Remembering Will Rogers

We need another Will Rogers. The general malaise we feel toward our government today is a mirror of our discontent during the Great Depression of the 1930s, but the celebrated humorist/actor/writer/philosopher cheered us with his common sense humor. When a neighbor complained that he prayed to God but his crops failed, Rogers replied: "Your crops didn't need God. They needed manure." He was not antireligious but believed we should take care of our own responsibilities then ask the Deity to handle problems beyond our control. Rogers loved dogs. "If there are no dogs in heaven, then when I die I want to go to the place where they went."

The humorist meant it when he said "I've never met a man I didn't like," but he skewered bankers who demanded collateral with this jest." A bank is a place where you can borrow money, if you can prove you don't need it."

Golf was becoming popular. "In the old days, when the natives cursed and beat the ground with sticks, we called it witchcraft. Now we call it golf." He also commented, "golf has made liars out of more Americans than the income tax."

Will Rogers was a registered Democrat, attending national conventions as both columnist and delegate. However, he was not blind to his party's shortcomings. Republican conventions were sedate, dull and orderly. Democratic conventions were undisciplined affairs famous for raucous debates. "I am not a member of any organized political party," he said, emphasizing organized.

Madison Avenue became the center of the advertising industry during Roger's life. "Advertising is what makes us buy things we don't need with money we ain't got," he wrote.

He was proud of being part Native American. When a society lady gushed that her ancestors came over on the "Mayflower," he replied: "Heck, M'am my folks was here to meet "um."

Rogers was raised on an Oklahoma cattle ranch. Like most citizens of the Sooner State he loved to poke fun at his Texas neighbors." Never ask a man where he's from. If he's from Texas, he will tell you. If he ain't, don't embarrass him." He lampooned Texas weather. "It you've seen it rain twice in Texas, then you're old enough to vote."

Being raised on a ranch colored his thinking. This showed in his gentle, pointed advise to a politician who neglected his supporters." If you're ridin' ahead of the herd, take a look back every now and then to make sure it's still there." When the Harding Administration was embroiled in scandal and tried to control the damage, Rogers commented that "Lettin' the cat outta the bag is a whole lot easier'n puttin' it back in." He added succinct advise." When you're in a hole, stop diggin' "

His comments always accented the essential role ordinary citizens play in a democratic society. "We can't all be heros, because somebody must sit on the curb and applaud when they march by." Besides, "heroism is the shortest lived profession there is."

Some of his best advise was about ageing. "Some people want to turn back their odometers. Not me. I want people to know why I look this way. I've traveled a long way and some of the roads weren't paved." Other pertinent axioms: "I don't know how I got over the hill without gettin' to the top." And, "one of the many things no one tells you about ageing is that it is a nice change from being young. Being young is beautiful but being old is comfortable."

Instead of a recipe, I will obey another great line from Will Rogers. "Never pass up an opportunity to shut up."

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