Historical Perspectives of Tillman County and Southwest Oklahoma
Thursday, March 17, 2011
Abernathy philosophy for child rearing
Sent to Frederick Leader and Frederick Press
April 6, 2010
Louis "Bud" Abernathy and Temp Abernathy, 1910
Abernathy explained ideas for raising boys
Jack Abernathy undoubtedly loved his children, but by modern standards of parenting it is impossible to imagine how he let his two boys Louis (Bud) and Temple set out on long trips alone.
Their first trip was in 1909 when the two boys went to New Mexico Territory at ages five and nine. The next year, in 1910, the two boys became celebrities of the day when they made their famous trip alone from Frederick to New York City.
Visitors to the Abernathy Boys exhibit at the Pioneer Townsite Museum in Frederick often express disbelief that any father would have allowed his children to make such trips. I always respond by reminding them of two points:
ONE: The children’s mother had died in 1907. Had she lived, I have no doubt that the boys would not have made those trips; and
TWO: Jack Abernathy was an adventurer who himself had lived through an independent, rough-and-tumble upbringing. Having complete trust in the abilities of his young children was natural to him.
When Louis and Temple left Frederick alone on horseback on April 10, 1910, headed toward New York City, they knew that their father was planning to travel there by train and would be waiting for them when they arrived.
Jack Abernathy did arrive in New York City a few days before the boys, and an article in the Oklahoman on June 12, 1910, (marked SPECIAL, New York City, June 11) explained his philosophy of raising children.
Headline was, “ABERNATHY PROUD OF ‘LITTLE CUSSES” – Wolf-catching Marshal Tells New York About his Sons.”
The article identified Abernathy as U.S. marshal for the district of Oklahoma, the man who catches wolves with his bare hands, and who thus endeared himself to Roosevelt.
At the time of the article, Louis and Temple had not yet arrived in New York, but the press quizzed their father about the boys.
Abernathy carried with him a packet of letters that he had received from the boys, sent to him during their trip. He refused to read the letters to New York City reporters, citing the fact that he could not violate the boys’ confidence by sharing the letters with others.
He did, however, tell reporters about one letter that he had received from Louis after the boys’ visit with President Taft and the cabinet in Washington, D.C. “They are bully,” the boys said of the officials in the letter to their dad. “Taft is all right. He treated us square.”
Abernathy went on to explain his child rearing methods to the press.
Speaking of Louis and Temple, the proud father said, “Those boys are the best ever. They are game from the ground up.”
He explained the boys’ trip the year before to New Mexico Territory when they traveled more than 1,000 miles in six weeks.
“We never bother about them,” he said. “Why should we? We have brought them up to take care of themselves.”
He said that he had never paddled them.
“I’m always around when they want to know what I think is the right thing to do, and they know pretty well what I think of things and the way they ought to be done.”
He continued, “Since they’ve been big enough to straddle a pony they’ve been up at 4 o’clock in the morning, rubbing down their own horses. They’ve gone to school when there was a school within reach. They’ve carried guns and gone hunting, alone and together, as soon as they were big enough to tote a gun. They have been too busy and too healthy to get any bad ideas into their heads.”
Abernathy continued to say that the boys were independent, and whenever he failed to give them spending money, they always set to work to earn some on their own. “They have got it into their heads that they must make something of themselves, and can.”
He concluded by saying that the boys realized that their adventurous trip from Oklahoma to New York was an educational experience, and that the things they had learned in school helped them to understand the many things that they were seeing.
The boys liked traveling and he said that they wanted to do a lot more of it in the future.
Joe Wynn is a member of the Tillman County Historical Society Board of Directors. He can be contacted by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.