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The boy horsemen who crossed America

The Abernathy boys with their father Jack circa 1910. Library of Congress

The boy horsemen who crossed America

In 1909, brothers Temple and Louis Abernathy set off on a 1,300-mile horseback trip from Oklahoma to New Mexico. It sounds like the start of any Wild West story, says The Retrospectors podcast – except these adventurers were just five and nine years old. Their father was Jack “Catch-’Em-Alive” Abernathy, a famous outdoorsman who’d taught Teddy Roosevelt how to hunt wild animals, and he figured the trip would help the boys “grow up”. It was no picnic. Temple, the five-year-old, was so short he had to use a tree stump to mount his Shetland pony, and sprained both ankles trying to do so. Camping in the wilderness, Louis, the nine-year-old, would sit up all night, occasionally firing his shotgun into the air to stave off wolves.

The weeks-long journey gained the hardy duo a sizable following, and the next year they set off on another mammoth trip, this time from Oklahoma to New York. The “boy horsemen”, as they became known, were trailed by the national press and welcomed into the homes of fans along the way. On reaching the Big Apple, they met up with Roosevelt. He paraded them through the streets before presenting Temple with a stuffed teddy bear.