The "Famous" Abernathy Boys

Updated: Sep 18, 2018

Fearless is our blog dedicated to a “fearless” person or group of persons.

From urban dictionary - a perfect definition of fearless: “Fearless is not the absence of fear. It’s not being completely unafraid. Fearless is having fears. Fearless is having doubts. Lots of them. Fearless is living in spite of those things that scare you to death. 

Hopefully, when you read this blog you will learn something new or gain a new perspective on being fearless.  Happy reading!

Bud and Temp

I first read about Louis and Temple Abernathy in a local publication and was intrigued by their story. With much curiosity I scoured the internet to learn everything that I could about these two boys and decided then and there that they would be my first feature in the Fearless section of our blog.

These young boys exemplified both fearlessness and that adventurous spirit that is woven into American mythology. Here is their story.

Louis  (Bud) Abernathy was born in 1889. His younger brother Temple (Temp) was born in 1904.  Shortly after Temple's birth, their mother died leaving their father, U.S. Marshal John Abernathy, to raise the boys alone. John "Jack" Abernathy was known as "Catch-em-Alive Jack" for his unique ability to catch live wolves by picking them up by the jaw. In fact he was sort of famous for it. This bold spirit was passed onto his two sons who also longed for adventure. John's parenting style was to raise his kids like grown men and he pledged to honor any reasonable request that the boys made which is what led the boys on their first journey to Santa Fe.

In 1909 Bud and Temp set out on their adventure, bound and determined to reach New Mexico and the governor, a family friend, driven by their father’s insistence that they "toughen up." They were 5 and 9 at the time and completed the 1300 mile journey alone on horseback, even spending a night with some outlaws before finishing the journey to Santa Fe.  

This set in motion a slew of adventures including their most famous, a trip from Oklahoma to New York to meet President Roosevelt in 1910. By that time the boys had gained were well-known and were befriended by many people along the way. When they finally reached their destination, they were celebrated and rode behind Roosevelt in a huge ticker-tape parade. They chose to send their horses home by train and purchased a small Brush motor car to drive home at the tender young ages of 6 and 10 but they weren’t finished yet. In 1911, they were given a challenge of riding horseback from New York to San Francisco in 60 days with the additional condition of not sleeping or eating indoors at any juncture of the journey. The prize:  a cool $10,000 (about $250,000 in 2018).

Here is an excerpt from that adventure as told by 405 Magazine and M.J. Alexander: 

"They traveled through the Rockies, over the Continental Divide and into the Great Salt Lake Desert, where they woke one morning to find their horses had disappeared. The boys spent three days searching the shadeless desert. 'I think we both suddenly realized that we could die there in the heat' Temple would say later. 'We had little food and almost no water left. Without the horses, survival would be almost impossible.' But at last they found one of the horses, and caught up with the other in Kelton, Utah, where he had wandered in search of water. Bolstered with food, drink and fresh supplies, they followed the railroad tracks out of town. Soon, a westbound train screeched to a stop. The men aboard offered a ride to the boys and their horses, which would spare them three more days of desert riding. Bud did not hesitate: 'No sir, we can’t do that. It would be breaking our contract.' 'We’ll never tell,' said one of the crew. Another agreed: 'That’s right. No one will ever know.' 'We’d know,' Bud said."

Amazingly, the boys made it to San Francisco just 2 days shy of their goal and while they did not get the $10,000 prize money, they did set a record and gained the respect of many. They continued to have adventures together for several years criss-crossing the United States and gaining new friends and a well-deserved reputation for fearlessness.

If you would like more information on the Abernathy boys here are some additional online resources:


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