Thursday, August 9, 2012
The wit and wisdom of Will Rogers
“…All I know is what I read in the papers
and that’s an alibi for my ignorance”
I am a big Will Rogers fan. Although he died before I was born, he was somewhat of a hero in my family. One of the reasons being that he and my dad shared diluted Cherokee roots and had the same down-to-earth political philosophies. They both had an ‘ah-shucks’ demeanor and a dry sense of humor that would take the edge off any controversial subject from the media to politics or religion.
Rogers was born in 1879 in Oologah, Indian Territory (now known as Oklahoma). My dad, however, was born in Missouri (pronounced Missourah) at the turn of the 20th century. But he always considered himself an Okie like Rogers and never forgot his roots—both were practical, intelligent men of honor and good will. As a man in the business world, my dad’s word was gold.
Rogers became a world famous figure, respected for his humorous truths. He was adored by the American people and known as Oklahoma’s favorite son. His career as a humorist, columnist and radio personality evolved from humble beginnings. As a boy he loved horses and wanted to be a cowboy so he learned to use a rope and lariat. For a time, he and a friend worked as gauchos in Argentina until he became a trick roper with “Texas Jack’s Wild West Circus.”
From there, he moved into vaudeville. Eventually he was discovered by Hollywood and made 48 silent movies before appearing in dozens of feature films. He even has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. An avid newspaper reader, he later toured the country’s lecture circuit and the New York Times syndicated his weekly newspaper column from 1922-35. During that time he also traveled the world, dabbled in politics, wrote books and became a radio broadcaster.
Sadly, Rogers died at the age of 55 on August 15, 1935. He was in a small airplane with aviator Wiley Post, when it crashed as they returned from Alaska. Aviation was in its infancy and Post was surveying a mail-passenger air route to Russia. Rogers was in search of new material for his newspaper column. Fortunately, his humor remains as relevant as if it were written yesterday.
So on this summer day as we near the anniversary of his death, I’m going to let Will Rogers take over my column. Sit back and enjoy the common sense of an Oakie who influenced common folks, people in high places, clergy and politicians. Nearly 77 years after his death, Rogers’ wisdom and witticisms still apply. Here’s Will!
"There are three kinds of men:
The ones that learn by reading.
The few who learn by observation.
The rest of them have to touch an electric fence."
“I read about eight newspapers in a day. When I’m in a town with only one newspaper, I read it eight times.”
“If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went.”
"Lettin' the cat out of the bag is a lot easier than puttin' it back in."
'The only problem with Boy Scouts is, there aren't enough of them."
“Everything is funny as long as it is happening to someone else.”
"People who fly into a rage always make a bad landing."
"Even if you are on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there."
"Everything is changing. People are taking the comedians seriously and the politicians as a joke."
“It isn’t what we know that gives us trouble; it’s what we know that ain’t so.”
"A fool and his money are soon elected.”
“Politics has become so expensive that it takes a lot of money to be defeated.”
"Americans will feed anyone that's not close to them."
"Our foreign policy is an open book—a checkbook."
"I belong to no organized party. I'm a Democrat."
“Democrats never agree on anything, that’s why they’re Democrats. If they agreed with each other, they would be Republicans.
"The income tax has made more liars out of Americans than golf.”
"Everybody says this here thing we're involved in ain't a real war. Congress says it ain't a war. The President says it ain't a war. 'Course the guys over here getting shot at say it's the best damned imitation they ever saw."
"One sure certainty about our Memorial Days is that as fast as the ranks from one war thin out, the ranks from another take their place. Prominent men may run out of Decoration Day speeches, but the world never runs out of wars. People talk peace, but men give up their life's work to war.”
"If stupidity got us in this mess, why can't it get us out?"
“When I die, my epitaph, or whatever you call those signs on gravestones, is going to read: ‘I joked about every prominent man of my time, but I never met a man I dident like.’ I am so proud of that, I can hardly wait to die so it can be carved.” (Note: ‘dident’ was a Rogers’s colloquialism.)
Betty Kaiser’s Chatterbox is about people, places, family, and other matters of the heart.