Catch ‘Em Alive Jack

One of my fellow librarians at The Texas Collection tells me that if I get through a day without learning something new, I’m not doing my job. Well, yesterday I learned about a larger-than-life Texas cowboy: John “Catch-Em Alive Jack” Abernathy.

I was cataloging some items from the Adams-Blakley Collection–a fabulous group of books assembled by Ramon F. Adams, the Western bibliographer, lexicographer, and author, for William A. Blakley, a U.S. Senator from Texas.   In that collection I came upon A Son of the Frontier by John Abernathy, and I saw a picture of Abernathy, a wolf, and Theodore Roosevelt. I had to find out more, and here’s the story.

Jack Abernathy was born in 1876, in Bosque County, Texas not too far from Waco. He worked as a cowboy, a farmer, and a piano and organ salesman, but became famous for catching over a thousand wolves alive with his bare hands.  It seems that Abernathy once accidentally discovered that by thrusting his hand into an attacking wolf’s mouth and holding the lower jaw to keep it from closing, he could capture the animal without losing the hand. Teddy Roosevelt heard about his unique skill, and arranged to join Abernathy in Oklahoma for six days of wolf-coursing. They say that the president wanted to try Abernathy’s technique himself, but the Secret Service talked him out of it.  A wise decision, for in his book Abernathy notes,

“Men whom I have tried to teach the art of wolf catching have failed to accomplish the feat. I have tried to teach a large number, but when the savage animal would clamp down on the hand, the student would become frightened and quit. Consequently, the wolf would ruin the hand.” (p.20)

Roosevelt was quite taken with “Catch “˜Em Alive Jack” and appointed him the youngest U.S. Marshal in history. As U.S. Marshal for Oklahoma, Abernathy “captured hundreds of outlaws single-handed and alone, and placed seven hundred and eighty-two men in the penitentiary.” (p.1)

One final note: Abernathy’s sons Louie (Bud) and Temple became famous in their own right. In 1910, at the age of 10 and 6, they rode alone on horseback from their home in Frederick, Oklahoma to New York City to greet President Roosevelt upon his return from a trip to Europe and Africa. Several years later they set out for further adventures on an Indian motorcycle. Temple tells about their journeys in Bud and Me: the True Adventures of the Abernathy Boys.

Jack Abernathy’s story is only one of the many great titles that make up the Adams-Blakley Collection.  There are outlaws and lawmen, pioneers and entrepreneurs. Someday, we’ll have to sit a spell and I’ll tell you more.

Abernathy kids  (LOC)

Anson Jones’ Cookie Jar

One of the many delights at The Texas Collection is our growing collection of Texas and Southwestern cookbooks–some dating back to the early 1900s. You can find so much more than recipes in these books! They’re filled with history and heritage, clues to cultural values, and strategies for coping with sometimes scarce resources. Many of these cookbooks seem to have a voice or a personality, because they document facts and foods that someone believed were important enough to both preserve and share.

We’re looking forward to blogging about some of our favorite finds in the Texas Cookbook Collection. Here’s just one example from a 1950 cookbook:

“Few may think of Presidents of Republics dipping into a cookie jar, yet it is said on good authority that Anson Jones, last President of the Republic of Texas, kept a well-filled cookie jar, and that these Soft Molasses Cookies were usually the most popular item in it.

Soft Molasses Cookies

1 cup molasses                                                                 1 level tablespoon ginger

¼ cup shortening                                                             1 level tablespoon soda dissolved in

½ cup Imperial Pure Cane Sugar                                 ½ cup cold water

½ teaspoon salt

4 to 5 cups flour.

Scald molasses, pour over shortening, add Imperial Pure Cane Sugar, salt, and ginger; add dissolved soda to cooled molasses. Then stir in from 4 to 5 cups sifted flour, making a soft dough to drop and spread in a pan or a stiff dough to be rolled and cut. Bake in a moderate oven (350 degrees) 12 to 15 minutes. Makes 5 dozen cookies.”

Romantic Recipes of the Old South and the Great Southwest, Selected and compiled for the Imperial Sugar Company by the Jane Douglas Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution, p.25.