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Posts Tagged ‘Teddy Roosevelt’

Growing up, my siblings and I were what might be considered free-range. We had a lot of freedom to do what we wanted on our own. On any given summer day, I was off on my stingray bike for a full day of totally unsupervised adventure. Most of it was pretty benign but some of it involved some risky behavior. Fortunately, I emerged relatively unscathed and that freedom built nice layer of amount of self-reliance, something I value highly.

But if we thought we were free-range, we were real pikers when you think about the Abernathy Boys from around the turn of the 20th century. They were two brothers born four years apart who lived in Frederick in southwest Oklahoma, a still relatively wild space at that time. Their range was much larger and freer than anything I imagined as a kid.

Their father was a well known cowboy who had achieves notoriety as catch-em’alive” Jack Abernathy for his ability to capture live wolves with only his hands. This feat drew the attention of Teddy Roosevelt, who came to Frederick in 1905 to see Abernathy perform the his unique skill. When Oklahoma achieved statehood in 1907 Roosevelt appointed Abernathy to be a U.S. Marshall.

Jack’s sons, Louis “Bud” and Temple, had much of his panache. Their first adventure came in 1909 when Bud was 9 and Temple a mere 5 years old. The two mounted their horses and rode from Frederick to Santa Fe, New Mexico then back home again. Alone. It was a journey that covered more than 1400 miles and had them fording wild rivers and fending off wolves.

The following year had them setting heir sights a little higher. Emboldened by reaching the much more mature ages of 10 and 6, they set off for New York City.

Alone.

Their journey captured the imagination of the country and was soon a national news story. Along the way, they met the Wright Brothers with Orville offering to give them a ride in his plane. Arriving in Washington, DC, President Taft welcomed them at the White House. From their they headed north to NYC where they met up with Teddy Roosevelt again. He was just returned from an overseas expedition and was given a ticker tape parade, which the boys took part in the parade, riding on their horses just behind Teddy’s car in the procession.

When it was time to head home, the boys opted to ship their horses via the railroad and “bought” a Brush automobile to drive home. It’s believed that the Brush company gave the boys the car as part of a PR campaign based on the great attention they were receiving at the time. So they set off across country in their new Brush Automobile. Ages 10 and 6. The idea of the 6 year old cranking that buggy alive seems like a steep task, but, hey, they were the Abernathy Boys.

Two years later, in 1911, the Abernathy Boys were offered a challenge: If they could ride their horses from NYC to San Francisco in 60 days or less, they would receive $10,000. So at ages 11 and 7, they were off. It was a rough crossing but they made it. In 62 days. They didn’t get the cash but did set an equestrian record that still reportedly stands.

Their final adventure, at least the last recorded, took place in 1913 when they were ages 13 and 9. They rode an Indian motorcycle (in the photo at the top of the page) from OK to NYC and back again. I can only think that it would be a long, tough ride for Temple on that little seat in the back. But, hey, when you’re 9 years old and accomplished all he had, it was probably a joyride.

The Abernathy Boys went on to have successful lives, no doubt bolstered by their self-reliance and initiative. Bud went on to become a lawyer and  Temple was an oil and gas man. Bud died in 1979 and Temple in 1986.

Though their journey was relived in a few books and a film of the time and it is still celebrated in their hometown, it’s one of those stories that have faded over time. But it’s a great tale, one that probably could have only occurred at that place and at that time in history. Very evocative of the spirit of that age.

I know we live in a different age, but the next time the kids go out to check the mail box alone, don’t feel the need to watch them from the window. Take it from the Abernathy Boys, most likely they will be okay.

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You know, sometimes you try to practice happiness and it just doesn’t want to work out.

It’s been a rollercoaster of emotions lately, watching the horrors of Haiti on a daily basis.  Too much suffering.  But the outpouring of generosity and aid to this badly shaken country began to raise my spirits and I started to think that maybe the better angels of our national persona will prevail.

But there were two stories in the news yesterday that put a bleak pall over my efforts for sunny optimism.

The first was the bonuses announced for some of the Wall Street firms, including Goldman Sachs‘ announcement that their bonuses would total 16.2 billion dollars.

$ 16, 200, 000, 000.00

That is enough money to rebuild Haiti, estimated at 10 billion dollars, and still leave them with an incredible 6.2 billion.  It’s enough to pay off the deficits of all the states of the union.

It’s serious coin, folks.  And this is only one company.

I think everyone deserves the opportunity to make as much money as they wish but there seems to be something amiss here, something that gnaws at me.  There’s an obscenity to this bonus amount that I can’t fully explain.  I can’t see the productive part they’re playing  throughout our society that says they deserve such a huge amount.  Are they truly that productive?  How many jobs did they create?   I’m certainly no economist but I really need to have it explained to me how in this economy a company can pay bonuses that average nearly $500, 000 per employee.  For every employee, although I’m sure the office staff is seeing much, much less.

I could go on and on but I want to save part of my venting today for yesterday’s news that the Supreme Court had rolled back long-standing (back to the time of Teddy Roosevelt) restrictions on campaign financing, allowing corporations to unlimitedly support the candidate of their choice.

There is your classic Pandora’s Box.

This is creates the potential for a virtual Wild West atmosphere for special interest campaign spending.  You thought that the political races had been toxic in the past?  Think again because you ain’t seen nothing yet.

And it’s not going to affect us in just the obvious ways where state and national candidates who are the beck and call of  certain industries and corporations will be even more difficult to bring down.  It’s at the base of our legal system where local and regional judicial races will take place where this spending will have it’s greatest effect as judges who are beholden to the special interests who paid to get them elected will take over the lower levels of our legal system, making it harder and harder to challenge these special interests in court.  If at all.

And there would be no more recusals for conflict of interest because it would be legal for these special interests to back the judicial  candidate openly.  The rich will get richer, the poor will get poorer and more numerous.  See Goldman-Sachs above.  This will only help them as well to become more and more insulated from any legal recourse.

But like any Pandora’s Box, there are results that the person who opened the box never imagined.  Those who opened it yesterday obviously were more attuned to the corporate voice than that of the common man and perhaps thought that this would only serve to strengthen the grip of Big Business on this country.  It was more about allowing the powers that be to continue to gain even more strength than it was ever about First Amendment rights.  If anything, this will only serve to obscure true First Amendment concerns in the future.

But we’ll have to wait a bit and see.   There’s a part of me that thinks this whole thing could turn around and bite them right on their black-robed asses and  that they could unleash a sea change they never envisioned.

Just a feeling.  Can’t quite see it yet but there’s a feeling.

Anyway, I’ve got to stop this before I become any more agitated.  Maybe I’ll be able to paint myself into a trance with some semblance of tranquility today.

Hope so.

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