Annie Oakley needed in the Middle East

#418, July 30, 2006

GREENVILLE, Ohio: Do you remember Annie Oakley? Of course you do. A hundred years ago she was the best known woman in the world. She was known mainly for her sharp-shooting skills with a rifle. On his news program Thursday, Paul Harvey told how Annie Oakley used to shoot a cigarette out of her husband’s mouth, from thirty paces. Then he added, “He never forgot their anniversary.”

You might not know she was born in Ohio. Every year about this time they celebrate her life with “Annie Oakley Days” at the county fairgrounds and this year the Wild West Arts Club invited me to attend their competition and annoy ’em with a few comments at the awards dinner.

I got to meet Annie, and we talked a spell, mainly about old times. Took some pictures. Now, everybody knew she was there, but to see Annie Oakley and Will Rogers together caused a bit of a stir. They were wondering, who’s coming next? Maybe Hopalong Cassidy, or John Wayne, or Roy Rogers? (And two of those fellows were also Ohio bred and born.)

The way things are deteriorating over in the Middle East, what we need is a few thousand Annie Oakleys to go over there and pick off those terrorists one at a time. Those men have never seen anything like her and she could ride in with a rifle concealed under her long skirt, dismount and plug ’em between the eyes before they could fire their Kaytoosha.

All I know is what I read in the newspaper. Did you see where a group of Democrats announced they have come up with a new idea for weaning us off petroleum? They said if we play it right we can replace 25% of our gasoline with ethanol and other home-grown fuels by the year 2025. These Democrats may think it’s a new idea, but six or eight months ago I heard the same plan described by some engineers. They called it 25 by 25. So finally, the Democrats have caught up with the engineers, and if the Republicans, who still haven’t learned about it, get behind the plan it’s got a chance. Even the big oil companies might be amenable as long as they get a crack at the processing and distribution rights.

Last week I attended the annual convention of the National Speakers Association in Orlando. It was hot in Florida, but not as hot as it’s been out West. Now when you gather 1700 men and women who make their living by talking, well, let’s just say it puts a strain on any air cooling system. But the Marriott folks were prepared for us because they had installed the extra heavy duty industrial grade Carrier system in the convention hotel. There’s only two of that size, and the other one is in Washington at the Capitol.

But really, only about 50 did most of the speaking, and the rest of us were there to learn. I’ll leave out a bunch who deserve a mention, but it was good to get insights on presenting humor from Lou Heckler, Ron Culberson, David Glickman, and Lola Gillebaard. The top honor of the whole convention, the Cavett Award, went to Charles “Tremendous” Jones. He has been speaking since 1949 and his nickname is well deserved.

(“Annie” is Loretta Jones of Rock Island, Tennessee)

Historical quotes from Will Rogers:

“They are pretty bad, these big wars over commerce. But one over religion is really the most bitter.” WA #350, Sept. 8, 1929

[Annie Oakley was born in Darke County, Ohio, August 13, 1860, and died in Greenville, the county seat, on Nov. 3, 1926.]

    “Annie Oakley… was the acknowledged headliner for years and years of the great Buffalo Bill Show. [from 1885 to 1902]
She was the best known woman in the World at one time, because when she was with the show, it toured everywhere. She was not only the greatest rifle shot for a woman that ever lived, but I doubt if her character could be matched, outside of some Saint.
I had heard Cowboys who had traveled with the Buffalo Bill Show speak of her in almost reverence. They loved her. She was a marvelous woman, kind hearted, most thoughtful, a wonderful Christian woman.
I went out to see her last spring in Dayton. She was in bed… had been for months… but she was just so cheerful. Just think of a little, frail, gray-haired woman who had spent her life with a Wild West show, remaining in your memory as being just about the most perfect thing you ever saw besides your own Mother.
So it’s what you are, and not what you are in, that makes you.” 
WA 206, Nov. 21, 1926

Middle East war battles Discovery and Snake River dams for attention

July 17, 2006

COLUMBUS, Ohio: While I was out West for a week, it appears the “whole civilized world has degenerated” (see Historic quote below). That fellow running Iran is pretending to be Hitler, but he’s substituting Chinese scientists for Germans, and sending out Hezbollah to do the fighting instead of German soldiers.

Discovery completed a wonderful space shuttle trip this morning and it’s practically shoved off the front page by Iran, Syria, Lebanon, and Israel. Even Iraq is feeling neglected.

Some people claim it’s oil we’re fighting for in the Middle East, but I think if you drill down to the core of the issue, it’s not oil, but freedom. We can live without oil, in fact we did till about 150 years ago, but liberty is different.

Last week I was in Portland with about 1500 engineers who work under the banner of the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers. They aren’t all working on solving our energy problems, but many are. They tell me that making ethanol from corn is kind of a temporary measure, and they figure they can find a way to convert leftover crop residues, like corn stalks, wheat straw, or switch grass in it’s entirety, to a fuel we can burn in cars. If you’ve ever collected your own firewood from the forest you can imagine the job of gathering all those stalks and stems and efficiently hauling them to a fuel processor. But these engineers say they are up to the challenge and they aim to replace a quarter of all our crude oil needs by 2025.

Then I flew to Spokane in eastern Washington, home of the Gonzaga University basketball team, and drove down to Colfax to see first hand how they farm those rolling hills in the Palouse. We kid about farming the hills of Vermont, where the ears of corn roll by themselves to the bottom. But until you walk up and down the steep slopes where they raise wheat here and ride in a combine during harvest or on a tractor during planting you ain’t experienced such a white knuckle ride unless you’ve been on a coaster at Six Flags or Cedar Point. If you wonder why they farm this land, it’s because it’s great soil and they get yields with less than 20 inches of rain that would make a Kansas wheat grower turn green with envy. This summer looks like a fine crop, maybe averaging over 100 bushels an acre for the good farmers. They haul it a few miles down to the banks of the Snake River and ship it anywhere in the world.

Out in this part of Washington, Oregon and Idaho the big argument is over the dams on the Snake River. These dams were built forty to fifty years ago so people in this territory could have electricity without burning coal or oil, and to get barges upriver as far as Lewiston, Idaho. Those barges let them haul lumber, paper, grain and other assorted goods down the river instead of clogging the highways with trucks. Salmon numbers suffer because of the dams, no doubt about it, but giving up the dams after they’ve been built seems kinda foolish. We’re already spending millions and millions to help the fish get around the dams and down to the mouth of the Columbia.

You know, maybe the salmon would appreciate it if we hired a few sailors to harpoon the sea lions that daily gorge themselves on fish where it empties into the Pacific. They take out more salmon than the dams. With oil past $75 a barrel, electricity from flowing water makes sense to me. And I don’t aim to give up my daily bread either.

Historic quote from Will Rogers:

    “I’ve been off the air here, I believe, about seven weeks. I went off purposely to see if I couldn’t give the country a chance to pick up a little… It don’t take much lookin’ to see that it ain’t done much since I’ve been gone. So I decided to come back on again and see if I can’t get it started up again. The whole civilized world has degenerated in the last seven weeks, not only the whole civilized world, but the Democratic party, too. That’s quite an admission.
Well, while I had my head turned and wasn’t on the radio, Hitler broke out on me. Hitler broke out on me and tore up the Versailles Treaty. It wasn’t a good treaty, but it was the only one they had. They was a year making it, and he tore it up in about a minute. And they had been about a year fixing it all up, all these nations. We got in on the signing of it. We got nothin’ out of the treaty, outside of the pen that we signed with, that was all we got.”
 Radio broadcast, March 31, 1935

North Korea can’t spoil a great July Fourth

#416, July 5, 2006

COLUMBUS: Fireworks last night wrapped up a fine Fourth. The Discovery space shuttle had a spectacular lift off after a week of Florida rain and clouds kept it on the ground. North Korea decided to jump into our fireworks celebration, shooting off 6 or 7 rockets. They would have fired more but they ran out of matches. Today Kim Jong Ill personally rubbed two sticks together to light 3 more missiles.

Like a lot of backyard fireworks, they kinda fizzled out. Still, there’s folks here that say our rockets didn’t do so great fifty years ago either, and with a little practice those Korean rockets could reach California. They’re right of course, but we had one essential thing North Korea lacks, besides electricity, running water and a full stomach. No, what America had was that one thing that gave us confidence our rocket program would persevere and succeed: German engineers and scientists.

Have you watched any of this World Cup soccer? Anywhere else in the world but here, billions of people follow every game. Americans don’t like games where nobody scores. Even in games where it is zero-zero after 90 minutes, soccer might draw some interest here if they kept statistics. U.S. football and basketball fans are great for statistics, and I think one that could revolutionize soccer, at least for American fans, would be turnovers. If soccer would keep a running total of all the turnovers by each team, at least we would have something to argue over. We would say, “Sure it was a scoreless tie, but our team forced 232 turnovers, and we only committed 227.”

France and Italy play for all the marbles Sunday and I think France will win. That may surprise you, but this ain’t a war so there’s no reason for them to wave a white flag the minute their opponent shows up. France will win because they’re smart. I saw where their team captain said, “If I can figure out a way to score a goal, and we shut out the other team, we’ll win”. Now we all joke about those men taking too many hits to the head, but you can’t argue with logic like that.

The governor of New Jersey shut down the state, with 8 million people in it, and hardly anybody outside the borders even noticed. A few gamblers had to fly to Reno instead, but other than that not much effect on the other 49 states. Now just imagine if you can, we have 2 million farmers in the entire country, and if they shut down for a week every city in the country would be starving.

Warren Buffett is not only rich, he’s shrewd. For years he’s been spouting off about how important the inheritance tax is, and the IRS has been drooling over the prospects of getting their hands on a big chunk of his $40 Billion. But he gave most of it to the Bill Gates Foundation, then set up each of his children with a Billion Dollar Foundation of their own. Those youngins will have to learn to get by on a modest salary for running their own Foundation, plus what little interest a Billion might draw. Leaving the poor old IRS with zilch. Warren is in favor of taxes, then figures out how to avoid paying them. Reminds me of the majority of men during Prohibition. They would vote dry, then drink wet.

Birthday greetings to President Bush. It’s a great time for a birthday, whether you’re a President, a country, or just an ordinary human being.

Historic quotes from Will Rogers:

“We sure had a great Fourth, especially after we picked up our morning papers and found that Congress had adjourned the night of the third. That gave us a cause for having a Fourth. This country has come to feel the same when Congress is in session as we do when the baby gets hold of a hammer. It’s just a question of how much damage he can do with it before you can take it away from him.” DT #1230, July 4, 1930

“Say, they got a little country down here named Uruguay, with Montevideo the capital. Saw their big football stadium. For five straight years they have had the champion football soccer team in the world, and they play any country. The referee stays inside a big wire net where the spectators can’t get at him. Down here the people vote on whether they will hold a football game or a revolution, both equal in casualties.” DT #1939, Oct. 21, 1932