UP NOLAN CREEK: Will, we need you!
Sunday, 22 July 2012 by Wayne Carpenter
Some of us have already started reading Texas Football Magazine and are looking forward to football and cooler weather. As a diehard UT fan, I have never been fond of the Oklahoma Sooners, and I know there are Longhorn fans out there who argue the only good thing to ever come out of Oklahoma was Interstate 35 heading south, but even I must take issue with that statement. I believe one of Oklahoma's greatest gifts to the world was their favorite son, Will Rogers. After listening to the blather that passes for political discourse these days, I started thinking how wonderful it would be to have Will Rogers alive to bring a "big heapin' helping" of humor and common sense to our current state of affairs.
For those of you who may not be familiar with Will Rogers, the man who famously said "I never met a man I didn't like," he was one of the most gifted American entertainers of the last century. Rogers was born in 1879 in the Indian Territory on the Dog Iron Ranch and grew up riding and roping. Rogers was part Native American and always joked that his folks may not have come over on the Mayflower, but they were "there to meet the boat." He was an avid newspaper reader who dropped out of school in the tenth grade to be a full-time ranch hand. He developed a case of wander lust and sailed to Argentina to try out his ranching skills on the pampas. When that didn't pan out, he traveled to South Africa and then to Australia. Along the way he turned his roping skills into paying jobs working for circuses and traveling wild west shows. He eventually wound up in New York working in the Ziegfeld Follies where he discovered that audiences loved his Okie twang and sense of humor even more than his rope tricks. This lead him to Hollywood where he appeared in silent films before "talkies" made him an even bigger star. In the movies he usually played humorous, homespun characters reflecting his own personality. In addition, he began writing a weekly column for the New York TImes in 1922. He soon began writing a short, daily humor column carried by newspapers nationwide, and wrote numerous articles for popular magazines of the day such as The Saturday Evening Post.
Rogers began touring the nation giving lectures, drawing enthusiastic crowds in cities, as well as, small towns. He always assured his audiences that he was a "humorist", not just another annoying "lecturer". Always a keen observer of human nature, he quickly became disillusioned by the promises and pontifications of politicians. He claimed he was "not a member of any organized political party, he was a Democrat," but he often made light of the foibles of politicians of both parties. In 1928 he poked fun at the entire political system by running a mock campaign for president. He ran as the "bunkness" candidate for the so-called "Anti-Bunk" party. His campaign promise was to resign as soon as elected. However, many wanted Rogers to make an honest run for the presidency. Life Magazine started a serious movement to put his name on the ballot, and the efforts were supported by many of his loyal fans, including Henry Ford and Babe Ruth. Rogers, however, would have none of it stating he would "rather be right than president" and "a fool and his money are soon elected." After the 1928 election, he declared victory and "resigned" to the delight of his followers. When the depression hit in 1929, Rogers criticized the government for not doing enough to relieve the suffering of those who lost their jobs, homes, and farms. He organized and lead a nationwide tour raising a substantial amount of money for the Red Cross Relief Fund.
Sadly, Rogers was killed in a plane crash in 1935 at the height of his popularity. After his death, papers reported the biggest outpouring of public grief since the death of Abraham Lincoln. Many of Roger's statements ring just as true today as then. We have proven his idea that "you can't legislate intelligence and common sense," and on that note I'll heed a bit of his advice to politicians when he said "never miss a good opportunity to shut up!"