Wild West


A fleeting moment is sometimes all it takes to dramatically change a man’s fortunes. Oklahoma Territory cowboy John Reeves “Jack” Abernathy discovered that firsthand in the spring of 1905 after an acquaintance mentioned his name at a White House dinner. Texas lumber magnate Cecil A. Lyon—a prominent Republican at the state level—told President Theodore Roosevelt about an extraordinary feat he’d seen Abernathy perform at an event he’d hosted on Christmas Day last. Lyon enthusiastically described how Abernathy caught wolves by hand.

Roosevelt at first dismissed Lyon’s claim as a joke. The president was assuredly no stranger to tall tales during his storied life as a Dakota Territory cowboy, Rough Rider and politician, not to mention his numerous hunting forays. Why would he believe such a wild yarn? Yet Lyon remained adamant in his account of Abernathy, and Roosevelt realized his friend wasn’t kidding.

Convinced by Lyon’s sincerity, the president expressed a desire to see Abernathy in action. The president’s curiosity prompted him to write Jack a letter, asking if he would be amenable to staging a private wolf hunt.

Abernathy promptly agreed—a decision that would change his life.

Abernathy had seemingly lived an obscure, albeit romantic, existence on the Western frontier. By his own account he was born in Bosque County, Texas, on Jan. 28, 1876, and began cowboying for his father at the tender age of 7. Two years later he hired on as a range rider with the A-K-X ranch near Sweetwater, patrolling

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