Weekly Comments: Will contemplates the past, present and future

# 360, March 30, 2005

COLUMBUS: Let me take you back to August 15, 1935. Point Barrow, Alaska.

Now suppose things had turned out different in that little plane crash with “me” and Wiley. And death had not come on so sudden.

Then, while we’re still speculating, just suppose Congress had been asked to pass a law to let me keep eating. I ain’t so sure they would have done it. Definitely not in August. No Senator would ever be caught in Washington in the heat of summer.

If they could postpone the vote till October, they might consider it.

I can hear a couple of my friends in Congress discussing the dire situation, “Are you sure he’s in a vegetative state? He was always a big meat eater, you know.”

“Oh, he’s vegetative alright. He can’t eat, can’t write.., he can’t even talk…”

“You’re sure he can’t talk?”

“He can’t talk. He’ll never be able to talk again.”

“Well ok then, let’s save him.”

“Yes, the government’s feeding half the country as it is, what’s one more.”

Fast forward 70 years. In January a wise and wonderful lady I know died after a short illness. I won’t identify her, but some of you knew her personally. Just before she passed away she told her loving husband and family, “Have the party and then get on with it.”

Historical quote from Will Rogers: (on the death of his sister Maud Lane)

“She has passed away. But she had lived such a life that it was a privilege to pass away. Death didn’t scare her. It was only an episode in her life. If you live right, death is a Joke to you as far as fear is concerned.” WA #128, May 24, 1925

Irish luck helps pick this week’s winners.

# 359, March 16, 2005

DUBLIN: Before you get concerned that I’m off on another junket, let me admit that this Dublin is a next door neighbor to Columbus, in the middle of Ohio, not Ireland. This is the Dublin that Jack Nicklaus built, or as he will be known tomorrow, Jack O’Nicklaus.

College basketball is kinda taking over here in the US this week. Wall Street and horse racing are taking a back seat to basketball for the gamblers. A few will bet the farm, but the vast majority will more likely wager a cup of coffee or two on which one of 64 teams will cut down the nets in three weeks.

With a bit of the luck of the Irish, I’ll go out on a limb and see if I can spot some winners for you. Now, I’m only taking it one week at a time; there’s no guarantee any of these will still be around after Sunday, but here are some that look like winners this week: Oklahoma State, Illinois, Kansas, West Virginia, Kentucky, Gonzaga, Lebanon, Robert Blake, oil barons, and steroid-free baseball players.

In Washington, Social Security is dividing the country as much as the issue of marriage is in California. Out there, folks can’t figure out which does more damage to the sanctity of marriage: gay weddings or Hollywood divorces.

On Social Security, Republicans say that if you let us start these youngsters on private savings accounts, we’ll take care of all the old people even if we have to borrow trillions of dollars to do it; that is, as long as you keep voting the Republican ticket. They figure in fifty years or so, these current young folks will have saved and earned so much dough in their personal accounts, they won’t even miss Social Security when it’s gone.

On the other hand, Democrats say there’s nothing wrong with Social Security, just leave it alone. They seem to know of some upcoming calamity whereby, commencing about 2020, no more than half of all retirees will live past 65, the way it was when Mr. Roosevelt started handing out checks in 1935. That will come as quite a shock to folks expecting to live to 100 and be retired as long as they had worked.

But you watch, they’ll compromise. And here’s what they’ll compromise on: we’ll get to pay more into it, work longer, and then draw less out of it. And they’ll both claim the credit.

Historic quote from Will Rogers:

“DUBLIN: It is so peaceful and quiet here in Dublin that it is almost disappointing.
Even the Irish themselves are beginning to get used to it and like it. They even have a representative at the Peace Conference.
Ireland treats you more like a friend than a tourist.” 
DT # 36, Sept. 8, 1926

New York farmers learn from Cornell and Mr. Miner

# 358, March 3, 2005

CHAZY, NY: I’m up here today on the west bank of Lake Champlain at the Miner Agricultural Institute. This week I’ve kinda skirted around the foothills of the Adirondacks, flying into Syracuse ahead of the snow, then on up to Lowville where Kraft makes their cream cheese, on to Carthage and Madrid, located near the St. Lawrence River, and over to Chazy.

One of the highlights was getting to stay at the historic farm house, Shadow Lawn Cottage (which is to most cottages what The Greenbrier is to most hotels). I slept in a bed built special for Diamond Jim Brady. In case you don’t know, Mr. Brady was a big man, maybe 6-6 and 300 pounds, so I was confident my toes wouldn’t dangle over the end. The mattress and springs were rated industrial grade Firm, and mighty comfortable.

William H. Miner worked for the railroads and studied engineering at the University of Minnesota where he learned enough to design, patent and manufacture improved components for railcars, and became one of the richest men in America. Jim Brady was his top salesman, worked on commission, and often came to see Mr. Ziegfeld’s “Midnight Frolic”. (See historic quote)

After making his fortune, Mr. Miner returned to his grandfather’s Chazy farm and expanded it to over 12,000 acres with 800 employees. He was successful at farming, which any farmer today will tell you is easier when you start out rich. But Mr. Miner was more than rich, he was smart. He said, “No other occupation is so vital to the human race as farming. It has to do with our very existence – the production of food and conservation of soil.” You notice he said farming is vital. He didn’t mention railroads, although Miner Enterprises is still prospering in the railroad business, what’s left of it. This Institute still has most of the acres, but only a fraction of the employees, and their Holstein cows produce more milk and meat products than ever.

At all these stops across North New York, Cornell professors and I have been kinda preaching Mr. Miner’s philosophy on conserving soil by making the soil healthier. Soil health ain’t much different than our own health. When soil’s healthy it’s got more life in it, and lives longer. The farmer takes care of the soil, and the soil takes care of the farmer.

Later I’m flying out of Burlington, Vermont, down to LaGuardia and home to Columbus in time to see Arnold at his annual Fitness Convention. They say it will attract a couple thousand participants and 100,000 gawkers, the largest crowd ever to pay to see a Governor.

Speaking of flying, Steve Fossett finished that historic flight, around the world non-stop solo in three days, without refueling. That puts him in the record books up there pretty close to Lindbergh and Wiley Post. Wiley, with navigator Harold Gatty, made it around the world in nine days in 1931.

Martha Stewart is getting out of jail tonight. West Virginia kinda hates to see her go. The Chamber of Commerce is working on a plan to bring in more of these popular incarcerated attractions. They offered to finance construction of an extra wing just for Men if they can be assured of getting a crack at Robert Blake or Bernie Ebbers. They’ll even take Scott Peterson on short-term loan from California, but West Virginia draws the line at Michael Jackson.

Historic quotes from Will Rogers: (on Diamond Jim Brady)

“Picking out and talking about distinguished people in the audience I use quite a little, but never unless I know them personally and know that they will take a joke as it is meant. The late Diamond Jim Brady I always spoke of, as I knew him and he always seemed to take an interest in my little act. Once at a big banquet Mr. Brady recited a little poem which he had written himself. I learned the piece and shortly afterwards one night when he was in the audience I did his poem. This made a great hit with Mr. Brady. My best one on him was: “I always get to go to all the (opening) nights, yes I do. I go with Mr. Brady. He sits in the first row and I stand at the back and if anybody cops a diamond I am supposed to rope ’em before they get away with it.” He was certainly a wonderfully fine man.” How To Be Funny, July 1917