Will Rogers' Weekly Articles

July 5, 1931 - Current

Jul 5, 1931

LIFE IS FULL OF THINGS —
BUT THEY DON’T MEAN ANYTHING

I guess I just get the usual amount of mail of anyone that writes junk for the papers, mostly people that sho don’t agree with anything you said in the papers, and showing you where you ought to be calling Hogs somewhere. But this week I got some interesting letters. One I sure was surprised to get was from Will Durant, a man that has studied Philosophy like Mr. Coolidge has Politics, and both have reached the heighth in their chosen professions.1 I met this Durant one time. He is an awful nice fellow. I don’t know much about what his “Racket” is, this Philosophy Gag.

He wanted me to write him and give him my version of “What your Philosophy of life is? I who have lived philosophy for many years turn now from it back to life itself, and ask you, as one who has lived, to give me your version. Perhaps the version of those who have lived is different from those who have merely thought. What keeps you going? What are the sources of your inspiration? and your energy? What is the goal or motive force of your toil? Where do you find your consolation and your happiness? Where is the last resort your treasure lies?”

A copy of this letter is being sent to Hoover, McDonald, Lloyd George, Mussolini, Marconi, Ghandi, Stalin, Trotsky, Tagore, Einstein, Edison, Ford, Eugene O’Neil, and Bernard Shaw, and three or four others that I had never seen in weeklys.2 Now I don’t know if this guy Durant is kidding me or not. If I got this kind of a letter from some body less I would say it’s a lot of “Hooey” and wouldent even finish reading it. But putting me in there with that class, why I figured I better start looking into this Philosophy thing. I think what he is trying to get at in plain words, (leaving all the Philosophy out) is just how much better off after all is an highly educated man, than a dumb one? So that’s how I figure is the way I got in that list. He knew that I was just as happy and contented as if I knew something, and he wanted to get the “Dumb” angle, as well as the highbrow.

That education is sorter like a growing town. They get all excited when they start to get an increase, and they set a civic Slogan of “Fifty Thousand by the end of next year.” Well that’s the Guy that sets a College education as his Goal. Then when they get the fifty thousand they want to go on to make it a Hundred, and the Ambitious College graduate wants to go on and make it a Post graduate in some line, figuring he will just be about as smart as anyone if he can just get that under his belt, and the Town thinking that the hundred thousand will just put them by all the other competing towns, not figuring that while they are growing that all the rest are doing likewise and maby faster. When they get to a half million New York will be twenty million, so they are no higher in the ladder comparitively than they were.

And the Educated Guy, he is the same. He finds when he gets his post graduate course that all the other Professors have got one too, and lots of ’em a half dozen. He begins to wonder if he hasent spent all this time wondering if he knows anything or not. He wishes he had took up some other line. He talks with an old broad minded man of the world of experience, and he feels lost. So I guess he gets to wondering what education really is, after all. For there is nothing as stupid as an educated man if you get off the thing that he was educated in.

Now here is a funny co-incidence in the same mail I got a letter from Old Man W. T. Waggoner.3 I expect the biggest Cattleman in Texas, and the also biggest oil Man. What a pleasure to read it, the real Philosophy of that old Cowman, two pages of life on a ranch. He was just rambling along, but every line full of pleasure and satisfaction. No learning in the world could have made him as smart as his life has made him.

Then right the same week comes one from Bill Hanley, of Oregon.4 You don’t have to tell the Northwest who Hanley is, any more than you do the southwest is who Waggoner is. I had read the most wonderful book of Hanley’s called, “Feeling Fine.” It’s got more real Philosophy in it than any book today. I am going to send one to Will Durant, and I want him to get this old Bird’s idea on a few things. It’s the story of his life, not as he has lived, but as he has observed. He shows you a lesson of every day life in every little animal or Bird we have. Lord, what a wonder he would be to lecture in a College to Boys. What confidence they would have in his knowledge. They would know that it come from a prairie and not from under a lamp.

An educated man just teaches the things that he has been taught, and it’s the same that everyone else has been taught that has read and studied the same books that he has. But if these old fellows like Waggoner know anything, it come direct to them by experience, and not by way of someone else. If I had Hanley’s knowledge I wouldent give it for even Secretary Hughes’ and Nicholas Murray Butler’s combined, (and I like ’em both personally and think they are great men).5 But I would know I knew something if I knew what one of these old Cattlemen knew, and if I was as smart as Hughes or Butler I would still be in doubt, because I would be educated so high that I would know that I only had a smattering of what I did have.

So I can’t tell this doggone Durant anything. What all of us know put together don’t mean anything. Nothing don’t mean anything. We are just here for a spell and pass on. Any man that thinks that Civilization has advanced is an egotist. Fords and bathtubs have moved you and cleaned you, but you was just as ignorant when you got there. We know lots of things we used to dident know but we don’t know any way to prevent ’em happening. Confucius perspired out more knowledge than the U. S. Senate has vocalized out in the last 50 years.

We have got more tooth paste on the market, and more misery in our Courts than at any time in our existence. There ain’t nothing to life but satisfaction. If you want to ship off fat beef cattle at the end of their existence, you got to have ’em satisfied on the range. Indians and primitive races were the highest civilized, because they were more satisfied, and they depended less on each other, and took less from each other. We couldent live a day without depending on everybody. So our civilization has given us no Liberty or Independence.

Suppose the other Guy quits feeding us. The whole thing is a “Racket,” so get a few laughs, do the best you can, take nothing serious, for nothing is certainly depending on this generation. Each one lives in spite of the previous one and not because of it. And don’t start “seeking knowledge” for the more you seek the nearer the “Booby Hatch” you get.

And don’t have an ideal to work for. That’s like riding towards a Mirage of a lake. When you get there it ain’t there. Believe in something for another World, but don’t be too set on what it is, and then you won’t start out that life with a disappointment. Live your life so that whenever you lose, you are ahead.

1William James “Will” Durant, American educator, writer, and philosopher; author of The Story of Philosophy (1926) and other bestselling works.
2James Ramsay MacDonald, prime minister of Great Britain from 1929 to 1935; Labour party leader.
David Lloyd George, British politician and statesman who served as prime minister of Great Britain from 1916 to 1922.
Benito Mussolini, founder and leader of the Fascist movement; dictator of Italy from 1922 to 1943.
Guglielmo Marconi, Italian electrical engineer and inventor, celebrated for his development of wireless telegraphy; co-recipient of the Nobel Prize in physics in 1909.
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, Indian political and spiritual leader, known as the Mahatma, or Great Soul; principal leader of the Indian struggle for independence from Great Britain.
Josef Stalin, Russian Communist leader who from 1927 until his death in 1953 ruled as a virtual dictator of the Soviet Union.
Leon Trotsky, Russian Communist leader who served in various posts in the Communist party and the Soviet government. Trotsky was expelled from the party in 1927 and banished from Russia two years later. He was assassinated in Mexico City in 1940.
Rabindranath Tagore, Indian author and guru who founded the internationally attended Visva-Bharati University; Tagore was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature in 1913.
For this and all other references to Albert Einstein see WA 429:N 6. Thomas Alva Edison, American inventor and scientist, famous for such innovations as the incandescent electric lamp, the phonograph, and the microphone.
Henry Ford, American automotive pioneer and innovator; founder of the Ford Motor Company; leading automobile manufacturer.
Eugene Gladstone O’Neill, celebrated American playwright; awarded the Pulitzer Prize in drama in 1920, 1922, and 1928 and the Nobel Prize in literature in 1936.
George Bernard Shaw, leading British playwright, novelist, and literary critic; recipient of the Nobel Prize in literature in 1925. Among his works are Pygmalion and Saint Joan.
3William Thomas Waggoner, Texas cattle baron and oilman whose W. T. Waggoner Ranch sprawled over six counties in northwestern Texas.
4William “Bill” Hanley, Oregon rancher and wit, noted for his homespun philosophy. Hanley was known as the “Sage of Harney County.”
5Charles Evans Hughes, chief justice of the United States Supreme Court from 1930 to 1941. In addition to holding other high governmental posts, Hughes served as secretary of state from 1921 to 1925. Nicholas Murray Butler, president of Columbia University from 1902 to 1945; Republican political leader; co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1931.

Jul 12, 1931

’TISN’T THE WEATHER!
IT’S THE REPARATIONS

Well, all I know is just what I read in the papers. The heat has just about knocked the news right out of everybody. California papers have had nothing in the world on every page and in every column, but the amount of people that were killed in other parts of the Country by the heat. All our deaths out here died from natural causes, but the ones anywhere else it was the heat. But I guess it has been pretty hot back where you folks live.

But Mr. Hoover pulled his debt canceling right in the midst of it.1 It wasent too hot for him to be thinking of something besides a cold drink. Now that may just be a mighty fine idea. It has already jumped the market up, and everybody got pretty excited over it. We are in such shape anyhow the last year and a half that we will jump at almost anything that is offered in the way of a scheme.

We know that nothing can do us any worse and we figure it might help, so we are liable to jump at things that after more quiet meditation we wouldent even monkey with. I don’t see how it could hardly effect anyone so greatly but Germany, for they are the only one that is saving anything. Germany owes France, England, Belgium, and I reckon Italy, (I don’t know what for, but I guess just on General principles.)

Well then, in turn each ones takes what Germany pays them and pays it to us, so when the debt is canceled for a year, that don’t mean anything to England, France, Belgium, and maybe Italy, for if Germany pays them nothing they pay us nothing. If Germany does pay them, they in turn turn around and pay us, so the money only passes through their hands anyhow. If it does pass they pay it out, and if it don’t they don’t, so what’s the answer? Why nobody is the loser or the winner, but Germany to be in a better position to buy from other Nations. But Germany makes or raises about everything they want anyhow, so they are not going to turn right around and spend all that they have saved. I imagine that the psychology of the thing is what makes it really acceptable than the actual figures in dollars and cents.

We lose 245 million that the Allies owe us, and 15 million that Germany pays us direct for the charge of the Army of occupation. They were to pay any one that wanted to send in an Army to occupy their Country after the war to remind them what an Allied Soldier looked like. Well that makes us lose 260 million. These are the real figures, (I just got them from “Time ”). That’s where all the authentic news comes from but we can afford to lose that much, for it takes more than that to do us any good, we are so far in the red that 260 million wouldent even stabilize our Liquor market.

But Mr. Hoover is dealing now in International problems, something that he knows something about, much more than the ordinary run of our Public men. He has fed these Nations before. This is not the first time he has fed ’em. That’s his business and he must know that the way things are going that Germany just can’t keep on paying. So it must have been to save a very delicate situation that he saw fit to do this. Of course it was not a new idea, it has been proposed a hundred times, in this and other ways, but it never was proposed by the man that had the authority to do it, even if it was a good idea.

Now what about the old Boys here on the home grounds? Well maby this thing will eventually reach him in some beneficial way. Lord knows what way but it may trickle down to him some day. Well the whole thing is beyond the understanding of us Dumb Birds anyhow, so just get back in your bead line and let it go.

A week or so ago we had it in our papers that Capone was broke.2 Well it was just like saying Mellon and Ford had taken two adjoining cots in the county poor farm.3 Capone broke ! ! !. We knew that depression had hit his Industry, but we had no idea that it had had such far-reaching effect. The Government is sending him to jail for illegally selling Liquor, and collecting a legal income tax on an illegal act.

If they can do that why can’t they make Robbers pay an income tax on what they received in loot? If you rob a Bank of 200 thousand, and they nab you, why can’t they in addition to sending you to jail make you pay an income tax on what you got away with?

They got records of Capone for all these years. But they dident get any of the Liquor, that is paying for it. I think that “Broke” gag is another Racket. He always did handle his money in cash all the time, so that Old Boy has got dough piled a lot of his different Distilliers and Brewery’s. You know what they tell you in Chicago?

The men that know they say that when you get Capone Liquor from some supernumary of his, that if you find any kick with it, that is too poor quality, he is more than glad to take it back and make it good. They say that he is more reliable in his methods than even the great Marshall Field store.4 He prides himself on a high class organization. Well it would be too bad if it stopped while he was in Jail, for a thing like that ought to be perpetuated.

1Hoover proposed on June 20, 1931, a one-year moratorium on World War I reparations and war debts to ease the financial chaos in Europe.
2For this and all further references to Scarface Al Capone see WA 436:N 2.
3For Andrew W. Mellon see WA 440:N 9; for this and all further references to Henry Ford see WA 445:N 2.
4Marshall Field, Chicago mercantile magnate and philanthropist whose household and dry goods business, Marshall Field & CO., dominated the Chicago retail market. His main department store on Adams Street contained more than thirty acres of floor space. He died in 1906.

Jul 19, 1931

‘SLOW POKE’ JULES VERNE

Well, all I know is just what I read in the papers. And this hot weather the last few weeks, every paragraph is prostration. Then come the fourth a couple of weeks ago, and that with it’s fire cracker, drownings, and auto accidents just about got what the heat had left.

But if things don’t pick up it don’t make much difference anyhow. But they seem to think this debt thing is going to help some of ’em out—some of ’em. Well, it’s kinder lonesome around the Rogers ranch (not really a ranch, but we call it that; it sounds big, and don’t really do any harm). Mrs. Rogers and Mary, that’s the daughter that just become a young lady right while I was looking at her, she turned eighteen and I swear it don’t seem ten.1

I was playing in a vaudeville theatre in Houston, Texas. It was the opening matinee, and I got the telegram of her arrival. She was with her mother, and her mother was at her old home at Rogers, Arkansas. A beautiful little town in the edge of the Ozarks, and that wonderful White River, great summer resort all around there. We didn’t have any home, we was just living in theater dressing rooms, and raised in trunks. That was before I knew there was such a thing as a Ziegfeld Follies.2

The act then was mostly roping, and a good deal of jokes, in fact the same one I am still using. Roosevelt was my best bet in those days.3 He was the best known public man that ever lived, and they kept up with everything that he did, so when you started in talking about something that he had just said or done, you didn’t have to stop to tell what it was before going ahead with your comment. Our public men nowadays haven’t got near as much color as the ones then had. People are not interested enough in the ones nowadays to read what they are doing, which generally they ain’t. But they are pretty able I guess at that.

But what I started out to say was that Mary and her mother have gone on a little trip over to Honolulu. Mary had heard that the dance orchestras over there were especially good so she wanted to make sure. I was working on a movie and couldn’t get away.

I would like to go to that Honolulu some time. I just come by there one time many years ago, on my way from Australia. But I do hate that boat trip. If I could fly over I would go tomorrow. If I could get this Gatty and Post to take me over.4 Those boys did a great job, didn’t they? I wish I could have gone to Oklahoma when they welcomed them there. They asked me to come. I would like to meet them, and the old fellow that backed the trip.5 It will be a long time before that record is beat. You won’t get another combination like that.

Such a navigator, and such a flyer, and they can’t get any better ship. Just think! Clear around the world with one motor. Then you find people that are afraid to go up for an hour with three motors. How in the deuce did they do about all that loss of sleep? Lord, if I miss two hours sleep I am dopy for the next day or so. I would have gone to sleep right in some Russian Reception Committee’s whiskers, and when it would have come time to get up and take off again, I would have left the record remain with Jules Verne in 80 days and even that was imagination.6 Poor old Jules, he must have had a relapse when he heard them flying over his grave.

We hear a lot now about the world becoming little, but I tell you it’s plenty big yet. It will be a long time before we know much more about each other than we do now. And I guess it will be just as well we don’t. Just think of those boys flying away up in Siberia. That’s where we used to see the pictures of these wolves jumping up at those sleighs, and the horse had something like a high yolk up over his neck.

Well, these old boys got enough altitude that no old wolf couldn’t jump at them. You know, too, these Russians were mighty nice to these boys, when you consider that we don’t give them much the best of it. We think they are running their country cockeyed, and I guess it’s mutual, at least it should be.

Now don’t get the idea that a plane is new in Russia, for they have a fine aviation system. I made a little part of this trip that these boys made. That was, I flew from London to Berlin, then to Moscow in 1926. They made practically the same jump, and when I landed in the afternoon in Moscow in a commercial plane, single motor, I was the only passenger, and the air was full of planes training, and we had to circle the field several times before we got the signal to land. Now that was five years ago.

I bet these boys saw many a plane in Russia. They have aviation societies over there that are maintained by the members not the government. They all throw in a small sum each and that goes to buy planes and fields and training flyers. It’s a patriotic thing like we donate to our Red Cross or some other charity. You know those rascals along with all their cookee stuff, have got some mighty good ideas. If just part of ’em work they are going to be hard to get along with. Just think of everybody in a country going to work. I don’t mean just like the ones that want to work, but I mean everybody.

What they mean by working is to produce something, to be of some benefit to the whole community. Just look at the millions of us here that tonight we haven’t done a thing today that helps the country, or that helps anybody. We have just gone along and lived off of it, and we are just “lousy” with satisfaction of ourselves, just think what we could do over here if we ALL worked.

Don’t get scared. I am not putting this in as a plan. But we must admit that other things being equal the nation that works and saves and don’t let the profits go into the hands of a few thousand or million men, they are going to be dangerous competitors. We can’t just laugh it off. We prospered for years on nothing but our natural resources. Well, they have got twice as much of anything as we ever had before we used it up.

It’s a terrible way to live, and do, but you can’t beat hard work, sacrifice, and unlimited resources. It’s liable, if it does just even half way work out, to have us winging on our foreign trade. But that’s for Mr. Hoover and Pat Hurley to worry about.7 I am sleepy, goodnight.

1Mary Amelia Rogers, only daughter of Will and Betty Rogers, graduated from a Beverly Hills college preparatory school in June of 1931. For this and further references to Betty Blake Rogers see WAS 435:N 1.
2Florenz “Flo” Ziegfeld, Jr., American theatrical producer, best known for the elaborately-staged Ziegfeld Follies. First produced in 1907, these musical revues featured a troupe of beautiful chorus girls and many of the leading stage performers of the day. Rogers performed in the Follies from 1916 to 1925.
3For this and all further references to Theodore Roosevelt see WA 432:N 3.
4Wiley Hardman Post, Oklahoma aviator who won the national Air Race for longdistance flight in 1930 and also set records for around-the-world and stratospheric flights. Harold Charles Gatty, Australian navigator who began his study of aerial navigation after his arrival in the United States in 1927. In the summer of 1931, Post and Gatty broke the record for an around-the-world flight, setting a mark of eight days, fifteen hours, and fifty-one minutes.
5Post and Gatty were financed in their venture by Florence C. Hall, an Oklahoma oilman and aviation enthusiast who had employed Post for several years as an executive pilot.
6Jules Verne, French novelist and originator of modern science fiction. Verne wrote a series of romances of extraordinary journeys, including Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (1870) and The Tour of the World in Eighty Days (1870).
7For Pat Hurley see WA 440:N 9.