Oklahoma State U. and namesake school welcome “Will”

# 395, January 25, 2006

STILLWATER, Okla.: Big news in Oklahoma is the new Miss America, from over at Tulsa. The Will Rogers Follies has been performing two weeks in Oklahoma City and Tulsa, and I think they just picked out one of those Follies girls at random, and sent her out to Las Vegas to compete. Not really, but they could have. This Miss America is going to be a teacher, and her talent is ballet, which is a kind of dance that’s foreign to the Follies.

Monday I stopped at the Museum in Claremore, and they were getting all cleaned and polished; Larry Gatlin and the rest of the cast of the Follies was dropping in on their night off. Saw “my” three grandchildren who were there to kinda host the festivities, but I couldn’t stay.

Yesterday the Oklahoma Extension Service held their annual convention here and invited me to kinda kick things off. Met the university president, the new dean of agriculture and the provost, all fine folks. This Oklahoma State University is growing, and for the moment this school is flush. Boone Pickens gave $165 Million to the athletic program, and that’s after they already named the football stadium for him. Governor Henry got so excited at the news he promised to donate $250 Million (courtesy of the taxpayers) to cover the various parts of Oklahoma education from grade school through college that Boone doesn’t touch on. I suggested the president ask Boone if he was in 4-H as a boy, and therefore he might want to kick in another $10 or 20 Million in loose change to help out Extension.

Some of you may remember that back in November I told how warm and lovely, and dry, it was in Oklahoma. Well it still is. The drought and all the grass fires you see on television is sure hurting the farmers. All this warm weather may be good for tourists, but Oklahoma would gladly trade a month’s worth of sunshine for a solid week of good steady rain.

I got to visit one of their fine grade schools in Stillwater, Will Rogers Elementary. They are a wonderful bunch of students, full of questions and curiosity.

Have you been hearing about this writer James Frey. Seems he can’t decide whether he is a fiction or non-fiction author. They’ve been arguing for weeks about his Million Little Pieces, but they keep buying ’em by the millions. Oprah finally weighed in on it, declared he is a liar, and now the big argument is over who gets to tell us what books to buy, Oprah or Osama bin Laden.

Frey never learned that non-fiction authors are not expected to embellish the truth. Someone who embellishes the truth is called a humorist, but only if he’s funny. If it’s not funny then you call him a politician.

“Memoirs… means when you put down the good things you ought to have done, and leave out the bad ones you did do.” (Saturday Evening Post, March 12, 1932)

“I never saw it fail; when a man starts selling his memoirs he is about through.” (Life Magazine, November 23, 1922)

I watched a little of the American Idol last week and I heard later it was the #1 show on television, even beating out football. The show reminded me of something “I” wrote about Vaudeville, “With all the different grades and classes of Vaudeville they have nowadays, its almost impossible to have an act so poor that somebody hasent got a Circuit that will fit you.” (How To Be Funny, Sept, 1929).

Ford is laying off 30,000 workers. They came up with a perfectly logical way of deciding who stays: the ones that don’t drive Ford cars will be let go. Today you’ve got some Ford workers scouring used car lots looking for any old clunker they can find that says Ford on the nameplate. Even Edsels are being towed away at a record pace.

(I added this on Jan. 26…) That terrorist group Hamas won the elections for Parliament in Palestine. This will be the first time in world history the majority of a legislative body shows up for work wearing masks. The way things are going in Washington perhaps some of our Congressmen should try it.

Historic quotes from Will Rogers:

“(We’re) at the Oklahoma A. and M. at Stillwater, (the best A and M College in America). I had never been there and always wanted to go, because I had a Nephew [Maurice Rogers McSpadden] graduate from there and he has turned out mighty good, and it’s a great school. They win more prizes for Cattle than any other Agricultural School in the U.S. There is an animal Man there named [Warren] Blizzard. He showed us all their fine cattle.” WA #426, Feb. 22, 1931.

Note: Oklahoma A&M is now Oklahoma State University. And, who knows, some day it may become Oklahoma Pickens U.

Farmers looking for relief in all the right places

# 394, January 14, 2006

ST. LOUIS: Flew over part of the Midwest to meet here with 700 no-till farmers. There’s a lot of this farmland that needs snow or rain. Of course most of it is not as dry as Oklahoma where even snow wasn’t enough to stop the grass fires.

I was kinda the opening act at the banquet Friday night, for the “Worlds Worst Farmer”. He claims to be from here in Missouri, in Cocklebur County. He didn’t say exactly what part of Missouri it’s in, but if you intend to be ranked at the bottom in farming, somewhere in this state is probably as good as any to get started. (Those of you who farm in other states are welcome to make your own case.) Most of the farmers have been here since Wednesday, but this fellow, Lewis Baumgartner, didn’t arrive till just before he went on. See, if he had been here listening and learning all week, he could no longer honestly claim to be the worlds worst. But he is one of the funniest.

If you are not in agriculture, you may have kind of a skewed view of how American farmers operate today. We still have two million folks who call themselves farmers, and they are proud, hard working people. But three-fourths of all our food is produced by only 150,000 of them. Those are big farms, but the vast majority of them are family operations.

I can’t explain it as good as our farm journals, but farmers started hollering for government relief back in the 1920’s, and as many years as it took to get some relief programs in place, you just can’t hardly find a farmer today that wants to be weaned off of ’em. These government payments are helping to keep food prices low and the farmers in business. Farmers know they are likely to be cut because the country has more pressing needs, at least according to Congress.

Farmers came to this convention to learn to be more efficient, to raise more with less. These farmers that subscribe to the no-tillage philosophy would say to Congress, We don’t want to be paid for not growing something; instead pay us a little for using no-till to keep the streams clean and dust out of the air, and provide habitat for pheasants, birds and other wildlife. That way you still get plenty of food (more than necessary for a lot of us), and there’s money left over to build your bridge to Alaska.

You’ve heard of dairy farmers going on strike and dumping their milk in the street. Well, some of these corn farmers are burning their corn, but not because they’re on strike. No, it’s because corn won’t sell for more than $1.50 to $2.00 a bushel. So they burn it to heat their homes instead of gas or fuel oil. It may seem odd to you this fine food product that pigs and chickens thrive on, and Mr. Kellogg makes his flakes out of, would be shoveled into a stove the same as coal or wood. But why go to the trouble to cut firewood when you’ve got a bin full of corn.

Historic quotes from Will Rogers:

[during the Depression] “Flying all day over Oklahoma and the poor red clay hills of Missouri and then Indiana, looking down on those dejected, desolate, anemic-looking rented farm houses. Nowhere to work and no crops for six months.
Yet you don’t wonder how they eat. You wonder how they keep warm. If the government thinks it’s unsound to feed ’em, maybe they could compromise with their conscience by giving ’em some coal.” 
DT #1397, Jan. 14, 1931.

“I was there on the historic day when Congress actually passed the farm bill. It gives relief to the farmer in so many complicated ways that even if he received no relief at all, why, just trying to study it out will keep him so busy that he will forget he ever wanted relief.” WA #542, May 14, 1933

Good news, bad news to start New Year

January 5, 2006

COLUMBUS: After that Tsunami hit a year ago, I was kinda praying we would be spared such bad news this time. We haven’t had anything close to that tidal wave, but it seems every night there’s another small disaster. Of course, it’s only small if it ain’t happening to you.

First, we had rainstorms flooding California. At the same time, Oklahoma and Texas were bone dry, somebody lit a match and suddenly thousands of acres, hundreds of homes, a couple of Texas towns (and part of Guthrie and Oklahoma City) were burned to ashes. On January 2, the fires were still raging, and the Rose Bowl Parade was getting drenched when we learned that 13 coal miners were trapped in West Virginia.

In West Virginia, the news was on a pendulum. They had a coal mine explosion (that’s bad), then West Virginia University won the Sugar Bowl (that’s good). It’s taking a long time to reach the miners (bad), then they found ’em (great, hallelujah!), then they’re all dead but one (that’s horrible). And it is horrible for all but the one that’s still hanging on. There’s something tragic about death in a coal mine that draws our interest more than usual. I bet there’s not a state that in the last week hasn’t had at least a dozen shot and killed, or died in an automobile, and yet you won’t read about half of ’em in your local newspaper.

In the Rose Bowl last night, the rain had stopped and Texas ended the reign of Southern California, 41-38. It was a great game to watch, and capped a string of tight games. Did you notice the other big Bowl winners were located fairly close to each other: Penn State, West Virginia U., and Ohio State?

Back to the news, Mr. Sharon needs our prayers in Israel, several Muslim pilgrims died in Mecca, and terrorists continue to kill in Iraq. And in the Atlantic Ocean there’s another hurricane looking for a place to land. You can’t blame the folks in Oklahoma if in their prayers for all these other folks tonight they include a plea for that hurricane to jump to Tulsa and slowly head west.

Historic quotes from Will Rogers:

“Rumor travels faster, but it don’t stay put as long as truth.” WA #65, March 9, 1924

(Beverly Hills, Calif.) “We need rain. This is not just an admission, I will make it a motion that it be called a prayer, take it from a tax payer, and a man that still has vacant lots to sell. It hasn’t rained here since Noah took two of every kind of moving picture actor and actress into the Ark with him. Moths have lived on raincoats for years… This is mighty dry humor, but, friends we would welcome the Johnstown flood right now”. DT #1074, Jan. 3, 1930.