I’ve NOT Been Everywhere (in West Texas)

Since I wrote about traveling in West Texas last week, I’ve had a few folks remind me I did not get to their town. You do know that Texas is BIG, right? Unlike Hank Snow’s country song, I’ve not been everywhere.

One is Muleshoe. We drove through Littlefield and Dimmit, but did not go a few miles farther west to Muleshoe. Will Rogers, at age 18, worked there a few months, on the Mashed-O Ranch (120,000 acres), which was originally part of the famous 3-million-acre XIT Ranch. Years later, Will returned three times. He wrote about two visits in his syndicated columns: Down here at the Mashed-O, my old friends the Halsell’s ranch, branding thousands of calves. I have been roping at ’em all day and they just look around and say go on comedian and do your stuff on the stage, but don’t try a real cowboy’s racket. I’ll catch one of the little rascals yet if I have to bribe him.” (DT #1849, July 8, 1932)

And, “Flew all night just to get over here to the Mashed-O outfit to the calf branding. They are branding 5,000 calves, but 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. But they are going to bring that up at the next Congress. 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)

Two other towns we missed are Dalhart and Higgins. In our drive we stopped in Hereford and Amarillo, but did not go farther northwest to Dalhart (Headquarters of the XIT), or northeast to Higgins on the Oklahoma border. In 1898 Will quit school and wound up at Higgins, “I not only left (Kemper Military School) during a dark night, but I quit the entire school business for life. Not wanting to face my father, I landed in Higgins and Mr. Ewing gave me a job on his ranch. His son Frank, about my age, really run the outfit. We took a trail herd to Kansas and I worked with him for some time. I got enough to buy me an old horse, and I went out to Amarillo, Texas. I rode in there in the summer of ’98. Got a job with another big trail Herd going away out in Western Kansas.” (WA#169, March 7, 1926)

Another place we did not get to was Stamford. During a popular cowboy event, Will flew in from California and showed up, unannounced. When he walked in, of course everybody recognized him. They wouldn’t let him sit in the stands; they got him on a horse and sent him out into the arena with the other cowboys. “Cowboy sports and contests are about the most popular thing there is, especially where they know what it’s all about. I had often heard of the great time this little city (Stamford) holds every year. It’s called a cowboy reunion and it is. 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.” (DT #2780, July 3, 1935)

I did not tell you much about Lubbock, other than Buddy Holly. I mentioned talented song writers in that area. A current one is my young cousin, Charlie Stout, nephew of my host on this trip, retired TTU Prof. Betty Stout. He wrote “West Texas in My Eye,” recorded by The Panhandlers. It’s easy to find on YouTube. Key lines: “Lately I’ve been thinking, I could leave this town…I ain’t crying, that’s West Texas in my eye.”

The statue of Will Rogers on Soapsuds (called “Riding into the Sunset”) at the main entry to the Texas Tech University campus was funded by Will’s good friend, Amon Carter. Amon was the creator and publisher of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, and was famous for saying, “Fort Worth is where the West begins, and Dallas is where the East peters out.”

Amon Carter was a fascinating, prominent person, and not just in Texas. My friend, Dave Lieber, wrote a book, “Amon! The Ultimate Texan,” and a one-man play that stars Kevin Delk. Dave was a columnist for many years for the Star-Telegram. Now he writes the “Watch Dog” column for the paper in a little town east of Fort Worth. Yes, it’s Da _ _ _s.

Amon graduated from Texas Technological College (now Texas Tech University), and served as the first chairman of the Board of Directors for TTU.

Will Rogers entertained in Lubbock in 1926. He donated $1500 for uniforms for the new TTC band, matched by $1500 donated by Amon Carter.

The Will Rogers statue is one of four identical ones sculpted by Electra Waggoner Biggs. She was the granddaughter of another one of Will’s friends, W.T. Waggoner, owner of the famous Waggoner Ranch at Vernon, Texas (another town I need to visit). Will wrote, “I am on 600,000 acres, belonging to W. T. Waggoner, with 25,000 cattle and some of the best horses in any State. He is one cowman that was smart enough to solve the low prices of cattle and make ranches pay. Every cow has got her own oil well.” (DT #1847, July 6, 1932)

In every “Will Rogers” presentation, I use that W. T. Waggoner story. The last line always gets a big laugh.

Next time I get to Texas, I had better plan on staying more than a week. There’s so much to see. As Will wrote, “I been flying, train riding, automobiling, horseback riding and buggy riding over Texas for thirty-three years and I’ve never seen a tenth of it.” (DT #1926, Oct. 6, 1932)

Historic quote by Will Rogers:

LUBBOCK, Tex.: “They say it’s wrong to buy votes, but you notice from the election returns that the fellows in Pennsylvania and Illinois that bought the most, got elected. A bought vote is better than no votes at all. The counters can’t tell whether they are bought or just bargained for.” DT #73, Nov. 4, 1926

Las Vegas is Back; Texas Never Left (except Democrat Legislators)

Do you think it’s hot where you live? For the past week I was in Las Vegas (115 F) for the National Speakers Association (NSA) convention, then to West Texas (95 F) to check out crops, cattle, canyons, and a stretch of Will Rogers Highway.

You know, I’ve reported before on the annual NSA convention. I’ve attended most since 1995. Last year it had to be virtual. Last week we had about a third of our usual attendance. For most it was our first in-person conference since March 2020. Being a convention of professional speakers, naturally we have great speakers on the main stage. All had great tips for us to improve our speaking business. One tip always makes me chuckle. Here I am, impersonating the great Will Rogers, and I’m told to “Be yourself, be authentic.”

Since the Pandemic hit, Caesar’s Palace had hosted only one convention before ours. A waiter told me he was working there 16 months ago. The staff had served lunch to 5000 people and were setting up for their evening banquet. The manager said, “Stop. We’re shut down.” Can you imagine being one of those employees? Or one of the 5000 attendees from around the world? How will everyone get rescheduled flights out of Vegas? Do you remember, we were told to stay home for just two weeks to flatten the curve?  Sure.

Sixty-five weeks later, Las Vegas is just now opening up. But they opened with a flourish. Airplanes arriving are full. Every seat at the gambling tables at Harrah’s was occupied. Restaurants had a 45-minute wait for a table.

On Tuesday I flew to Lubbock, Texas, to visit a cousin, who is a retired Faculty member at Texas Tech University. I spent some time on the campus visiting “my” statue (see photo). Of course, I stopped at the Buddy Holly Museum. You wouldn’t believe how many country singers and music writers are from West Texas.

But mostly we drove around West Texas. Visited Post, Shallowater, Tulia, Happy, Hart, Hereford, Idalou, Floydada, Plainview, Dimmitt, the Palo Duro Canyon and Amarillo. Did you know historic U.S. Route 66 goes through Amarillo? Route 66 runs from Chicago through St. Louis, Claremore, OK, Flagstaff, AZ, and ends at the Pacific Coast near Santa Monica. Partly because it ran through Claremore (Will Rogers’ home area) and ended near his California 180-acre ranch, Rt. 66 was also known as the Will Rogers Highway. Also known as the Mother Road, it opened in 1926 and was decommissioned in 1985 because Interstates and other modern highways are safer and faster. About 85 percent of the historic route is still drivable.

Hereford, Texas, proclaims itself the “Beef Capital of the World.” When it comes to beef cows, calves, feedlots and anything related to cattle, Texas is the #1 state. West Texas produces about a fourth of all the cotton in the country. (Other major crops include corn, milo, alfalfa and wheat.) You may be surprised to know that the waste product from ginning cotton and cotton seed are great feed for cattle. Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin, but the person who figured out that “gin trash” and cotton seed are nutritious for cattle ranks right up there with the woman in Buffalo who discovered how to get people to pay for (almost) worthless chicken wings.

In this flat country, I saw more wind turbines than ever in my life. And in the same fields, dozens of oilwell pumpjacks operating. Imagine that. Old dependable fossil fuel and new energy from the same acres. But it was odd; even with a strong breeze, most of those modern windmills were barely turning. With everybody running air-conditioners they should have been going full speed.

A lot of people are moving to Texas, especially from California. About the only ones who have left the state are the Democrat Legislators. Now I would never pretend to advise a legislator. But flying to Washington on a party plane might not be the best choice. Suppose instead, they had driven to the Mexican border. They could have spread out from Brownsville to El Paso (of course only where there are gaps in the 30-foot wall), and crossed the Rio Grande to be safely in Mexico. They could have partnered with the cartels to get introduced to the hordes of immigrants before they crossed the river, and given each one a photo ID and a voter registration card. With 50,000 immigrants a week, that should get ‘em more voters than extending early voting by a few days. And getting more voters is why they left Texas in the first place.

Remember what Speaker Pelosi said about Obamacare, in 2010, “We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it.” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer topped her this weekend. He announced (paraphrased), “On Wednesday we’ll vote on Infrastructure. We have to pass the bill, then we’ll write it.”

The Biden Administration invited the United Nations to investigate racial policies in America. In their usual wisdom, the UN will send investigators from China, Venezuela and Russia. We already know what their report will say: It’s a terrible place to work and live for anyone who is not white. President Biden will skim over the report and ask his staff, “Haven’t we had over a million people come across our southern border in six months? We need to double that rate. And if they find out how racist we are, they’ll stop coming. We must keep that report secret!”

Now don’t be surprised if those UN investigators ask for asylum and to be sent to Texas.

Historic quotes by Will Rogers:

“If they just get more folks to working, there is no way to stop this country. Just quit listening to the politicians… Roosevelt ain’t going to ruin the country. The Constitution will remain as is.” WA #655, July 14, 1935

“Every gag I tell must be based on truth. No matter how much I may exaggerate it, it must have a certain amount of truth.” WA #65, March 9, 1924

“(Headed to) Las Vegas and the Boulder Dam. Water costs more than gold in this West.” DT #1899, Sept. 5, 1932

(I’m) on board the train at Amarillo, Texas, where the biggest oil fields in the World are.” DT #77, Nov. 8, 1926

Independence Day vs. Communist China Celebrations

America is celebrating our 245th year since the Declaration of Independence. Parades, concerts, flags, fireworks, and family picnics have us back close to a normal celebration.

The Biden Administration got in a pickle when they bragged that a picnic for 10 people would be 16 cents cheaper this year than in 2020. Maybe we should ignore the fact that last year Covid-19 kept us from even having a picnic. Saving 1.6 cents per person is a drop in the bucket compared to the higher cost of driving to the picnic.

By the way, our 2021 Fourth of July picnic for 10 is about $5 higher than in 2019. What Americans ought to be celebrating it that the entire meal costs less than $6 a person. Every year the American Farm Bureau calculates the cost. This picnic includes real meat (cheeseburgers, pork chops, chicken breasts). And potato salad, beans, strawberries, and fresh-squeezed lemonade. For dessert, ice cream and chocolate chip cookies. (I’m getting hungry just writing about it.)

This might be a good time to suggest that all current 2021 economic comparisons be made to two years ago. Life was “normal” in 2019. High employment, good wages, no shortages of food or toilet paper, and plenty to celebrate on the Fourth of July.

Back to our Independence Day. We celebrate. But no one forces us to celebrate. A mediocre athlete can steal the spotlight from the best two in her sport by dishonoring our flag and national anthem. A hundred people can come together to complain about unfair police actions, while being protected from those who disagree… by police.

While celebrating, we also argue and debate. The President is a Democrat and Congress is led by Democrats. Does that mean Republicans have to remain quiet for two years? Shucks, not even for two minutes.

China, meanwhile, is “celebrating” 100 years of Communism.

You won’t see anyone in China turning their back on their flag or wearing a shirt that says, ‘Impeach Xi Jinping.’ In China, like Russia, your criticism is your epitaph.

The Communist Dictator Xi Jinping announced in his “celebratory” speech that China will become #1 in the World and anyone who disagrees will suffer “broken heads and bloodshed.” If you believe this is just bluster and political jabbering, ask the Uighurs. And ask people in Taiwan and Hong Kong. Those two are “free” and produce 3 or 4 times as much per capita as does Communist China. But Xi is determined to bring them under his Communist rule, along with most of Africa.

If you don’t believe the part about busted heads and blood, you may not believe this either. In 100 years, the Communist Party in China has killed 40,000,000 to 80,000,000 of their own citizens. Mass starvation, being gunned down, poison, and diseases, including Covid. While we have lost 600,000 with Covid-19, China claims to have 4,636 deaths. In the country that created Covid and let it spread around the world. Sure.

So, if 95% of Chinese people are NOT Communists, why don’t they take back their country from the 5%? Well, unlike our colonists in 1776, those Chinese do not have muskets. No Colt 45s or AR-15s either.

Historic quotes by Will Rogers:

“There is a big communistic hold in certain parts of China. The influence is growing rapidly.” WA #520, Dec. 11, 1932

“The Chinese have the reputation, even among their friends, for being the most cruel nation in the world, even to their own people. If one is only going to get his head chopped off, he is tickled to death. That he (would be) unmercifully tortured before death is his fear.” WA #488, May 1, 1932

“And the speeches (on the Fourth)? Did you read them? Never was as much politics indulged in under the guise ‘freedom and liberty.’ There was 5 percent what George Washington did, and 95 percent what the speaker intended to do.” DT #2782, July 5, 1935