales. My sister knew a man in a small town here in OK that told about when he was a child, how Machine Gun Kelly came to his house one ngiht with his gang, and his mother got up out of bed and fixed them a meal, etc. I love hearing those stories!

    Thanks for commenting, Mary!

  33. Hi Linda,

    I’m glad you enjoyed this post! No, I can’t imagine letting my kids do that, either, although my daughter was very mature for her age and all–still…LOL But those were different times, different ways, and those boys probably had been taught how to survive from the cradle, don’t you imagine? Nothing like we raise our kids today, for sure!

    Thanks for leaving a comment, Linda!

  34. Wow, that was so fascinating! I think it would make a heck of a movie! Makes you wonder about the father, but it was a different time on so many levels. Those kids had guts to spare, great post, and all the best for your book!

  35. Hi Cheryl! Wonderful to see you here. What a great story you shared! I am wondering if it was more or less dangerous then or now. Different dangers but back then required more survival skills. Still took a lot of bravery and confidence from their father!

    You don’t need to enter me for your two westerns which I have already enjoyed, but please include me for the drawing on A Night of Miracles! 🙂

  36. I agree with Tabitha, today that father would be up
    on charges for allowing his sons to make these
    trips across the country, much less across the
    county! BTW, if my husband is late coming home
    from work in these days and times, I worry!

    Pat Cochran

  37. My daughter, as she got to know her now-husband’s family realized that his very elderly grandmother had come over on a ship from Germany when she was about ten.

    The whole family had heard her tell this story so often they didn’t pay attention. But my daughter would get her talking about coming to America. It was fascinating. My daughter would come home and say, “Did you know…” and proceed to tell the most stunning stories of risk and death and victory over adversity. Her interest in Grandma’s stories actually got the rest of the family to listen again with a new ear and they found these old tales interesting, too.
    They dug out pictures and someone went to Ellis Island and found where she’d come into the country.

    It’s great to talk to old people about the old days.

  38. Their mother must have been turning in her grave! I guess times were different but still…so many natural events could have happened. I remember my mom saying how her brother and friends traveled from PA to CA one summer in a model T – they took spare tires and hardly no money. The adventures they had but they made it back safely.

  39. Hi Cheryl, what a great story. Thank you for sharing. I gues the Dad had a strong heart. To think now we hold the kids’ hands every time we step in the street or a mall.

    We had a somewhat similar story in Florida about a little girl aged seven who was piloting her father’s plane.Yes seven. The Dad and grandfather were with her but the plane crashed in Fort Lauderdale where I live. It caused enough shock to stimulate the creation of a new law forbiding piloting for kids under 18 and without a piloting license.

  40. What an amazing story about two young boys. Since I was born and have always lived in Oklahoma, I am extremely proud of them. Thank you for this story.

  41. Hi Cheryl:
    Loved the story of the “boys.”

    Don’t need to be on the prize entry list since I already have both your books and enjoyed them immensely.

    Thanks for the story.

  42. CHERYL–hi! I know how much you looked forward to being on Petticoats and Pistols, and you’ve done an outstanding job. I’d be thrilled, too, if I were on here–what a wonderful blog! I have read of these young boys, but did not know as much as you included. Think about your son at age ten taking off on a trip like this. You’d have a conniption fit!! (That’s worse than a hissy fit.) Good job, my dear–Celia

  43. Hi Cheryl!!

    What a fun post! I definitely learned something today. I had not heard of the brothers. I’d smack my hubby with something heavy if he suggested I let my babies roam the Wild West!

    Too funny about the outlaws escorting the boys. I guess there is some honor among thieves. 🙂 Thanks for brightening my day! ((Hugs!))


  44. Hi Cheryl, and welcome to P & P. What a fascinating story. I’d never heard of the brothers before. While I can’t imagine myself letting two boys go across country like this, I think that in those days, people had more faith in their ability to survive.

    Really fascinating story.

  45. Hi Karyn,

    I’ve thought so many times of the boys and how they must have had times when they lost heart and were afraid. Like you say, they had guts to spare. Thank you for commenting!


  46. Hi Martha,

    Yeah, it would take a lot of bravery from their father. He had to know the dangers out there, but he had told them they could do it, so he felt he had to let them go. (BOY, I’ve been there before!) LOL I’m so glad you enjoyed the post–and you’re absolutely right–there were different kinds of dangers then than there are now.

    Thanks so much for the kind words about my books, Martha, and you will be entered in the contest for a copy of A NIGHT FOR MIRACLES.


  47. Hi Pat,

    I’m with you! If my husband is late coming home I worry too. We ended up buying iPhones for Christmas because the ones we had from T-Mobile wouldn’t work in his office building. You don’t want to be in a government building anymore without cellphone coverage.


  48. Hi Mary,

    Aren’t those stories wonderful? My husband’s ex-wife’s grandmother came over from Hungary when she was about 13 or 14–couldn’t speak a word of English. She ended up settling in the Chicago area and owned a chain of tailoring shops before she passed. Talk about a self-made WOMAN! I love to hear stories like these!


  49. Hi Jeanne,

    YES! Back in those times, it seems there wasn’t so much “meanness” (as my mom used to call it) in the world. People didn’t have to worry so much about other people, but there were so many things that could go wrong. Still, a lot of people traveled and did it on a shoestring budget, and maybe that’s why Jack Abernathy didn’t worry about his boys. I sure wouldn’t have been so trusting! LOL

  50. Oh, Mona! I remember that little girl that was flying the plane and it crashed–something to do with the weather wasn’t it? That was just awful. But there again, it was a situation that no one had control over, like anything that might have happened along the way to Bud and Temple. God was looking out for them, for sure!

    Thanks so much for coming over and commenting!

  51. GOLDIE!!! Another fellow Okie!!! Where do you hail from? I’m glad you enjoyed the post. Everything I write takes place in Oklahoma or Texas. Even my contemporary stories. Thanks so much for leaving a comment!


  52. LOL CELIA!!! You are so right. A conniption fit IS worse than a hissy fit, and that’s the same no matter which side of the Red River you call home. Yes, I would have had a conniption fit if my son had done that. Oh, I would have had to have trailed behind about a mile all the way. LOL Thank you so much for coming over and leaving a comment. I appreciate you!

  53. Hi Sarah,

    I have to tell you, that is one of my favorite parts of the story, where the outlaws escorted them and wrote the message for their dad. LOL I tell you, those boys lived a hundred lifetimes by the time they were teenagers, didn’t they? Thanks for coming by–I’m glad I brought you a smile!
    Hugs back atcha!

  54. Hi Karen, and thank you all so much for this fabulous welcome to P&P! I have enjoyed myself so much today! What a great group! Yes, I’m like you, and I do believe that people had more faith in their ability to survive but then, the population was a lot more sparse and people were just “different” then. But I will say, that’s one thing I love about living in the USA. There are still a lot of those values to be found here. Lots of good people.

    Thanks again for the warm welcome!

  55. Wow, what a story. Very interesting. I couldn’t imagine letting my nine and five year old go across country. I know people were different back then, but they were little boys.

    I love pictures you posted, too. Very cool.

  56. Cheryl,
    Unbelievable! What an interesting post. I think of our son, who is now 27, and thank heaven he didn’t live in a time or place where he could have done such a thing. If you knew my son, you’d realize he’d have been the first one to saddle the horse and head out. As it is, He has caused enough gray hairs.

    It was a very different time and world. Even then, they must have been two exceptional boys. Most people today can’t find their way across town without their GPS navigation gadgets. I find it interesting that they knew so many well placed and famous people.

    Question, they had to promise not to travel more than 50 miles a day. How could they tell how far they had gone? Must have looked at a map with their dad and plotted out distances.

  57. hi Cheryl! I just got back from a day at JURY DUTY (I didn’t get picked for a trial, yay) so am finally online again to say howdy. Looks like you’re having a good day with the fillies and our friends! These boys were sure something, huh? Love ya! oxoxoxoxox

  58. Hi Cheryl, fantastic post. I always have a yen for stories like this, the adventurer living inside me.
    I’d love it if children were raised more like that, to be truly independent and self-sufficient.

  59. Hi Cheryl, great post! Thanks for sharing this wonderful story with us. You know I can see two boys doing this myself. Its just in their blood! Your books sound fabulous, can’t wait to read one!

  60. Hi, Cheryl,

    What a great post! I thoroughly enjoyed it, and your books sound great!

    Thanks for the contest. 🙂

  61. Hi Karen!

    I KNOW!!! I can’t imagine it, either. My kids were 3 years apart and even though Jessica was always so “worldly” for her age, and very mature from an early time, I never would have allowed that!LOL Weren’t those pictures cool?

    Thanks for commenting!!!


  62. Hi Patricia!

    You know, I think I did read something about them planning out their course with their dad. So many interesting facts about this family, I could literally write a book. LOL Anyhow, I had to laugh when you talked about your son. My son is 20 now, and when he was a youngster MANY is the time I’ve said, “I TRULY understand the Dennis the Menace cartoons–I’ve got his twin living here!” LOL I know just what you’re talking about!

    Thank you so much for commenting on the post. I’m so glad you enjoyed it!


  63. Hi Karenk,

    I’m glad you enjoyed it. Maybe you’ll win one of the books, and if not–now you know where to find them, right? LOL I hope you do get to read them and please let me hear from you when you’re done!


  64. Tanya!!! ICK !!!! JURY DUTY!!!! I can’t ever do it due to health issues, but can’t say as I’m sorry. My husband has gotten called several times. Seems like once they get your name in their files, it just keeps reappearing again and again. I’m glad you popped back in…we have had a wonderful, fun time today!


  65. Hi Savanna,

    I am with you! I would love it, too, to be able to bring our kids up feeling so self-confident. Those boys must have felt like they could do anything they put their minds to, and they just about COULD! I’m glad you enjoyed the post so much. I just think this is a terrific story, and all the better that it is a TRUE one!


  66. Hi Quilt Lady,

    I have to say I envy you already. Quilting is one hobby I always wanted to learn to do and never did. Such a talent and an art! Thanks so much for your comments about my books! I’m like you, I can imagine it, too–the way boys are, it IS just in their blood to want to get out there and see the world. You know, I always think of the boys in Old Yeller, too, when I think of youngsters during that time period. I know it was fiction, but there may have been some truth to it when it was being written–maybe from family tales.


  67. Hi Karen W.,

    I love contests–probably because I never win anything! LOL My daughter is the “lucky one” in our family. I wish I could give a book to everyone who participated today! Thanks so much for reading and commenting today.


  68. I’m bummed that I missed your drawing, but your post was great! Loved the four rules the boys had to abide by. I was too big of a wuss to let my kids go far by themselves. They’re adults now and it still worries me when they travel. I sort of hold my breath till I know everyone’s home safe and sound.

  69. Hi Penny!!!

    LOL I know–I never win ANYTHING. I love giving stuff away though. I love those rules, too. I’m the same way with my kids. I remember when my daughter announced she was going to start driving on the interstate. WHOO LORD. I lived in fear. LOL But when they’re independent what can you do? I still call them at night sometimes if I haven’t seen them recently or talked to them. How would we have ever gotten by without phones!

    Penny, thanks for coming by and commenting. I’ll be giving away more prizes in the future at all kinds of places, and I’ll let you know when and where, K?


  70. This book really caught my attention..can you imagine 2 ten year olds traveling anywhere in this time frame and do what these two did? Awesome book from what you wrote. I hope to be entered in the drawing for it. susan L

  71. Hi Susan,

    OH, HOW I WISH I HAD WRITTEN THAT STORY!!! Alas, it’s a TRUE story that actually happened, but there are books about it for both kids and for adults. One is called “Bud and Me”, just off the top of my head. I don’t know if I could have ever thought of anything that spectacular in my fiction writing. My books, Fire Eyes and Time Plains Drifter, both take place here in Oklahoma–actually, in what became Oklahoma later–it was Indian Territory during the time period I wrote about. If you are interested, you can click on the buy links, or contact me for further ordering info. Thanks for coming by, Susan!


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