The Difference 100 Years Makes!

Stories from Curtis

A few months ago, I wrote about a bucket list item of mine which was to ride a horse across the country from ocean to ocean. Since then, I have been given a book about a man and a woman that drove a horse and team across the nation, and more recently, a book about two young boys that made that ride in the early 1900’s. I was fascinated by this account as the boys were only eleven and seven years old.

Bud and Me, A True Story

The book "Bud and Me" is a true story about two boys. Lewis (Bud) and Temple Abernathy grew up in Oklahoma under the care of their father Jack, who was known as “Catch-‘em-alive Jack” for his unique and puzzling ability to catch wolves alive! In fact, he was so famous that President Teddy Roosevelt heard of his unique skill and had a hunt set up so he could watch it in action. This happened in April of 1905, when Teddy was President. Can you imagine a President today being allowed to go camp in the back woods and run on horseback across the prairie chasing wolves at top speed? Jack and Teddy became friends and Jack later became a US Marshal, who by all accounts, was good at his job.

At Ten and Six they Rode to New York

When Bud and Temple were ten and six years old, respectively, they talked their Dad into letting them ride their horses out to New York to welcome home Teddy (who was out of office by now) from an overseas trip. This was a journey of over 2,000 miles! Since they had just ridden out to Santa Fe and back (a long journey in itself), they figured they were ready. They had many adventures on their journey. In almost every town they came to, the Mayor would greet them and show them around. In one town, they were shown the fire station. Temple loved fire engines and so, on a whim, he asked if they could sleep there overnight. The fire chief thought for a moment and said, “Sure! Why not?” Sure enough, there was a fire and they were allowed to slide down the pole and ride along, standing on the side of the engine that was pulled by a team of horses. When they hit Washington DC, President Taft had them in for dinner.

The Boys Got to Ride with Teddy in a Parade

After they met Teddy and rode in a parade with him (you can see a short clip on YouTube of them on their horses in the parade), they shipped their horses home on the train and bought a Rush car to drive home. They followed their Dad on this round who had caught car fever (thanks to the boys) as well and bought his own car. Can you imagine? A ten and six-year-old driving over 2,000 miles in 1910 across country? That was probably a bigger deal than the horse ride. It wasn’t until 1919 that most states had a minimum driving age.

A Challenge to Beat

As if this wasn’t enough, Jack got to talking one evening to a friend and bragging up his boys to the point that his friends issued him a challenge. Have Bud and Temple start with their horse’s knee deep in the Atlantic and ride to knee deep in the Pacific. Do it in sixty days or less and the friends would award the boys ten thousand dollars in prize money (roughly equal to $250,000 in today’s money). The one catch was that the friends insisted that the boys wouldn’t eat or sleep inside the whole trip. Jack did hold fast that there would be no traveling on Sundays and that they would be allowed to wait out bad weather. What a ride and adventure! Did they make it and win the money? I wouldn’t want to ruin the book for you! It is a delightful read and also a fairly short one.

Have we changed too much since then?

The thing that blows my mind is how much we have changed as a nation since then. I think their Dad would be arrested today and his boys certainly wouldn’t be sleeping in a fire station. In fact, at the time I was reading this book I was looking into what a minor could do work-wise for our company. Do you know that if you are under eighteen, you can’t wash a piece of heavy equipment? You can’t grease it either, and of course you can’t operate it. In fact, one person with the licensing department told me that a minor can’t even be in a shop with heavy equipment in “close proximity”. Only something like office work would be acceptable, I was told. Good news! Minors can run a copy machine. I was curious though, how the minor would make it through the parking lot walking by all those parked cars that could possibly hurt them. (For some reason, the licensing person didn’t think I was funny!) It is interesting to think how things have changed in the last 109 years. It isn’t all bad, of course. Child labor was scary and misused in those days, but maybe (just maybe) we have gone a bit too far the other way!

All in all, I highly recommend the book Bud and Me. I want to thank Mrs. Shay for passing it on and insisting that I read it. To the rest of you, I hope you have an adventurous and blessed New Year!

Author Info

Curtis Wray
CEO, C&E Trenching LLC

Digging dirt since 1994.

And we don't plan to stop anytime soon.

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