Weekly Comments: Giving thanks for turkey, pork and good health

# 298, November 25, 2003

ZANESVILLE, Ohi Looking ahead to Thanksgiving I’m here to visit Irv Bell, a fine farmer who raises corn and hogs. I read in the paper where our big turkey dinner Thursday will only cost us $3.60, so when you’re in a thanking mood you might want to remember the farmer. If you prefer one of Irv’s pork chops to a turkey leg, it may cost another nickel but worth every penny.

This town on the Muskingham River was named for Ebenezer Zane, brother of Betty Zane. It’s the home of Zane Grey, author of Riders of the Purple Sage and The Last of the Plainsmen and other books about the way he thought the West should have been run.

The government announced today that the Economy is growing, and growing rapidly, because we’re all spending. And it’s liable to keep on growing ’til we have to start paying some of it back.

Congress passed a Medicare bill. It is estimated to cost $400 Billion, which if that estimate is as accurate as the original estimate of Medicare in 1965, the true cost will be slightly higher, at around $40 Trillion. The President is for it, Republicans are for it, and the AARP is for it. Only ones opposed are folks who say we are spending too much on old folks, and those who say we aren’t spending enough on them.

The AARP claims it is for folks 50 and up. AARP used to stand for Retired People, but they all went back to work. What America needs is an association for everyone else. Call it AAYTPP. American Association of Young Tax Paying People. Make it a subsidiary of the AARP. You’re a member the day you are born, and they automatically switch you to AARP when you turn 50. It’s depressing enough to turn 5-0 without all those AARP solicitation letters.

Warren Spahn died yesterday. He won at least 20 games in 13 different seasons, and did not win his first game till he was 26. Young pitchers today should take note. They are satisfied to win 10, and then complain if the offer for next season is less than $5 Million. Of course if the hitters go off steroids, maybe they could win a few more.

Well, Sunday (Nov. 23) was our anniversary, Betty and “me”. We were married on the day before Thanksgiving, 95 years ago, so you ladies must forgive me my forgetfulness in these years when it comes early. The ceremony was at her home in Rogers, Arkansas, and we took the night train to St. Louis. The first day of our honeymoon, we did what every American does today on Thanksgiving. We watched football. Yes, I took Betty to a college football game. But I made it up to her that evening with a fine dinner and show.

Hope you have a fine Thanksgiving, with or without football. What would really make it fine would be a whole day without any news about Michael Jackson.

Historic quotes from Will Rogers:

“This is Thanksgiving. It was started by the Pilgrims, who would give thanks every time they killed an Indian and took more of his land. As years went by and they had all his land, they changed it into a day to give thanks for the bountiful harvest, when the boll_weevil and the protective tariff didn’t remove all cause for thanks.

So here is what the Republicans have given us the past year: A war in Nicaragua and China, and a rehearsal in Mexico, two floods and a coal strike, and pictures of the Black Hills. And all we got in return is the promise of a new Ford car and lower taxes.” DT #417, Nov. 23, 1927

Weekly Comments: Football is in the air, along with a Rush of Wind

# 297, November 18, 2003

COLUMBUS: After flying on three trips in three weeks, it feels good to be settled on the ground. I’ve got to compliment the pilots. Three different airlines, several flights with every one of them on time, and me and my bags always arrived on the same plane. A couple of times a good tail wind even got us in early.

Here in Ohio, nothing matters this week but Football. School funding? It’ll wait. Workmen’s Compensation? Wrap a band-aid around it for a few days. Slot machines at race tracks? Hold on to your quarters till Saturday night.

No, this is “Beat Michigan Week”. The Ohio State Buckeyes are preparing to take on the Wolverines at Ann Arbor. Of course, down in Baton Rouge everyone’s pulling for the LSU Tigers. I figure in Los Angeles, folks must be plum nutty over the USC Trojans. They all appear to be playing toward the same goal: to take on Oklahoma for the championship.

The way those Sooner are rolling over everyone, if Ohio State, USC and LSU all win, don’t be surprised if they decide to draw straws. Short straw has to play Oklahoma. Why, they may all vote to let TCU take ’em on.

Last week I spent considerable time in Houston during layovers, at the George H. W. Bush International Airport. Wandering around between flights I ran across a life size bronze statue of our former President. The sculptor had caught him in the wind, leaning into it. I could tell is was a strong wind because he’s holding his suit coat over his shoulder and it’s blowing straight out behind him. Since he had his coat off, it had to be a hot wind, so I’m guessing he was in west Texas in mid-summer. If not west Texas, probably in Washington facing Congress.

Mrs. Bush was nowhere to be seen. Guess the wind blew her away.

There’s been a lot of wind in the news lately. Trees blown over, electric poles snapped, major damage across the country. In Washington, the Senate talked straight through two days and nights with the same effect on the country. It was a Republican filibuster, trying to get their conservative judges approved by the Democrats.

After that failed to sway even one Democrat, they passed an Energy bill. Near as I can figure, it won’t get us many more oil wells, but the ones we do get will cost us more. Our best bet for a guaranteed supply of energy is to surround the Capitol with windmills, and convince Congress to keep on talking.

I ain’t saying there’s any connection to this wind, but Rush is back. Even the Democrats missed him.

Historic quotes from Will Rogers:

“(The Senate) filibustered all last night. We pay for wisdom and we get wind.” DT #574, May 29, 1928

“As I am writing this, (the Senate is) having what is called a filibuster. The name is just as silly as the thing itself. It means that a man can get up and talk for 15 or 20 hours at a time, then be relieved by another, just to keep some bill from coming to a vote, no matter about the merit of this particular bill, whether it’s good or bad.

There is no other body of lawmakers in the world that has a thing like it. Why, if a distinguished foreigner was to be taken around to see our institutions and was taken into the Senate and not told what institution it was, and heard a man ramble on, talking that had been going for 10 to 12 hours, he would probably say, “You have lovely quarters here for your insane, but have you no warden to look after their health, to see that they don’t talk themselves to death?”

To imagine how bad this thing is, did you ever attend a dinner and hear a Senator speak for 50 minutes or an hour? If you have, you remember what that did to you! Well, just imagine the same thing only 12 times worse.” WA #12, March 4, 1923

South Texas is warm, and open for the winter

# 296, November 11, 2003

HARLINGEN, Texas: The folks around here asked me to get a message to those of you shivering up North: it’s 80 degrees today, and they have a space in a mobile home park with your name on it.

They’ve got room for at least 20,000 of you in the lower Rio Grande Valley. Make no mistake, it is all “valley”, flat as far as you can see. There’s no mountains to clutter the view, and these folks haven’t seen snow in almost 40 years. So leave your skis and parkas at home.

I’m in Texas to talk with a few school children at Mercedes, a few miles west of here. I mainly just asked questions and let them do the talking. They’re bright kids, after all the name of the town is Mercedes, not Geo, Kia or Volkswagen.

Tomorrow I’ll be in Louisiana, at Baton Rouge, to listen to some more bright youngsters, over in the Mississippi Valley. I’ll check on their Governor’s race, too.

Well, I promised last week to tell you about speaking to the Oologah elementary school children on November 3. They start every day with the kindergarten and first and second grades, about 200 altogether, in the lunch room for a short assembly. Some of them eat breakfast. Every morning different ones take turns leading the whole group in the Pledge of Allegiance, a moment of silence (what used to be a prayer), and various words of wisdom for the day. Just think, giving these little kids experience behind a microphone, they are creating a whole generation of speakers, in this case after-breakfast speakers. I just talked a little, hoping my words of wisdom didn’t interfere with the ones they were learning from each other.

Then the kindergarten invited me to their own little gathering. The kids sat close together on the floor and a teacher asked them to volunteer to tell something they knew about Will Rogers. And she asked them to do it in complete sentences, grammatical sentences, something I never mastered or, at least, seldom practice. Fortunately, they didn’t hit on any obscure facts that caught me by surprise.

After lunch, it was time for the main show with all the third, fourth and fifth graders in the Will Rogers Auditorium at the high school. (This auditorium seats about a thousand and serves all the Oologah schools because they are built together.)

The 4th grade Western Choir, that I told you about last week, started off the program with a few songs to get ’em in a good mood. Then I told ’em a few tales from when “I” was a boy growing up right there in the Verdigris Valley (there’s no mountains in this valley either), and how I used to rope anything on four legs, or two. Goats, calves, geese, but my favorite target was girls.

Teachers did their best to confiscate my lassos before any major mischief, but sometimes they were a mite late. I told how, at one school, I roped a horse that appeared to me to be broke, but he ran wild once my lasso landed around his neck. He jumped a fence, tore through a tennis court and disappeared over the horizon, with my lasso and part of the tennis net tailing along behind him. I didn’t mean any harm, but the Principal expelled me. And I couldn’t rightly blame him, because it was his horse.

I did a little rope spinning (very little), and showed pictures of some friends from Hollywood that they recognized, and some family members including a great-great grandson.

I knew my material might not keep these youngsters excited for my allotted time on stage, so I had asked a couple of the high school cheerleaders, Jennifer and Hayley, to drop in and demonstrate a couple of cheers in the middle of my talk. Well, they came all right, and brought the whole squad, about a dozen, and not just to demonstrate. These girls had the whole auditorium up and cheering for old “OHS”. They are great cheerleaders and they’re cheering for a great football team. The Oologah Mustangs are undefeated, led by a great back, Ryder Hill, and great blockers in the line, and scoring about 40 points a game.

Now, these girls have a tradition of doing push-ups after every score, equal to the total score. On Friday nights they may do 150 to 200. Only school where the cheerleaders are in as good a shape as the players, and better than some. The crowd does their part by counting off the push-ups. You know, there are babies born at Oologah who learn to count by their parents taking ’em to football games. Well, I had to get them to do some push-ups along with the cheers. They did 21, and those kids loved counting for them.

I left Oologah, appreciating more than ever how these teachers keep their young students excited about learning, for hours every day. And with no assistance from cheerleaders or rope spinners.

Historic quotes from Will Rogers:

“There is nothing in the world like home. You can roam all over the world, but after all, it’s what the people at home think of you that really counts.” WA #128, May 24, 1925

“See where there’s a bill in Congress to make a road from Brownsville, Texas, up along the Rio Grande to El Paso, then on out to San Diego along the Mexican boundary. It’s a good idea and should be built, but it’s called a military highway… Can’t you get government aid without calling it military?” DT # 449, Jan. 3, 1928

Oklahoma celebrates Will’s birthday

# 295, November 5, 2003

CLAREMORE, Okla: Yesterday the celebrations lasted all day, from the birthday party at the Dog Iron Ranch, where entertainment was provided by the Oologah 4th grade Western Choir and a dozen students from Russia singing “Happy Birthday” in Russian and English, to the Tulsa Rotary Club gala banquet which honored Mr. Henry Zarrow for a long and generous lifetime of service to the town. In between, the Cherokee ladies of Pocahontas Club led a dignified and delightful ceremony at the Museum, and students from the Cherokee School sang and danced carrying on the Cherokee tradition.

Now, mind you, this wrapped up four days in Oklahoma that started with the Bedlam battle on Saturday as the Cowboys of OSU invaded the OU Sooners at Norman. After winning the last two years, the Cowboys came up a little short, 52-9. Kinda like a hundred years ago when real cowboys got fenced off their old range turf by “sooners”. Bob Stoops’ defensive line played like an 8-strand barbed wire fence stretched across the field. Nothing got through.

I watched it on television like most of the state and much of the country. My “offer” to accept an extra ticket got only one reply, from a friend at Ok State who apologized he only had a ticket for himself, and even his wife would have to watch the game from home. By the third quarter he may have been willing to loan me his seat.

Sunday afternoon was the big Parade down Will Rogers Blvd. As he does every year, Gene Pyeatt drove his 1921 Model T Huckster to sorta escort me along. I walked the entire route, but that understates my distance considerably. You see, Claremore, to accommodate the growing population of automobiles a couple of years ago, widened the street, officially, to five lanes. But in a pinch this blvd. could squeeze in at least eleven car widths. So when I shake hands and greet folks on both sides, there’s a lot of zigzagging that burns off layers of shoe leather.

For next year I propose they make the parade a round trip, so we go down along one side, make a u-turn in the middle of the street at the Claremore Daily Progress office tower, and return along the other side. That way the queens and dignitaries and politicians riding on the back of their convertibles only have to look and wave in one direction.

You can meet interesting folks in a parade. Right behind me was Cara Cowan, an elected representative of the Cherokee Nation from here in Claremore. She’s a young professional engineer with some great ideas.

Farther back in the parade was another wonderful woman, a Choctaw, running for the U.S. Congress named Free. That’s her name, Kayln Free. She ought to be elected based on her name alone. Here, we’ve been electing Congressmen for over two hundred years, and there’s not a one of them that didn’t cost us. Electing a Free one would be such a novelty its hard to imagine what she might accomplish in Washington.

On Monday, Oologah schools invited me to address the elementary grades. I’ll save that story for next week’s commentary.

Historic quotes from Will Rogers:

“Oologah, Okla., my real old home, had a fine celebration Saturday.” DT #1328, Oct. 26, 1930

“I am pretty sore today. Am looking for the ones that reminded me that 55 years ago today at Oologah, Indian Territory, on Nov. 4, 1879, a boy baby was born. Well anyhow, played a game of polo and roped calves all day, so there is life in the old nag yet.” DT #2573, Nov. 4, 1934

“Going to have beans for supper tonight. I said supper, six o’clock, navy beans, cooked in Oklahoma ham, raised on the Dog Iron Ranch at Oologah. Cooked plenty soupy like. Got to eat ’em with a spoon, raw onions and corn bread, nothing else. Anybody that would want anything else ought to be shot.” WA #583, Feb. 25, 1934

“Personally, I have toured and looked over every city in the United States in the past year, and I think Tulsa is the livest, most progressive one, with the exception of Claremore, in the United States. It’s the hub of the Oil Industry, so every Realtor should study Tulsa. If your state or city ever strikes oil you will know how an oil city should be conducted.” How To Be Funny, date??