#244 Sep 29, 2002

NASHVILLE: For the past couple of weeks I’ve been out traipsing over Indiana and Ohio, so I drove down to Tennessee for a break. Those two states, and most of the middle west are still dry. Farmers have started harvesting what little bit of corn and soybeans they’ve got. Recent rains from that storm named Isadore was just enough to settle the dust.

Farmers are optimistic. The big Ohio farm show drew almost 150,000. Judging by the parking lot, all but about a thousand must of come by pickup truck. I don’t know if John Deere and New Holland are selling many tractors, but Ford and Chevy sho’ are selling the trucks.

Half the country is suffering from drought. Even Arizona claims they are in a long dry spell, but how can they tell? Did the desert turn a darker shade of brown?

Arizona is where the sun shines all day. It’s a wonderful place to live, and it’ll be the perfect place if anyone can show ’em how to get along without water.

Nashville has the Cumberland River and the TVA, and if this town ever runs short of something, they’ve got country music to take their mind off their troubles. I went to the Grand Ole Opry (the Friday night version) and I’ve never seen a more appreciative crowd. These folks weren’t as loud and demonstrative as some of the younger audiences I’ve seen, but whether it was Porter Waggoner, Holly Dunn, Mike Snider, or the Osborn Brothers (no relation to that family on TV) or any of the other twenty or so singers and performing groups on the stage, they loved every minute of it.

Saturday I stopped downtown at the old Ryman Auditorium, home of the Opry for so many years starting in 1925. And just down the street they have built a new Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. That place sure brings back memories. You can hear old recordings of people like the Carter Family, Roy Acuff, and the yodeler, Jimmy Rodgers, the “Father of Country Music”. Then there’s old video film clips of Red Foley and Tex Ritter, and some not-so-old ones of Hee Haw, and Dolly Parton as a young girl. (I started to say “little girl”, but I’m not sure she was ever “little”.)

Saturday night I went on down I-65 to Franklin, to see the Will Rogers Follies. (More on that in a minute)

I guess this town was named for Ben, and it’s almost as old as Philadelphia. This place earned it’s own spot in history during the War. They’ve got a monument right in the middle of Main Street honoring their Confederate soldiers.

They are proud of their heritage. The Chamber of Commerce says they have 15 blocks of historic buildings; you have to go two miles out of town to find anything built since 1900.

No, really, they got some new structures. They even built a 4-story parking garage to accommodate all the tourists. All the old buildings have shops, restaurants and offices, mostly for lawyers. It seemed to me they have an abundance of lawyers offices for a town this size. I mentioned it to one of the local fellows, and he agreed, “It’s probably more than we need. There’s six lawyers to every ambulance.”

Back to the Follies… I never tire of watching a great performance, and these local folks put on quite a show. Of course they had already done it 12 times before I got here, and this was the last one, so they put all they had into it.

I would like to see a couple of changes though… “Will” was played by Bobby Moore, a Nashville songwriter and singer, and he did a marvelous job. But just once I would like to see it done by someone who really don’t sing so good. No more Larry Gatlin or Mac Davis. Someone who sings more like Don Rickles.

Having seven sisters where only three existed in history is all right with me because a fellow can never have too many sisters. And keeping your father close by forever is a good idea.

But just once I would like to change the ending. It’s where Wiley Post enters and says, “Come on Will, it’s time to fly to Alaska.” And Betty says, “Will, why must you go to Alaska?” And then Will says, “Because I did.”

You know, I think a lot of folks would like to see Will skip the Alaska trip, and go on another twenty or thirty years.

Historic quote from Will Rogers:

(from an article where Will described the tour he made putting on several shows a day to raise money for drought sufferers)

“We flew out … for our night show… where we joined all the rest of our troop, The Revellers, and Jimmy Rodgers who was with us then, the Yodler De Luxe, and Chester Byers, the Roper.” WA #426, February 22, 1931

#243 Sep 13, 2002

COLUMBUS: Florida held an election Tuesday. I guess they figured the country needed some comedy relief this week

It was only 2 counties that had problems, and you can probably guess which ones. They spent millions to make elections fool proof, but the voters fooled ’em. Gov. Bush should have known, if you’re gonna use computers to vote with, you better bring in some experts to operate ’em. Say, 7th graders. You need keen eyesight to find the on-off switch.

You know, “Touchscreen” voting is really not fair for a generation that grew up getting yelled at for leaving fingerprints on windows.

But they can’t go back to punch cards. I think what they need to do in the next election, is get everybody together… the whole precinct… in a big room. Then call out a candidate’s name and ask people raise their right hand if they are for him. To make it an honest election they can bring in counters from another state, like Chicago.

Or to speed it up, bring in counters from Australia. They’ve got men that can count 600,000 sheep a day. Those blokes could count Florida’s votes faster than their computers.

Here’s a news flash…just a few minutes ago I heard that, “Miami Dade County found 1800 uncounted ballots”. Janet Reno perked up at that news, till she found out they were from the election in 2000.

Miss North Carolina has been in the news lately. It seems an old boyfriend was shooting his Kodak when, if he had had any manners, he would have been shutting his eyes. North Carolina always has lovely candidates, and some tall ones too, and this one was special because she’s an Indian. Us Indians are used to losing, but this is the first time it’s on account of a picture. Usually it’s on account of land, and it’s the land we’re losing.

Here in Ohio it’s still dry. Weatherman says it’ll rain tomorrow.

Have you noticed, they always predict more rain than what you get. And when they do get it right with their “scattered thunder storms”, it seems the rain is scattered at the airport where the official gauge is located, and not on the farm fields where we need it.

Congress voted to give the farmers another $6 Billion in drought relief. The President hasn’t decided if their votes are worth that much.

It’s hot in the Midwest, but winter has already hit New Hampshire. Presidential hopefuls will arrive shortly.

Historic quote from Will Rogers:

“The Middle West got rain. Even the Lord couldn’t stand to wait on the Republicans forever.” DT #1269, August 19, 1930

#242 Sep 1, 2002

MORGANTOWN, West Va.: The baseball strike got settled before it started, but nobody here much cares… football season is underway and the University won their first game.

The baseball owners gave their lowest paid players a 50 percent raise and promised not to eliminate any jobs. Can you imagine any big company doing that today? The baseball fans wanted cheaper seats and dollar hotdogs, but that idea went nowhere. What we’ll get is $5 drinks and the Yankees in the World Series again.

Big news from television this week… they’re planning to do one of those Survivor shows with hillbillies. Only it’s backwards, where they take some rich, uptown Hollywood-type folks and put them out in the boondocks and see if they survive among the hillbillies, kinda like Green Acres. The producers are out prowling around searching for an “ideal location, probably in a southern state.”

It’s created quite a stir among our Governors. They’re accustomed to showing off their state to big manufacturers, bragging about the fine highways, railroads, airports, schools, museums, and a plentiful supply of natural gas, electricity, and well-trained ambitious workers.

How will these same governors convince a TV network their state consists mostly of hollows, hicks and moonshine stills?

You might think the perfect spot would be an old house five miles up a dirt road, where you chop wood for the stove, grow your own food, and the only modern communication is a telephone party line. (For those too young to remember what that is, think of it as an internet chat room where you don’t have to type.)

No, for this reality show, they should take these millionaires and set them down in the middle of an ordinary country community. It could be in any state… Arkansas, West Virginia, or even Massachusetts.

They’ll have to trade their fancy Lincoln or Humvee off for an old Chevy pickup with a rusted tailgate. The music on the radio will be by Alan Jackson, not Michael.

There’ll be a full calendar… go to church twice on Sunday and again on Wednesday night. High school football on Friday night.

Saturday night they’ll have a choice… square dance at the Legion Hall, or listen to a band at the high school auditorium. It won’t be a symphony… those are fiddles, not violins. There’ll be banjos and guitars, and if it’s really high class, a hammered dulcimer and a washtub bass-fiddle.

They’ll have to learn how to survive receiving a bushel or two of tomatoes and squash from a neighbor’s garden. (Better bring along a Martha Stewart recipe for zucchini bread.)

The children can join 4-H or Scouts and learn how to make or grow something to show at the County Fair. After school they can play softball in the backyard.

Throw in an occasional weiner roast, quilting bee, ramp dinner, and coon hunt, and you’ve got the makings of quite a show.

Most of these so-called reality shows start out with about a dozen people, and weed ’em out down to one survivor who walks away with a million dollars. For this Hillbilly Survivor show, if they follow this plan and start with 10 or 12, by the end they’re liable to have 20 or 30, because all their city friends will be arriving to get in on the fun. And I bet they’ll each willingly pay a million dollars for the privilege.

Historic quotes from Will Rogers:

“Anytime you tangle with an Arkansaw hillbilly or hillbillyess, you are going to run second.” DT# 2803, July 30, 1935

“Baseball is the greatest game in the world, for the greatest number of people. And it’s the least crooked sport ever invented. And I am going to go to it, and believe in it, and admire the type of men that play it, till I get so old that my whiskers will get caught in the turnstiles.” WA#215, Jan. 23, 1927