Weekly Comments: Wild West returns to Oklahoma

#406, April 24, 2006

CLAREMORE, Okla.: I came to Oklahoma looking for cheap gasoline, and word must have got out about the visit because in the last couple of weeks they raised the price thirty cents. So stay where you are; it sho’ don’t pay to drive 500 miles to save a nickel.

The President must have read my little joke last week about Frank Phillips saying the oil men were going to Washington to draw up a code of ethics. This week he’s appointing a commission to look into the oil pricing scheme. He wants them to investigate why every time a new car is sold in Shanghai, gas goes up ten cents in Tulsa. It’s like a riddle: China buys more cars, gas prices go up; Americans buy fewer cars, and gas prices still go up.

Whether the Toyota is bought in Beijing or Baltimore, it’s paid for with American dollars. Only difference is China pays for it in cash.

During the Great Depression, I made a comment in a 1931 radio address that gets quoted fairly often, “We’ll hold the distinction of being the only nation in the history of the world to go to the poor house in an automobile.” Today, you might go in your automobile, but if you can’t afford gas you’ll have to get somebody to push it.  (More below)

The Daily Progress  (Claremore) wrote a front page feature Tuesday, Apr. 25. It don’t exactly rank with The Second Coming, but some folks thought it was. Click on: http://claremoreprogress.com/archive/article25813
Did I tell you this has been my favorite newspaper for over a hundred years?

The main reason I came to Claremore, along with over 300 other folks, was for the “Will Rogers Wild West International Expo Convention-Competition”. It may not be the biggest gathering ever held in Oklahoma but it is the longest named. About 30 states were represented, and several countries. Trick roping, trick riding, gun spinning, knife throwing, mounted shooting, and whip cracking were major draws. Ben Hughes of Tasmania, Australia, won the whip cracking, Doug Smith of Ohio won the Texas Skip, and Charles Keyes of Wisconsin set a new record for the biggest loop with 107 feet of rope. There were plenty of the old masters present to compete and help teach the youngsters. I’ll tell you more about other competitions next week, along with solutions to the fuel supply and Claremore’s problem with railroad grade crossings.

I also wanted to try my hand at rain-making. This part of the country is in a 5-year drought equal to the one in the early 1930s that led to the Dust Bowl. The only reason you don’t see dust blowing to the East Coast is they have learned to not plow up the land like they used to. And there’s more land planted in grass for cattle.

Lakes and ponds are low, some are dry. If you’re wondering if I brought any rain, no, just a light shower today. Maybe enough to fill a few mud puddles and give the grass a slight boost, but no relief to the farmer.

Historic quotes from Will Rogers:

“They sent the Indians to Oklahoma. They had a treaty that said, “You shall have this land as long as grass grows and water flows.” It looked like a good treaty, and it was till they struck oil. Then the Government took it away from us again. They said “The treaty only refers to Water and Grass; it don’t say anything about oil.” WA #267, Feb. 5, 1928

“Now they have moved the Indians [again] and they settled the whole thing by putting them on land where the grass won’t grow and the water won’t flow.” Radio, April 27, 1930

April is National Humor Month

#405, April 17, 2006

COLUMBUS: With all the pestilence you’re putting up with this week, I ain’t gonna contribute any more to worry about. When it’s 100 degrees on Tax Day in Stillwater, Oklahoma, and old Generals are putting the heat on Mr. Rumsfeld, I’ve got the good sense to turn the whole situation over to Comedy.

Gill Gross filled in for Paul Harvey on ABC Radio this morning, and he ended his story on income taxes by quoting “me”: “The Income Tax has made more liars out of the American people than Golf has.” WA #17, April 8, 1923

April is National Humor Month. Now that’s a laugh: the man who named it must’ve paid his taxes in March.

Here are a few light-hearted comments, at random, from the archives to cheer up your morning.

Historic quotes from Will Rogers:

Of late all I am asked is: “Who writes your stuff and where do you get it?” And the surprising answer is: The newspapers write it! All I do is to get all the papers I can carry and then read all that is going on and try to figure out the main things that the audience has just read, and talk on that. I have found out two things. One is that the more up-to-date a subject is the more credit you are given for talking on it, even if you really haven’t anything very funny. But if it is an old subject, your gags must be funny to get over.

The first thing is the remark you make must be founded on facts. You can exaggerate and make it ridiculous, but it must have the plain facts in it. Then you will hear the audience say: “Well, that’s pretty near right.”

America’s sense of humor has taught ’em there is three things they must never take serious: a columnist on any paper, a political speech by any candidate, and a Harvard graduate if he hasn’t been out four years.

War is just like Golf. Once a fellow takes it up he won’t let nothing interfere with it.

Frank Phillips, of oil fame [Phillips 66] was out the other day, said he was going to Washington. The oil men were going to draw up a code of ethics. Everybody present had to laugh. If he had said the gangsters of America were drawing up a code of ethics, it wouldn’t have sounded near as impossible

I don’t think I ever hurt any man’s feelings by my little gags. I know I never willfully did it. When I have to do that to make a living I will quit. I may not have always said just what they would have liked me to say but they knew it was meant in good nature.

When there is no malice in your heart, there can be none shown in your homes. But between you and I there is a lot of people in this country who should never be so absent-minded as to refer to their sense of humor.

Their greatest trait – the greatest thing to recommend the Democrats is optimism and humor. You’ve got to be optimist to be a Democrat, and you’ve got to be a humorist to stay one.

You can always joke about a big Man that is really big, but don’t ever kid about the little fellow that thinks he is something, cause he will get sore. That’s why he’s little.

(Comparing Hollywood to Congress…) the place we make the Movies is called the Studio. We are a great deal alike in lots of respects. We make what we think will be two kinds of Pictures: Comedy and Drama. Now you take the Capitol at Washington. That’s the biggest Studio in the World. We call ours Pictures. They call theirs laws. It’s all the same thing. We often make what we think is Drama, but when it is shown it is received by the audience as Comedy. So the uncertainty is about equal both places. The way to judge a good Comedy is by how long it will last and have people talk about it. Now Congress has turned out some that have lived for years and people are still laughing about them.

Well all I know is just what I read in the Congressional Record. They have had some awful funny articles in there lately. As our government deteriorates, our humor increases. They been arguing over the taxes, and that give ’em a chance to get some original views on where they was going to get this two billion bucks that they were overdrawn. They have just appropriated and appropriated till they was so far in the red, that it don’t look they will hardly get out by Christmas.

Politicians amuse more people than they interest.

Everything is changing in America. People are taking their comedians seriously and the politicians as a joke, when it used to be visa versa.

A comedian is not supposed to be serious nor to know much. As long as he is silly enough to get laughs, why, people let it go at that. But I claim you have to have a serious streak in you or you can’t see the funny side in the other fellow.

I certainly know that a comedian can only last till he either takes himself serious or his audience takes him serious, and I don’t want either one of those to happen to me till I am dead, if then.

Get a few laughs and do the best you can.

Will is looking for volunteers to go to Mexico

#404, April 9, 2006

WESTON, West Va.: I read in the local daily, the Exponent-Telegram from Clarksburg, about a 4-H Club working to clean up the grounds at Veteran Memorial Park as a service project, and that’s a mighty important service.

Then I saw on network television where high school students plan to march on Washington in support of illegal immigrants, and they want it to count as community service. See, in that particular school district they are required to contribute so many hours to the community. I don’t know about you, but if a person has some proposed activity, and he feels the need to ask if it’s a community service, then it ain’t.

On the Immigration bill, Congress is deadlocked and can’t act. I think we could help this thing along if 11 million Americans would buy a one-way ticket to Mexico, leave their credit cards and bank account at home, go to work and live off the land. Any excess cash they make they could send home to relatives in the states. Why, it wouldn’t be a month before their president would call Washington offering kind of an Immigrant Exchange. Don’t be surprised if President Bush says, “Vincente, I think we’ll just keep the ones we’ve got. And good luck to you, teaching those 11 million to speak Spanish.” Of course it ain’t gonna happen. Nobody wants to move from here to Mexico. But if certain ones did, we would gladly count it as community service.

Congress grabbed onto another hot potato: leaking top secret classified information. It’s hot in Washington, but beyond the Beltway, as they say, nobody much cares. See, the argument isn’t over whether to leak secret information. The argument is over who gets to do the leaking. Congress says they should have the honor, but the Administration says, No, they’re our secrets, and if anybody gets to spill the beans, it should be us.

Well, onto things that are important across the country; the weather didn’t wait till Hurricane season to wreak havoc on us. Just this week we’ve had tornados in Tennessee, floods in California and North Dakota, wildfires in Texas. There’s deep snow in Oregon, but not in Montana where the glaciers are melting. Florida is taking advantage of bad weather elsewhere, “Visit Florida. We provide the sunshine, but if you want insurance, bring your own because there’s none left here.”

Phil Mickelson won the Masters again. He and Tiger Woods are kinda passing the Green Jacket back and forth among themselves.

Historic quote from Will Rogers:

“This is income tax paying day. No two can agree on what is deductible. When it’s made out you don’t know if you are crook or martyr. It’s made more liars out of the American people than golf.” DT #822, March 15, 1929

Will asks, “Is this the End of a Nation?”

April 1, 2006

COLUMBUS: All I know is what I read in the newspaper, and 11,000,000 illegal immigrants have knocked every other story off the front page. They are mostly Mexicans, and curiously, President went to Cancun, Mexico, this week to meet with President Vincente Fox. Mr. Bush came home smiling, because the entire meeting was in Spanish and he didn’t know any more when he left than he did before he got there. Tonight they rounded up an interpreter who not only understands Spanish but also diplomacy. It seems that what Mr. Fox promised was to keep sending 3 or 4 million Mexicans a year across our border, just as long as they keep sending back home at least $20 Billion a year. It may not be a good plan, but at least they will work. We sure won’t get any immigrants from France looking for work. Those young French students want a job, a guaranteed job, but not if there is any work attached to it.

I know it is April 1, but the following story is the absolute truth, and nothing but the truth.

Once upon a time, a nation prospered in peace and affluence for many years. But trouble lay just across the border. The neighboring land was filled to the bursting point and the people eyed the vast inviting lands with envy. For a few years a small number of “intruders” would sneak across the boundary, and the government forcibly evicted them. But many managed to stay, legally or otherwise, and more would inevitably follow.

Before long the intruders were swarming into the nation. Some were there legitimately as employees, but others came surreptitiously and each claimed a piece of the foreign land as their own. They didn’t pay for it, just squatted on it. A significant number of the intruders were wanted criminals who crossed the border to escape arrest.

Finally, an irritated prominent local citizen wrote a letter to his national leader. “Are we powerless to enforce our own laws? Are we to submit to such great wrongs by these men who are not citizens? Our laws are not enforced. Men are hauling away our cattle in open violation of the law and the sheriff knows it. Timber is being cut and taken away while the sheriff watches. How in the world can we hold up as a nation when our officers don’t respect the law and the oath they have taken to uphold the law.”

About two years later a small portion of the nation relented and sold, for a pittance, a significant section of land, which was turned over to the intruders. Instead of appeasing the intruder population it only created more pressure on the nation to open its borders.

The biggest business in the nation lobbied relentlessly to allow even more intruders. They saw an expanding intruder population as essential to economic growth in the nation.

Ok, any idea yet where this “nation” is? Here comes a hint. Seeing the looming conflict in this particular nation, the U. S. Congress jumped into the fray, led by a Senator from Massachusetts. After much rhetoric and debate Congress made a decision: they came down firmly on the side of the Intruders.

How could this be? Even the Senator from Massachusetts admitted that the nation was prosperous, “Although a tiny number of individuals control about one-seventh of the nation’s wealth (land) there is not a family in the entire nation without a home. There is not a pauper in the nation, and the nation does not owe a single dollar.” Now who could ask for more than that? But somehow this was not good enough to keep this nation intact and protected from Intruders. Congress created a Commission to negotiate with a delegation of representatives from the nation. One of those representatives was the “prominent local citizen” quoted above. He became exasperated at the delegation’s inability to reach a consensus on what their position should be. Five years after the U.S. government got involved, and all the negotiating was over with, Congress passed the Curtis Act, abolishing the laws of this “nation” and mandating that all land be divided up equally among its citizens.

The end of a nation as we knew it occurred in 1898. The Senator from Massachusetts was Henry Dawes, head of the Dawes Commission. The Intruders were mainly from Kansas and Arkansas. The big business encouraging the Intruders was the Missouri Pacific Railroad, which built a line through the nation in 1889. The “nation” was the Cherokee Nation, part of Indian Territory which in 1907 became the state of Oklahoma. The “prominent local citizen” (who also helped write the state constitution for Oklahoma), was Clem Rogers, father of Will Rogers.

To quote another Oklahoman, Paul Harvey: And now you know the rest of the story.

Let’s hope the story does not repeat itself. I prefer reading my newspaper in English.

(My source for the story is Ben Yagoda’s biography of Will Rogers, a wonderful, detailed book published in 1993.)