January 1, 1933 - Current
WE GOT SOME FINE STATES
Well all I know is just what I read in the papers, or what I see here and there. Well we finally all of us about got X-mas out of our hair. Our little troop of children come ganging in here from the four corners. Got one boy, Bill Jr., the oldest, at the University of Arizona, a very fine school, well liked and spoken of by everybody that knows about it. You know that Arizona is going to really be understood and get somewhere some day. It and New Mexico, they are similar in lots of respects, but they are different from all the other states. They have great climates; almost any kind you like. They have a romance in history that out dates anything we have in our whole country, and there is just enough Indians to keep the whole thing respectable.
IN OUR COUNTRY
They are both states that kinder wear well on you. Don’t just look out of the train and condemn ’em. It just looks like nothing couldent live by looking out of a sleeper window. They built those railroads through the mangiest parts, so it wouldent spoil the good land. You know you can just look out of taxicab windows in parts of New York City and wonder what people live on, the same as you can in Arizona. There is many a canyon in N.Y. where the grass is short, and it looks like people packed their grub a long ways. Ah, but, darn it, there is some great country everywhere.
There is a fine comedy picture out that shows what would happen if a bunch of people received a million dollars apiece. Well now just suppose that by some good chance you did fall heir to a nice little nest egg, and you wanted to go somewhere and build you a home, a farm, or a ranch, and you dident previously have any particular place or ties that bound you to one locality. I tell you if you was to have a good car and the money to travel on, and also to build the place when you found it, you would be absolutely “nuts” before you settled down. We havent got a state in our whole Union but what has some great advantages that no other state possesses.
New England, the most beautiful place in the summer time, and for those that like their snow it’s fine all the year round. Up state New York is great. All the Middle West, with its rolling prairies and big grain farms. The Northwest, just anything in the way of scenery you want, any crops, any views. The whole Pacific Coast and its adjoining mountainous states. California, the Chamber of Commerce will take that up with you. But Nevada, there is a state that should be given a whole paragraph on its own. Mining and stock raising! There is two bunches of folks that just “anybody” don’t fit in with. They are kinder the aristocracy of labor. Nevada has a freedom and an independent spirit that is slowly reaching out all over our land. Utah is a great state and those Mormons are fine substantial citizens. Colorado is our grand stand seat to see our world from.
Texas? It’s too big to be even under Jim Ferguson.1 Texas has got everything that any other state has and then “Ma” and “Jim” besides. Oklahoma? A lack of vocabulary is all that stops me. I should have stayed in Oxford another year to really have done justice to Oklahoma. Alfalfa Bill Murray has taken what was once just a prairie dog town and he has populated it with emigrants from every political faith known to mankind.2 Why there is Republicans who live so high up in them skyscrapers of Tulsa and Oklahoma City that they ain’t been down to the ground since November eighth. Wilder than the Zulus in Africa. Bill has put a bounty on ’em now, and we are either going to house break ’em or yoke ’em up to a gentle Republican and bring ’em in. Kansas lays to our north, and there she lays, and you can never tell what she is laying for. It’s got more good newspapers and less people that can read ’em than almost any place. They can read the politics, but they never was taught to read anything else cause there wasent nothing else in Kansas.
Old Missouri? Some mighty poor farms but mighty good schools. You can learn something, but you can’t raise much. Boonville, (Kemper Military Academy) one of the finest Military schools anywhere. I was two years there, one year in the guard house, and the other in the fourth reader. One was about as bad as the other. Great old educator there, T. A. Johnston.3 Famous and deservedly so. Neosho, Mo? The school I went to there has blown up, and I did all I could while there to assist it in doing so. Lots of politics in Missouri. Wherever you find poor soil you will always find politics. When you see you ain’t going to raise anything, you just sit down at the end of the row and cuss the party in power. There is a lot of fertile ground in that historical old state too, but it’s from the limestone ridges where the long winded old congressmen come from.
Arkansaw’ scenery, vacation land, fertility, beautiful women. I traded a wagon bed full of hickory nuts for one of the prettiest ones in the state at Rogers, Ark., twenty four years ago. I expect with the depression on like it is, a gunnysack full would get you one now. But not as good one as I got. Arkansaw has got a lot of gallantry mixed in with their good sense too. They got the only bonifide lady senatoress in captivity. She is a conscientious sensible little woman; Hattie Caraway, and Wall Street don’t know her address.4
Was you ever down in Long Valley?5 There is a wonderful, beautiful, poetical valley along the length of our great Mississippi River. Cities, beautiful prosperous ones, hanging moss from century old trees. Charming and delightful people in this valley. It’s not called Long Valley on any of your maps, it’s labelled Lousiana. But “Long Valley” is a much more beautiful name and every time election rolls around, the people signify the fact by writing “Long” from the top to the bottom of their ticket. You would love “Long Valley.” It’s a paradise. Some famous old poem was laid there among its people.6 I don’t just remember whether it was Ivanhoe or Gunga Din but it was a good one. Oh I wish I had time to go over all those old states. I been in all of ’em. I love ’em. Each as I said has got something. Something different. Look at Mississippi, with Pat Harrison and the state sales tax.7 Not a senator. He is an institution. But I’ll get into the others later.
1James Edward “Jim” Ferguson, Democratic governor of Texas from 1915 until his impeachment and removal from office in 1917 for misappropriation of state funds and other misdeed. He remained an important figure in Texas politics, strongly influencing the gubernatorial administrations of his wife, Ma Ferguson (see WA 519:N 2).
2For Alfalfa Bill Murray see WA 442:N 1.
3For Thomas A. Johnston see WA 516:N 4.
4Hattie Wyatt Caraway, Democratic United States senator from Arkansas from 1933 to 1945; widow of Senator Thaddeus H. Caraway (see WA 465:N 3).
5The Long family, including Huey P. Long, dominated Louisiana politics for several decades.
6Rogers was probably referring to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s narrative poem “Evangeline,” which chronicles the lives of French-speaking inhabitants of early Louisiana.
7For Pat Harrison see WA 465:N 2.
SERMON TO A PREACHER BY
A preacher named Rev. Grant, of Simpson Methodist Church, of Minneapolis, Minn., wrote me, “I am speaking on you and your life’s pholosophy at a Sunday evening vesper service, in our great Church of two thousand members.1 Is there any word of greeting? I would appreciate it.
JUST A “COMEDIAN”
Yours, A. Raymond Grant, Pastor.”Well the same night I answered his letter I had to write my weekly Sunday article. So I couldent see why one “greeting” or “alabi” wouldent do for both. He had been mighty nice and I appreciated it. So I got strung out and in my long winded way, I sounded like a preacher without a stop signal. I wrote:
“Dear Rev. Grant: I got your letter saying you was ‘speaking on me,’ but you dident say why? There is an awful lot of different ways to speak on me, and all of ’em be pretty near true at that.
My life has got more angles than a cat. You may be one of these Republicans, (as most of the Ministers have gone into politics). You may be one that blamed me for electing Mr. Roosevelt, or you might be one of those Democrats who blamed me for electing Mr. Hoover four years ago.
This is kinder the public season to jump on me if anything has gone wrong, everything from a scarcity of skunk hides in the Northwest to a predominating amount of girl babies in Pennsylvania. You see, Rev. Grant, I think I am as independent as any one writing. I have as many Republican as Democratic papers, as many readers that can’t read as can. The editorial policies of these great dailies mean nothing to me, I am going to call ’em like I see ’em.
I think I have complimented many a worthy thing in my time, and I have taken a shot at a lot of “hooey,” I am not against it mind you, as it just seems that it takes so much of it in every business. And they are all my friends, I am proud of the fact there is not a human being that I have got it in for. I never met a man I dident like.
I got no “Philosophy.” I don’t even know what the word means. The Fourth Reader, (McGuffy’s) is as far as I ever got in schools.2 I am not bragging on it, I am thoroughly ashamed of it for I had every opportunity. Everything I have done has been by luck, no move was premeditated. I just stumbled from one thing to another. I might have been down. I dident know at the time, and I don’t know yet, for I don’t know what “Up” is. I may be lower than I ever was, I don’t know. I may be making the wrong use of any little talent (if any) that I accidentally have. I don’t know.
I was raised predominately a Methodist, but I have traveled so much, mixed with so many people in all parts of the world, I don’t know now just what I am. I know I have never been a non-be-liever. But I can honestly tell you that I don’t think that any one religion is the religion.
If I am broadminded in any way (and I hope I am in many) but I do know that I am broadminded in a religious way. Which way you serve your God will never get one word of argument or condemnation out of me. There has been times when I wished there had been as much real religion among some of our creeds as there has been vanity, but that’s not in any way a criticism.
I feel mighty proud that you will discuss me in your tebernacle. The joke is more on you than on me. I thought the only time I would ever make the pulpit as a conversational subject was when I finished, and then only by one minister who’s charges for kind words would be deducted from the estate.
I feel like I did the other day when they told me I was in the British “Who’s Who.” There was no way I could sue ’em or make ’em retract, and there is no way to keep you from gabbing around about anything you like. I heard a fellow preach one time on Jesse James, the outlaw, and I left the Church wanting to hold up everything and everybody I run into.
So if you are such a persuasive preacher, you are liable to turn out a flock of Swedish comedians up around Minneapolis. Don’t make the life too rosy, for with the politicians horning in, our comedian business is overcrowded as it is. I preached one time in a church in Cleveland, Ohio. But the collection dident warrant me carrying it on as a steady profession. Preaching should not only be done by a preacher, but by a man like Gandi, who can do fasting when necessary. Minneapolis has always been one of my pet cities, they have been good to me on every occasion I was ever there. They have not only laughed at me, but paid to laugh at me.
Love to all your congregation, including the ones that are not paid up, it’s just hard times, they mean well, Parson. They got just as much religion as the paid up ones, so you will just have to trust ’em, and give ’em a little preaching “on time.”
You see preaching is one of the few things that folks have never been able to dole out exactly what it’s worth anyhow. Some preachers ought to pay admission to get into the church themselves, but as rule preachers do a mighty good job and are underpaid.
But there is a lot of dignity about the clerical (newspaper) profession that you would have to work for years for in any other line. But you are sympathetic, useful, instructive, and the most worthwhile profession ever invented.
I wish your church a happy and charitable ’33, or any other years. No use being stingy in our wishes. Pick out as many years as you want and I will wish you good luck with all of ’em.
Yours, Will.1Alsie Raymond Grant, pastor of Simpson Methodist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota, from 1931 to 1933; Methodist bishop at Portland, Oregon, from 1952 until his death in1967.
2For William H. McGuffey see WA 475:N 6.
FOOTBALL, BRALE, AND POLITICSWell all I know is just what I read in the papers and what I see here and there. Well sir, last week I went out to our “Rose Bowl” to see a great football game. Our Rose Bowl is down in a rocky hollow; there is not a rose in a mile of it, but they do replace their roses with some mighty finely developed football players.
Pittsburgh come out here twice before and run second and it naturally was a hard blow to the boys to get such a beating again but say they dident get near that bad beating; they made a great showing. They were as game a bunch of boys as you ever saw. They had two ends that were in the Southern California territory so much that Coach Howard Jones1 wanted to put California Sweaters on 'em.
Then they had a halfback named Heller, that was really that.2 But they just happened to come on a bad year. This guy named Howard Jones out here can coach. He could take me for three weeks and have me throwing Red Grange for a loss.3 And then California had a great team. A lot of the things we brag on out here is the hooey, but I want to tell you that this football team of U.S.C. is a pip. Pasadena put on their marvelous parade in the morning. They always do a great job of it.
Now, that’s enough about California, what about the rest of the Country? That fellow Hiram Johnson, our senator from out here, made a great speech in the Senate on the war debts a few days ago.4 Now there is a fellow that has always had the dope on a lot of our international affairs.
Hoover has always had an international learning, his life, his work, have always been of a European angle. Well Johnson seems to have always known that, and he has always had a bunch of facts to bring out at various times that just showed how the ball was rolling. And right in the middle of the argument up pops Borah, and brings out something that a lot had heard all the time, that was that there was some kind of an understanding between Lavalle and us.5 But what does most of us know about those debts? You could argue ’em till they are paid and you wouldent get it straightened out. There never was a debt that wasent at some time or another missunderstood. Every debt, be it personal, or any other kind always winds up in one side feeling they got the worst of it. So debts are sorter like “Why are you a Democrat?”, or “What ever induced you to be a Republican?” So we will leave the debts to those that can really settle ’em.
Say, by the way, I got the finest letter tonight. It was from a blind girl, and she sent me one of my Sunday articles and it was all written out in Braille. She said the article had impressed her and she wanted it handed around in her own language. Well, by golly, I sure did appreciate that.
She sent me also the alphabet. It has all the dots, (peruf-u-u) I can’t speel the thing. I mean it had the dots punched pretty near through with something, and it leaves a raised part that they can feel of with their sensi- tive fingers. And just read it right off.
I must write to my friend Helen Keller about this article being all pushed through like that.6 You know I don’t know how long that system of writing has been out. It may have been before the Nobel Prize was given for outstanding achievement, but Braille or whoever she was sure should have had that prize.7 It undoubtedly stands out as the greatest benefit to a handicapped people. Gosh, think of helping the world like that.
I prize it very highly. It was translated by Nellie Conger of Coshocton, Ohio, and says: “Presented to Will Rogers, the man who always writes the truth as he sees it.” I wish I had time to try to learn to read that. I can imagine nothing more fascinating. But I never have had time to learn to read our other kind for the ones with sight.
Still getting straggling X-mas cards, mostly sent out I think by folks that found they had a few left over. But they were mighty welcome I tell you. Just on first thought a X-mas card don’t mean much, but the older you get the more you like to open ’em and know that someone has remembered you.
Just got a beautiful pamphlet of the “Big Bend” Country down in Texas on the border, between El Paso and San Antonio. I doubt if America holds a more interesting place, and for you guys that like to hunt, my goodness, there is your star spot.
You talk about some wild old country. Well, that is about the wildest of the wild we got left, outside of the cities. Old Fort Davis must be one of the greatest of our old time forts. And smuggling back and forth across that line, why there is more danger, excitement and romance there than anywhere.
Anywhere around where there is some Mexicans mixed up in it always interested me. I think I like a Mexican because he can rope, or lasso as you would call it. They are the best in the world. We beat ’em in a contest at one thing. But in the brush or out in the open on all kinds of roping, they are the daddy’s.
Well, I guess Mr Hoover is not going to take my advice and resign. He has had worse advice than that during his term. I talked the other day here at the ranch about that very thing with Mr McAdoo, and Mr George Creel.8 Mr Creel is one of our foremost writers, he was ahead of all the writers of ours during the war. He had complete charge. He has a lot of humor in his stuff along with his vast sums of knowledge.
He and Mr McAdoo both admitted that it would have been a great thing to have done and would have put the Democrats in the hole, but there is just something about that being President, or even trying to be President, that once it’s in your system it never gets out till you are carried out. But I still claim it would have made him a bigger man. He hasent got a chance with this bunch in there now. He is too conscientious, hard-working a man to have to put up with two more months of this. He is just like being in the pest house, those Senate and House hyenas won’t even bring him food and water.
1For Howard H. Jones see WA 433:N 5.
2Warren Heller, running back for the University of Pittsburgh football team from 1930 to 1932; All-America player in 1932.
3Harold Edward “Red” Grange, star football halfback at the University of Illinois from 1922 to 1925. Grange later played professional football, notably with the Chicago bears from 1926 1934.
4Hiram Warren Johnson, United States senator from California from 1917 until his death in 1945. Johnson belonged to the progressive wing of the Republican party.
5For Pierre Laval see WA 463:N 1.
6Helen Adams Keller, famous American author and lecturer, blind from the age of two. She lectured throughout the United States, Europe, and Asia, raising funds for the training of blind and promoting other social causes.
7Louis Braille, nineteenth century French musician and teacher of the blind. Baille devised a raised-point system of writing for sight-impaired persons.
8For William G. McAdoo see WA 494:N 5. George Edward Creel, American journalist, government administrator, politician, and author. During World I, Creel headed the Committee on Public Information, the federal government’s office of wartime propaganda.