Cowboy Jam Session: Youthful adventurers
While visiting friends in Oklahoma, we toured the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan. Part history museum and part art gallery, it commemorates the trail an estimated 9.8 million Longhorn cattle were herded over between Texas and the railhead at Abilene, Kan. A life-size 34-foot-long monument and a trail map embedded in the plaza set the stage for the indoor exhibits. (See Exhibits: http://www.onthechisholmtrail.com/)
The movie shown in the Chisholm Trail Experience Theater is exceptional, both in production and in the creative staging. Designers synchronized fans with the rustling of leaves on the trees, misters to propel rain during a thunderstorm, the aroma of chuck wagon food to waft through the room, and seats to rumble as a stampede ensues. (For more on the Center: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DBYn76ZXrk4)
My host and hostess were savvy to a book in the gift shop. They presented me with a copy of Bud & Me: The True Adventures of the Abernathy Boys by Alta Abernathy (Dove Creek Press, 1998, 162 pages, b/w photographs, 2 maps, hardback ISBN-13: 978-0966216608). Jam-packed with first-person accounts, newspaper clippings, photos and maps, the book was my introduction to the wild undertakings of Louis “Bud” and Temple Abernathy. The boys crisscrossed the nation early in the 20th century in a series of long-distant adventures that are incomprehensible in today’s world. What a treasure Temple’s wife, Alta, left for us to enjoy!
Temple was only five years old and his brother was nine, when in 1909 they set off on their first trip, a jaunt from Guthrie, Okla., to Santa Fe, N.M., and back. Covering approximately 50 miles per day horseback, the boys were inspired by the stories of their father, “Catch-‘em Alive Jack” Abernathy. The elder Abernathy served as U.S. Marshal for the Western District of Oklahoma Territory, appointed to the position by President Theodore Roosevelt.
Emboldened by that ride, the boys made subsequent trips horseback: from Oklahoma to New York City, and from New York City to San Francisco. They also drove a car from New York City to Oklahoma, and they rode a specially-built 2-seat motorcycle from Oklahoma to New York City. (See maps in the photo gallery at http://www.budandme.com.)
Bud & Me is available in hardcover, as a digital download, and as an audio book. Order from Dove Creek Press, PO Box 3209, Waxahachie, TX 75168; (972) 259-1608; http://www.budandme.com/.
Private Elisha Stockwell, Jr., Sees the Civil War, edited by Byron R. Abernethy (University of Oklahoma Press, 1985, 224 pages, photographs, softcover ISBN-13: 978-0806119212) relates the adventures of a 15-year-old Wisconsin farm boy who enlisted against his father’s wishes and fought in the American Civil War. Before the war ended, Stockwell wished he had listened to his father.
As with the previous title, I learned about this book from a friend. It was written by his grandfather, who in later years lived in Beach, N.D. Blinded by cataracts, Stockwell wrote his memoirs with the aid of a special ruler attached to his desk that provided an evenly spaced edge to write against. The manuscript filled several notebooks and remained largely unknown–even within the family–until 1951, when it was entrusted to Byron Abernethy–a relative–for transcription.
Seven years later, the project intended for distribution among family members was published by University of Oklahoma Press. Stockwell’s common-man viewpoint of battles, sieges and campaigns–corroborated by footnotes–is presented without hyperbole, yet is captivating. Among the daily struggles, Stockwell details how he and fellow soldiers foraged for food to supplement meager or inedible rations. It concludes with six letters written by the young soldier to his parents.
A copy of the book is included in the permanent White House Library. Elisha’s Model 1863 Springfield musket is housed at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.
Private Elisha Stockwell, Jr., Sees the Civil War is out of print but is readily available from online booksellers, through interlibrary loan, and as a digital download. Happily, I found my copy at a secondhand bookstore.