Building a Wall, or a Road

President Trump is getting serious about the Mexico border wall. Contractors built 8 different designs, 30 feet high. I’m a bit surprised none of them duplicated the Great Wall of China. After all, have you heard lately of it being crossed by any Mongolians? And tourists pay a lot of money to walk on it.

Contractors could hang a walkway near the top of the 30-foot border wall and Trump might collect enough from tourists to pay for it. Once a year hold a Tex-Mex Marathon; those things raise piles of money. Someone suggested covering our side of the wall with solar panels and sell electricity. One problem: the sun shines on the other side.

Meanwhile, just in case Congress decides to fund the wall, Mexican drug lords and people smugglers have been practicing how to get over, under or through all eight wall designs. They operate a whole lot faster than Congress so they’ll be ready before the Wall is.

Do you think this border idea is new? Let’s go back to 1928: “See where they got 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 border. It’s a good idea and should be built.” (DT #449, Jan. 3, 1928) Well, Congress did nothing with the road idea back then. And 90 years later Congress may be just as excited about a wall.

A road that did get built back in the ‘20s and ‘30s was Route 66. It went from Chicago to Santa Monica, by way of Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas Panhandle, New Mexico and Arizona. Next weekend, I’ll be driving on a stretch of that historic “Mother Road”, at Claremore, Oklahoma. November 4 is Will Rogers’ birthday number 138, and you’ll agree that’s a birthday worth celebrating.

Historic quote by Will Rogers:

“Democrats gave me a birthday yesterday, Nov. 4. I was 51 years old, and they elected 51 Democrats. When I am 90 we will be running the country.” DT #1337, Nov. 5, 1930

Home is where the heart is

On Saturday I was invited back home to help Lewis County, West Virginia, celebrate its 200th anniversary. Back in 1817 it was still Virginia, not West Virginia. It’s a fine county with Weston as the county seat. It used to have glass factories, featuring hand-blown glass, and a historic “Lunatic Asylum.” A chunk of the farm and timber land has been replaced by the Stonewall Jackson Lake and Resort. A Wal-Mart has replaced several Mom-and-Pop stores. It still has wonderful friendly folks who congregate in communities such as Jane Lew, Ireland, Berlin, Camden and Valley Chapel. Plus the popular state 4-H camp at Jackson’s Mill, and a couple of “Country Roads” known as I-79 and Corridor H. They also have the Stonewall Jackson Hospital and the Mountain Military Museum. The county could make room for the new Amazon headquarters, but I doubt Mr. Bezos would see the wisdom of that decision.

“I am here [in Boston] helping them celebrate their 300th Anniversary. As somebody here from the outside, I don’t see how they can tell when you are celebrating your 300th and when you ain’t. You can’t look at the town and tell when it is celebrating. I drove down here in a car tonight and the ruts we hit must have been 300 years old.” (Will Rogers, Radio, June 15, 1930)

I read where the Census Bureau says the 2020 Census will cost almost $50 a person for an accurate count. Does that seem too high? I bet they could locate 300 million of us just by checking with Facebook, Twitter and Amazon. So they expect to spend at least $200 a piece to track down a few million folks that don’t particularly want to be tracked down. I think they could bring these people out of hiding a lot cheaper just by announcing that for the next ten years anyone who isn’t counted will receive no government money or services.

The President and Republicans in Congress say they want to reform taxes. Democrats are against it unless the rich pay more. Republicans say they want to reduce tax rates for everyone, especially those in the middle.

If you ask a Democrat how much of the total federal income tax the top 1 percent or the top 10 percent should pay, you never get an answer. Should it be 60 percent? How about 90 percent? None will answer, except for Bernie Sanders who will answer bluntly: 100 percent.

A concern of both Democrats and Republicans is what will happen to total revenues if tax rates are cut. Republicans say revenues will increase; Democrats say they will drop.  Well, the last time we had major tax reform was under President Reagan in the 1980s. Tax rates were cut, and, believe it or not, tax revenue went up. Yes, from $600 billion in 1982 to over a trillion in 1990.

They are arguing over deductions for state and local taxes, and mortgage interest.  Why should the taxpayers in the “low tax” states, and the majority who pay very little or take the standard deduction, “subsidize” those who itemize in New York, California or Illinois? Of course those folks will complain to Congress, but the ones they should be complaining to are their state and local politicians to get those taxes lowered.  And in the same way why should those in expensive homes with high mortgages get subsidized by those who rent or have paid off their mortgage?

Historic quotes by Will Rogers:

          “It’s a great country but you can’t live in it for nothing.” DT #2343, Feb. 5, 1934

“The crime of taxation is not in the taking of it, it’s in the way it’s spent.” DT #1764, March 20, 1932

“People don’t mind spending their money if they know it’s not going for taxes.” June 26, 1926

No happier life than the cattle man

Texas is known as cattle country, so naturally Will Rogers enjoys every opportunity to visit. On Thursday Will was at Buffalo Gap where he was asked to talk about his experiences in Texas, especially West Texas.

Buffalo Gap has a population of less than 500 but 405 showed up at the famous Perini Ranch Steakhouse for a big fund raising event for the Taylor County History Center. Quite a few of ‘em came from Abilene, Stamford, Roscoe and nearby ranches.

“I’ve been on the stage for 20 years and I love it. There has never been a time when I didn’t like my job. But do you know, really at heart I love ranching. I have always regretted that I didn’t live about 30 or 40 years earlier.” WA #169, March 7, 1926

Will grew up on his family ranch at Oologah, Indian Territory (now Oklahoma) and got his first taste of Texas ranching in early 1898 (at age 18) in the Panhandle at the Ewing Ranch near Higgins.

We took a trail herd to Kansas. I (saved) enough to buy me an old horse, and I went out to Amarillo. I rode in there in the summer of 1898, broke and looking for a job. Got a job with another big trail herd going away out in Western Kansas. We crossed the Canadian River at a famous LX Ranch.

That Plains was the prettiest country I ever saw in my life, as flat as a beauty contest winner’s stomach, and prairie lakes scattered all over it. And mirages! You could see anything in the world, just ahead of you. I ate out of a chuck wagon and slept on the ground all that spring and summer of ‘98. Lot of folks went to the Klondike, but I couldn’t get any further away from my home in the Indian Territory than Texas.

Well, here I was 36 years later [1934] driving out to a ranch, to eat at another Chuck Wagon and do a little roping.

A good deal had happened to everybody in 36 years. No more happens to one person than to another. Some things look bigger, but they are no bigger than the things that look little for the other fellow. No greater, no happier life in the world than the cattle man. He missed being with the Ziegfeld Follies, but so did I miss many a great meal from the tail end of a chuck wagon.

It’s always been the regret of my life that I didn’t live years earlier. I believe I woulda fit in with that Gang better. There is a lot of this so-called ‘Progress’ that I can’t keep step with. I believe an axe handle wrapped with cowhide would have fit and felt better in my hands than a golf club. I wish I could have lived my whole life and drank out of a Gourd instead of a paper cup.”  WA #605, 1934

“I went to San Antonio and had the most wonderful day there I think I ever had. There is a bunch of men called The Old Trail Drivers’ Association, and they are what keeps San Antonio of the old days alive.

They gave me a Barbecue. One of the finest feeds I ever had in my life. They had everything. They had the Chuck Wagon, even made one of the fires out of ‘chips.’  

I am a mighty young man to be allowed to mingle with those old fellows. For every one of them saw actual service up the trail to Kansas and Montana, from the 1860s to the early 1890’s. I just looked at those old fellows in wonder. Here they were 70 and 80 years old, lots of them straight and fine. They had trailed herds of cattle by the thousands from the Pecos to the Platte. They had done it year after year with not even a toothbrush in the outfit, six and eight months at a time, without a manicure. Not even individual soap; they all had to use the same piece. They swam rivers for 20 years without even a bath towel. Old grizzled gentlemen come to eat at that Barbecue that was 85 years old and never even had a face massage in their lives.

How they ever lived and existed under such unsanitary conditions I will never know.” WA #205, Nov. 14, 1926.

“Flew all night just to get over here to Muleshoe, Texas, to be at the Mashed O Ranch for the calf branding. This is a part of the famous XIT Ranch that was the biggest in the world [3 million acres].

The whole cattle country is mighty dry. The government is doing what they can to help ‘em out, but even a Democrat can’t make it rain.

There is no finer and more satisfying business in the world than the cow business when you get half a chance, but when the elements are agin’ you, you are just like a candidate that runs second.” DT #2476, July 10.1934

“The Fourth of July was coming on. I had a lot of invitations to a lot of places where I would have liked to have gone for the Fourth. The one I went to is a real cowboy reunion on one of their most famous ranches. Not a professional rodeo like you see everywhere else, but a real celebration in a real Cowtown by real old timers. I wouldn’t have missed it for anything. [I flew from Los Angeles to Abilene] and it’s only forty miles out to the town where the reunion is, Stamford, Texas.  I had often heard of the great time this little city holds every year. It’s called a cowboy reunion. It’s put on by real ranch hands. This is the heart of the old Texas ranch country. The outfits send in their chuck wagons and they have a great time. Lots of good horses and lots of good ropers. Grass is high and cattle are a good price and everybody feeling fine.” WA #655, July 1935 and DT #2780, July 3, 1935