July 3, 1932 - September 25, 1932
WILL GOES BOOKISHWell all I know is just what I read in the papers and what little I get from just the names and taking little glances in books. You know I am the “durndest” fellow. People send me more books. Now I am 52 years old, sound of body, but weak of mind, and I never did read hardly any books. Oh ever once in awhile I will hear ’em all blabbing about one so much till I try to take time off and read one.
Now, that “Good Earth” I read that, and quite a little on the boat going over to Japan.1 Floyd Gibbons had a couple of trunks with nothing in but books, well, he would tell me some that I should read, and he would give ’em to me and I would read ’em a little. I like to read but I don’t have any time. If I got any spare time I like to go on a horse and ride around, or sit and blather with somebody.
I am an awful windy old talker and my wife says I bore more people than I entertain. She says I can do more talking away from home, and less at home than anybody, for then I bog down and get my nose in a paper. I do lots of paper reading. If I had put all my paper reading into books I might have been pretty well read but this book thing I am so far behind there is no use trying to catch up now. My oldest boy, Bill, is the book hound of the family. He is always reading something and he can remember it, too. Even if I read a book, I forget even the name of it.
But this is not what I would recommend to anybody else, for there is some mighty fine stuff in books, and some of the ones coming out now, I bet there is some good ones. Hard times, poverty, then is when the fellows can write their soul. Even if some of us could write we couldent do it, our stomachs are too full while we are not doing any too good, at the same time we are eating too much, and taking things too easy. We are satisfied, I get some awful nice personally autographed books. Lots of ’em from writers I don’t know. Just like I could mention some movie star or cowman that they wouldn’t know. But lots of these are evidently well known, and have written lots of things. It gives names of ’em on the fly leaves, and then lots of ’em are my friends that autograph ’em to me.
Well what I mean is that I don’t sit down and write ’em and thank ’em like I ought to. I appreciate the books and prize my collection very highly, but I know that sometimes they must think I am a fine mess that they don’t hear from me about it. Well, they ought to just know what a poor hand I am at writing. About twice a year I will have batches of letters pile up that I keep saying I will answer, and maybe I do and I send ’em off and get lots of ’em back saying the people are dead.
People write too much, anyhow, write too many letters, too many books, too much in papers. Papers would be twice as good if they was half as big. Books twice as good if they was 50 percent less, and the ones left half as thick. And letters, 90 percent of them are written for no reason whatever. It just looks like anybody that can dig up a stamp just feels like it will spoil if they keep it. They must get it off on a letter right away.
But I started out telling about books. Why just tonight out here at the ranch, six or eight books are here on my desk, not in my “Den” but in my “Dump.” My old friend McAdoo, W.G. sent me his with a very much treasured written words to me, “Crowded Years.”2 Well, I have heard it’s one of the best of the autobiographies. I read snatches of it when I can, and like it immensely. Then Warden Lawes of Sing Sing, a friend of mine, I played up there for ’em one time, and went all through and they all seemed to know my old mug from the pictures, and the Warden said I was better known in prison than out.3 Well that book of his is a fine one. His book on Sing Sing is a very best seller. Tonight’s batch is one by Ernest Kinyoun Hutchinson, “Science with a Smile.”4 I been glancing over it here and it reads mighty interesting. Then here is one by a lady (evidently) autographed to the Rogers family, “In the Land of Bah” by Elizabeth Berger Nicholson, it’s poetry.5 I can’t even read writing much less poetry, but I’ll bet it’s good.
“The Inside Story of the Harding Tragedy,” autographed with “Respects from the Undersigned, Henry L. Daugherty.”6 Well I was so durn sore at those other Harding books, and it’s funny how some people fell for that junk. Now look at old Means the other day.7 He was the author of one of ’em, and got twenty-five years for swindling Mrs. McLean out of that money on the Lindbergh baby case.8 And they took a book that he would write seriously?
“Only Yesterday” by Frederick Lewis Allen is another I been reading in it.9 It’s everything that’s happened since Armistice. I just read the chapters on the stock market of the days of October 24, 28 and 29, 1929, and statements by prominent men during it. Honest you wonder sometimes how they got prominent. Then that little book called “Yeah,” that’s a Darb, that’s the cleverest thing yet. It makes no comment it just pegs these big birds. And they have maintained the steadiest average you ever saw. They have been just 100 per cent wrong ever since it started.
Then here tonight is a pile of literature about South Africa. They dident know I was all over every foot of it with a circus, but I am going back there some day, and see it in comfort. Then here is one called the “Caballeros” by Ruth Laughlin Baker.10 It’s California in the early days, a great field for interesting and romantic writing. This one reads mighty interesting. It’s about horses. I may read it plum through. I’ll write you all some book reviews some time and keep you all posted on what the ignorant man should read. That’s enough writing for tonight. People write too much anyhow.
P.S. Then the best book of this or all time is “The Old Texas Trail Drives” by George Saunders, of San Antonio.11 I think it’s published there. Each one tells his own experience in his own way. Two hundred original authors in one book. Don’t miss it. That’s the “Will Rogers Book of the Month” selection.
1The Good Earth, Pearl Buck’s best-selling novel about life in China. The 1931 work won a Pulitzer Prize.
2For William G. McAdoo see WA 494:N 5.
3Lewis Edward Lawes, American penologist; warden of Sing Sing Prison in New York from 1920 to 1942; author of works on prisons and penology, including 20,000 Years in Sing Sing (1932).
4Ernest Kinyoun Hutchinson, an unidentified writer.
5Elizabeth Berger Nicholas, California author whose collections of poetry, In the Long of Bah, was published in Los Angeles in 1932.
6Harry Micajah Daugherty, United States attorney general from 1921 to 1924. Daugherty was tried for conspiracy in the scandals of the Harding administration but was acquitted. He was coauthor with Thomas Dixon of The Inside Story of the Harding Tragedy (1932).
7Gaston Bullock Means, American detective and convicted swindler who was a leading witness in the investigation of the Harding administration scandals.
8Evalyn Walsh McLean, American gold mining heiress and society hostess; wife of Edward Beale “Ned” McLean, owner and publisher of the Washington Post. She paid $100,000 to Gaston Means at the time of the Lindbergh kidnapping (see WA 482:N 5) in hopes that his contacts might lead to the recovery of the child. Excessive publicity and Means’ conviction on a grand larceny charge were the only results.
9Frederick Lewis Allen, American editor and author; associate editor of Harper’s Magazine from 1931 to 1941; author of Only Yesterday (1931) and Since Yesterday (1940).
10Ruth Laughlin Barker, American archaeologist and writer. She wrote Caballeros, a history and romantic travel guide of New Mexico, as well as articles for the New York Times and the Christian Monitor pertaining to Spanish influences in the Southwest.
11George W. Saunders, San Antonio cattleman and livestock commission dealer. An early trail driver, Saunders organized the Trail Drivers Association and served as its president, directing the publication in 1925 of the book Trail Drivers of Texas.
CUCKOO BUT HAPPYWell all I know is just what I read in the papers, or here lately it’s not so much what I read in the papers as what I had to listen too. Not over the radio, but right out loud first-hand, as you perhaps have gathered from a round-about way there has been lately held in the City of Chicago a couple of “Seances” by America leading second sight artists.
Well, I was drafted to go there. Of course no one would have gone of his own free will and accord, and now that they are all over and I sit and think of the amount of “applesauce” and “hooey” that was spilled there you wonder that we are even doing as well as we are as a nation.
When you think of thousands of people in a hot stuffy hall away up till the early morning hours listening to “The man I am about to nominate has the qualities of a Jackson, the statesmanship of a Jefferson, and the homely common sense of an Abraham Lincoln.” Then the next one nominated would have all these and then a couple of more, maby the looks of McKinley, and the oratory of Bryan.1 Hours on hours of that, then they would all get up and march around the hall, part would march and part would hiss or be against the ones that was marching. Then all sit down and then some local prodigy would have to make a “Seconding” speech. And go all through the same stuff the others had, anything in the world to get to talk.
But with it all they were a good bunch. I guess just so much of that has to be. An Englishman sitting in the Press Stand, from the world’s most liberal paper the Manchester (England) Guardian. I just looked at him when thousands were acting like newly corralled monkeys, and wondered what he must think of this odd way of arriving at “Democracy.” I talked to him. Of course he was like all well-bred Englishman, very “Discreet,” and wouldn’t say anything against our system, but it would have been worth a lot to have had his real thoughts.
I guess there is no profession as “Crazy as politics. It’s a profession all its own. Of all the “Trades” and “Deals” and “Under Cover” happenings that go on during one of those conventions. A state Deligation is with “Their” man, but are they? Maby their leaders have already sold out to some opposition man, and are to deliver to him after the next ballot is taken. They “Trade” all kinds of ways. “Bring your Deligation over to me and I will give you the vice presidency.” To another he will promise the Secretary of Stateship. Then the deligations begin to slip sometimes without anyone monkeying with ’em. It’s just human nature to string with a winner. That’s what they call getting on the Band Wagon. They know they can’t get any Post Offices out of the loser, so sympathy cuts no Ice. They quit him so quick there is nothing left but the campaign buttons, especially at this last convention where there was a Presidential Candidate to every ten votes. So naturally there was a lot of disappointed candidates.
Now you might ask, “Do these fellows really think they will get somewhere?” Sure they do. There is nothing that can kill hope in a candidate. He just thinks the breaks were against him that time, and that he will get in the next time.
But at that there is a lot of humor among them, and it’s not all unconscious. There is some pretty good kidders among our leading candidates and politicians. They kinder take it serious before the crowd but when they are kinder off to themselves in a little bunch, why they can kid themselves as much as any one.
You meet some great folks at those conventions, Governors, ex-Governors, Senators, ex-Senators, all the names that you have become accustomed to in the past, and mayby haven’t heard of in a long time, why you find ’em at these conventions. Its the Fourth of July celebration of national politics. It’s a clam bake of big politicians. If they can’t get on the deligation they come as mere spectators.
Then it’s becoming a great trip for the women. They slipped her the vote, and she slipped off the Mother Hubbard and into the old “Organdie” and she is meandering her way through a solid week of gabbing. And having a great time. It gives ’em something to do. Every once in a while they allow one up on the stand to make some kind of “Seconding” speech, or something of a minor order, but the old “He” leaders are pretty careful to not give ’em too much rope. They sorter keep ’em like a well-regulated family does the small child. It’s supposed to mostly listen, and every once in awhile if a lull comes to maby ask some little inoffensive question, but never allowed full leeway. Course the women are more serious with it all. When they do get a chance they try to make their very best of it. They are generally more brief than the men. I can’t tell whether that’s from choice, or from the fact they are always limited to just so many minutes.
But it’s a show that no American should miss. It’s entertainment, and it’s enlightening. It gives us a kind of an idea that most men that emerge from it with any spoils, were more lucky than competent. A good campaign manager can do more than an able candidate. “Trades” make Presidents, more than ability but as bad as we are, and as funny as we do things, we are better off than the other Countries, so bring on more conventions. The bigger, the noisier, the crazyer, the better. No nation likes and “Hooey” like we do. We are all cuckoo, but we are happy.
1For William McKinley see WA 462:N 7; for William Jennings Bryan see WA 481:N 4.
REAL RODEOSWell all I know is just what I read in the papers. and what I run into here and there. I made a little “Razee” around among some old friends down in Texas along after the Democrats had done their “Durndest” at Chicago. First down into Oklahoma and then Texas. Fourth of July sneaked up on me before I had even a firecracker or knew the day was anywhere near me.
I was around the old home place at Claremore and they said the next day was a big “Rodeo” up at Nowata. Well that’s right near. I knew they would be having a lot of “Calf Missings” at various towns on the Fourth, so I was glad to get to this one, for there I met a lot of old boys that I had been raised with. Some of ’em still roping.
They sure did have a nice little show. You know Oklahoma and Texas is the home of the Contest Roper. The North is the place for the bucking horse riders, but go south if you want to see ’em throw some mean loops.
Fred Lowry who is just about the best steer roper in all these United States was there.1 In fact, it’s right near his ranch, and he had furnished ’em the stock. They still have the real old steer roping, where they rope and tie down big steers. Some states cut it out, not on account of the humane feature, but on account of the old cattlemen kicking on ’em roping their fat steers to practice on.
Lot of these places are having what they call old timers roping contest. Now that’s getting right up my alley. I am going to start practicing and see if I can’t get in some of them.
I was just thinking when I was looking at that show the Fourth, it was at a little Fourth of July celebration at Claremore just 35 miles from this one, on July Fourth, 1899, (Boy that’s 33 years ago) they had a steer roping, and I went into it. It was the first one I ever was in; the very first thing I ever did in the way of appearing before an audience in my life. Just such a show as I was looking at now, (only ours was not so skilled, all these things have advanced).
Well, as I look back on it now I know that that had quite an influence in my little career, for I kinder got to running around to ’em, and the first thing I knew I was just plum “Honery” and fit for nothing but show business. Once you are a showman you are plum ruined for manual labor again.
I had an awful good little horse that really put me in the business. A little Dun (yellow pony, called “Comanche”). All the old timers will remember him. He put you up so close to a steer that you didn’t rope him, you just reached over and put a “Hackimore“ on him. Some of the old timers brought him up there the other day. “Jimmie Kane” rider who could throw a loop out turn it over and make the catch we called the “Johnnie Block” right on his head.2
This calf roping has all come in the last few years after they had stopped steer roping. A man might be good at one and not necessarily good at the other. And here is something you might not know, or have noticed. A steer roping horse, and a calf roping horse is not the same animal.
You see when you rope steers you catch ’em, throw your slack rope over his rear axle and then run your horse on by him, having him roped by the head, but the rope going over behind him, therefore jerking his all four feet from under him. Then the horse is sopposed to keep pulling and dragging him as he attempts to get up, that is pulling away from him, with his tail to the steer.
Now in calf roping the minute you catch your calf, the horse is stopped. You jump off and go throw the calf yourself, and the horse is to keep the rope tight, but his head is towards the calf, and he does it by backing up, instead of pulling away like with a steer.
Course you can in rare instances have a horse that you can work both ways, but most of ’em have two different horses, and say they mean about 50 or 60 per cent of the game, the horses do.
You know these celebrations are great things. They mean a lot to these folks. They are a regular get-together every year, and they bring their picnic lunches, and all meet and have a great time. Gives all the “Hands” something to talk and argue over for the next twelve months. Funny thing, the best roper on the range is not always, in fact seldom is, the best roper at the contest.
Some of these old real ranch hands that never miss a calf on the prairie get the old buck fever when the crowd is there, and naturally they all go home feeling bad about it, and get a good joshing about it till the next time.
The contests where everybody knows everybody is always interesting. That is the smaller ones where there is not much what you might call professional talent. (That is, boys who make it a business, and just follow that game exclusively.) Still they are a mighty fine, nice bunch of boys. I tell you there is lots of different ways the people have got to be entertained.
In years gone by no one ever thought splendid living would be made by exhibition of things that was a part of one’s every day work, but the folks got to have amusement, and the old calf, the steer, and bucking horse, they don’t care much, they go back to the range and tell their stay at home cronies what they did at the “Big Fair.” Think of the hero a calf is when he goes home and says, “Bob Crosby missed me.”3
Well I am going to practice up, and from now on if you see an old fellow with long beard roping in the “Centennial Contest,” that’s old man Rogers, coming to life again.
1Fred Lowry, Oklahoma rancher and steer roping champion. After retiring from the rodeo circuit, Lowry managed a school for steer ropers on his 20,000-acre ranch in Nowata County, Oklahoma.
2James Kane Rider, a cowboy from Watova, Indian Territory, who was a familiar figure on the Rogers family ranch during Will’s youth. “Johnnie Blocker,” a type of rope throw that was named after its originator, John Rufus Blocker, a Texas cattle rancher.
3Robert Anderson “Wild Horse Bob” Crosby, colorful and controversial rodeo performer of the 1920s and 1930s, known as the “King of Steer Ropers.”
ALL ABOARD FOR THE OLYMPICSWell all I know is just what I read in the papers, or what I run into. I have prowled around the world quite a bit to try and see a lot of different kinds of people, but right here yesterday almost on my own doorstep I saw the biggest conglomeration of breeds and nationalities I ever saw. The League of Nations has moved right to Hollywood. How it all happened I went out to the Olympic Village, that’s the place all these foreign and domestic athletes are stabled. There is just about 160 acres of solid cross breeds. It’s built on a high hill overlooking Los Angeles, and it’s all laid out in streets, and the flag of each Nation is out in front of their Igloos. The little houses corrall four persons, a kind of two room affair that has two in each room, with a little porch out in front. They are not permanent, but they figure they will last till the medals are all distributed, and everybody that dident get one will be on his way home sore.
But I tell you the Committee that has handled this thing has done a fine job. They have made it just about as pleasant and convenient as it would be possible to do with a couple of thousand folks. They spoke about 19 hundred languages. There was a lot of ’em there already when I visited the place. Finland come in that day. Nurmi is kinder the Greta Garbo of the whole affair.1 They don’t know now if they are going to let him compete or not. It seems over in Finland one time when he went to an Athaletic meet, he accepted too much expense money. They only allow ’em what they can live on, and they live on dried fish over there, so Nurmi took two more fish than he could have actually subsided on, and they call him now a professional. I would call him a “Glutton” on fish, but the Athletic Association still call it professional. Well if they don’t let him run it will be like having a Democratic Convention and not have Al Smith.
These Finns, there is no Fords in Finland. Well there is Hellingsford, but no Model T Fords. And what we do in a Ford why a Finn can do on his feet. Instead of five or six folks going out on Sunday in a Ford, why five or six Finns just hit out in a high lope, and only stop at these fish filling stations, refule and run on.
The trouble with America is they are not “Running” minded, we are kinder “Riding” minded. Well these Finns are the stars of the show here. Then the Japs have the biggest bunch outside of our gang, I just kinder figure those little rascals will carry off the main end of the loot. They are here on horseback, on foot, in canoes, and every way. They will just try anything that anybody else will do. There is about 150 of’em, all those that the emigration laws kept out got in as runners and jumpers.
India has a gang here all dressed like Gandi. The man running the “Round Up” of medal hunters, says you learn a lot about what the League of Nations is up against when you try to please all these. That is in laying out the cottages or who will be next to who. For instance they found they couldent put France and Italy on the same hill. They then asked France who they wanted to be near, and France said Germany. Well that was fine. Then when Germany got here they asked them, and Germany said they dident want to be near France. Finland dident want to be near Sweden. They have tried to arrange ‘em in groups where for instance the English speaking nations are togeather, England, U.S., Canada, Australia, South Africa. Then all the Spanish American bunch in one group.
Each country has its own dining room and its own cooks. They just give their order to the head of the village what it is they want in the way of groceries and meats and fruits, and it’s handed out to their cooks, then they prepare it for their gang as they see fit. I was in the Swedish kitchen and dining room, he said all they eat was fruit, that they dident eat two ounces of meat a day. He had twenty seven in there and said there was forty more coming. I asked him what he would do when they come and he said, “I will just slice up more fruit.”
One old big Argentine boy that looked like Firpo was out near the village practicing the shot put, and heaved it toward one of these little houses and carried it away on his cannon ball.2 Now they have sent him out on the desert to practice. He will about knock down Mount McKinley.
They have one big assembly room or hotel lobby affair where they all gather, and meet friends. They don’t allow any women visitors in the inside of the village, you can go to this reception room and that is as far as they can go. There is some women athletes but they are going to keep them over in some cages some place.
The events are held in about a dozen different places so no one knows where to go or what they really want to see. But it’s all done on schedule, so it is possible to see it. There is 48 Nations here, some with only one or two athletes some with a hundred or more. It looks like it will be a great show, you don’t want to miss it. It’s an awful lot of running and a lot of jumping for nothing, but as long as they enjoy it why I guess it’s all right. They give these boys all this for $2.00 a day, so that’s cheaper than staying at home. So they just as well be here arguing with the judges as not.
1Paavo Nurmi, Finnish long-distance runner; gold medal winner in the Olympic Games of 1920, 1924, and 1928. Nurmi wanted to end his carreer with a gold medal at the Los Angeles Olympics of 1932 but was suspended from amateur ranks because of alleged professionalism. For Greta Garbo see WA 463:N 8.
2Luís Angel Firpo, Argentine heavyweight prize fighter, known as “the Wild Bull of the Pampas.”
EDUCATIONAL FRILLSSay, any of you that have kids in school, either grammar, high or college, it don’t make any difference, but can any of you parents get head or tail of what they are doing, what they are taking, what they are learning?
This modern education gag has sure got me licked. I can’t tell from talking to ’em what it’s all about.
All the kids I know, either mine or anybody’s, none of ’em can write so you can read it, none of ’em can spell so you can read it.
They can’t figure and don’t know geography, but they are always taking some of the darndest things, political science, international relations, drama, buck dancing, sociology, Latin, Greek art. Oh, Lord, the things they go in for runs on by the hour!
But it’s as I say, not only our brood, but none of ’em that I have seen can write, spell, figure or tell what bounds Korea.
Everybody has swimming pools, but nobody has got a plain old geography. Gymnasiums to the right of you, and tennis courts to the left of you, but not a spelling book in a carload of schools.
Then they got another gag they call “credits.” If you do anything thirty minutes twice a week, why you get some certain “credit.” Maby it’s lamp shade tinting, maby it’s singing, maby it’s a thing they call “music appreciation.” That used to drive my cowboy son Jim pretty near “nuts.”1
He never could see how that would aid you to rope a calf. They give out these things at schools for anything that any one can think of. Some of ’em you get more “credits” than for others. If a thing is particularly useless, why it give you more credits. There is none at all for things that we thought constituted “school.”
You could write, read, spell, figure, and give the capital of Rhode Island, and they wouldent give you a “credit” in a year. But you can tell where a Latin word was originally located, and how it’s been manhandled and orphanized down to the present day, and say, they will claim that you have the nucleus of a “thesis,” and you are liable to get a horde of “credits.” Now who cares about the word, or what it has contributed to the welfare of nations that never minds to them.
You have got yourself the family tree of a word. Course you can’t go out and get a job on it, but these old professors value it mighty highly. Some of these days they are going to remove so much of the “punk and Hooey” and the thousands of things that the schools have become clogged up with, and we will find that we can educate our broods for about one-tenth the price and learn ’em something they might accidentally use after they escaped.
But us poor old dumb parents, we just string along and do the best we can, and send ’em as long as we are able, because we want them to have the same handicaps the others have. We don’t know what it’s all about. We just have to take the teachers word.
They all think education is our salvation, but you could turn ten college presidents loose in a forest with nothing to eat, or nothing to get it with, and then ten old so-called “ignorant” backwoodsmen, and your presidents wouldn’t last a week.
The smarter a nation gets, the more wars it has. The dumb ones are too smart to fight. Our schools teach us what the other fellow knows, but it don’t teach us anything new for ourselves. Everybody is learning just one thing, not because they will know more, but because they have been taught that they won’t have to work if they are educated.
Well, we got so many educated now that there is not enough jobs for educated people. Most of our work is skilled and requires practice, and not education.
But none of these big professors will come out and tell you that that our education might be lacking, that it might be shortened, that it might be improved. They know as it is now that it’s a “racket,” and they are in on it.
You couldn’t get me to admit that making movies was the bunk either. None of us will talk against our own graft. We all got us our “rackets” nowadays.
There is just about as much “hooey” in everything as there is merit. The heathen live with less effort, and less worry.
Trying to live “past” our parents, and not “up to ’em” is one of our drawbacks. The old Chinese got the right idea along that line, but every once in a while some fellow does pop up and declare himself. Look at that college professor in Chicago University.2 He said our learning system was all haywire.
He is a smart young fellow, that guy. I heard him speak at a dinner in Chicago during the convention. He knew a whole lot more than just where a lot of words “come from.” This education is just like everything else. You got to judge it by results. Here we are better educated (according to educational methods) than we ever were. And we are worse off than we ever were, so it’s not living up to its “billing.” It’s over rated. It’s not worth the price.
It’s costing us more than it’s worth. They got to devise some way of giving more for the money. All he is getting out with now is “credit” and nobody on the outside is cashing ’em.
1For this and all further references to James B. Rogers see WA 494:N 10.
2Robert Maynard Hutchins, president of the University of Chicago from 1929 to 1945; chancellor from 1945 to 1951. Hutchins did much to change curriculum and teaching methods on the college level.
SMILES AND TEARS IN THE
Well all I know is just what I read in the papers, and what I see as I mess around. Well with us right in the middle of the Olympics, we are just bogged down in swimmers, up to our ears in pole vaulters. It’s been great fun, and a wonderful sight to see. Nothing like it during our lifetime, being a young guy, but you old birds won’t ever see it again, unless you hit the high seas.
About ten days ago before it started why one day out at our studio they brought all the girl athletes out there for lunch and to see the studio. We have a big cafe, and it was full. You musent miss meeting this Texas wildcat “Tex” Dickinson, she just believes that she can do anything, and the funny part about it is she can.1 There is none of the sports that she can’t do and do well. She is an athletic marvel. Played ten games of golf and makes it in 82. They say that’s pretty good. I don’t play the game, but they say it is. She is within three fifths of a second of Helen Madison’s record.2 This old Texas girl said she would ride, rope, or play polo against me, and I bet she could beat me in any one of ’em. I sure don’t want to get mixed up with ’em in any of these games, or out of ’em.
Then I met that day Helen Madison, our great swimmer, then Georgie Coleman, oh and dozens of others.3 A big pretty blonde girl from Germany spoke good English, said she was a javelin thrower. Javelin? Why that’s little light thing like a spear. Why this girl could have heaved a horse, much less a javelin.
Two girls from Mexico, one was a fencer, one was a javelin thrower. The Canadian girls I believe as a whole were about the prettiest of any of our foreign visitors, and they had on the most attractive sweaters. The Japanese had a great bunch, and funny thing there was only one girl from France, just one here. I guess France is kinder slow having women taking up boxing, and wrestling, and running and jumping. Still they don’t mind ’em doing a lot of work in the fields.
I have see ’em pitching hay and hauling manure to the fields. Course I don’t know how this women thing doing all these games is. I mean I can’t just get my mind made up about it. But I guess it’s all right. They just as well be doing that as in some other devilment. It sure does make ’em take care of their health. Course some say that it will be bad for ’em in the long run, but I doubt it. You know women always could endure more than men. (Not only physically, but mentally, did you ever get a peek at some of the husbands?) But they are superior to the so called male.
So I reckon that it’s only a matter of time that they will not only be doing the same games as the men but will be in the same classes. There will be no male and female classes, for the men are getting pretty punk as a race. We will be wearing skirts in another generation. I want to pass out just before they catch me doing some “Battick” work. You know there was some awful sad things out here in these Olympics even before they started. Take for instance the trials. I saw the track and field trials for the American team at Palo Alto, and the dissapointment of the ones that were beat for places. It’s not so bad to beat in the Olympics, that means that you were the best in your country anyhow, but when you have built up a great reputation around your own home, college, and state, and your records show that your time, or the heighth of your jump is above certain other performers, then to train for months, even years, to make this Olympic games that are held here at home, then you deny yourself, train conscientiously, and then get to the trials and be beaten, maby by inches, and in lots of cases by men who your previous record showed was better than the time they beat you in, in other words, you know that you just happened to have an off day that particular day. There is no doubt that there is men on the American team that beat men that day that they couldent do it again in a lifetime. Well you take a loser like that, and darn it it hurts. If you absolutley knew in your own heart that you could beat the man that beat you, why that would sit pretty tough with you wouldent it?
Course that’s not taking any credit from the men that won, but it’s just one of those tough breaks of fate. They can’t just let it go and make up for it at the next meet. The next Olympics is four years now. Four years is a long time in an athletic career. But they all took it mighty gamely. They smiled but they smiled through many a tear. I begin to think this athletic racket is a pretty tough thing at that. There is about as many disappointments as successes. I think us fellows that can’t do anything are just as well off. We are never dissapinted.
1Mildred “Babe” Didrikson Zaharias, American track and golf star and one of the most accomplished female athletes of all time. In the Olympic Games of 1932 she set world records in the javelin (143’ 4”) and the eighty-meter hurdles (11.7 seconds).
2Helen Madison, Seattle swimmer who was the foremost free-styler of her era. She won all four United States titles in 1930 and 1931 and then bowed out of swimming after the Los Angeles Olympics, in which she won three gold medals and set her twenty-first world record.
3Georgia Coleman, Idaho diver and swimmer who won the springboard competition and was second in the springboard event at the Olympics of 1932.
THE TALE OF A HORSE AND RIDERWell all I know is just what I read in the papers, or what I see hither and yon.
Lot of funny things happened out here during the Olympic games. They had a wonderful event one morning.
It was part of what is called the pantathalon. It’s for army or navy men. It’s supposed to be the real test of a good soldier. He is supposed to start out on a horse. I don’t know how a navy man is supposed to be on his horse but it’s some foreign devised event, so I guess they have horses in the navy. Oh, yes, it sea horses. (Don’t shoot I couldent help that one.)
Well you are supposed to be in war, and you start out on your horse. He is supposed to be shot from under you. Now there are 26 in the race, and why out of all the 26 not a man should be hit, but all the horses should be shot was another European mystery. Well after your horse is shot you take your sword and fight the man that shoots him a duel. Then you are supposed to fight him a second duel, this first one having not proven a success on either side. So the next one is with pistols. Then you are supposed to either join him or break away from him! (The rules don’t say what becomes of him, but you are supposed to swim for three or four hundred yards, all this supposedly having taken place by a river. Then when you land on the other side you are supposed to run on foot for three thousand meters (that meter is a French word and you will have to look it up yourself). So you see this is quite a war you are supposed to be in. It’s a wonder that they dident think of having a rattlesnake bite him after this, or maybe get married or some other hardship overtake him, but in this one they had why this was all that happened to you.
The way they had it, each one of these events was supposed to take place every day for five days, the horse part of it was the start. Well the nation that is holding the games is supposed to furnish the horses for all of ’em. It’s really not a game, it’s a horse killer that’s what it is. Well we had shipped (I mean the U.S. Army) about 35 head of our best army horses from Ft. Riley, Kansas. That’s where our cavalry school is, the big one. They were a fine bunch of horses and all about equally good. Each nation was allowed to have three men in it. Lots of nations in it that dident bring horses over for the regular horse events. In fact you dident even have to have a saddle to enter this, the government furnished you that.
Now some of these fellows wasent so hot as riders. Maby they figured to get by on their fencing, or swimming, or something else. You see the general average of all five events were the winners.
Well they drew for their horses, and even the Americans dident know what they would get. They were to race about three and a half miles over rolling hill country, with jumps averaging almost four feet, and built out of solid logs, or two by twelve boards nailed solid, and if you hit you turned over. A Mexican started No. 1. He made a good showing, had one fall about the fifth jump, but his horse got up and him too and they went on and finished in good shape. They each went it alone. They would have to judge their own speed that the horse would be able to carry them and still be able to jump the last jumps. Well things went along fine till a guy from Portugal “De Frietas Branco De Heredia.”1 Now if you think that name is kidding you are crazy. I just copied it from an old program. Then that was only part of his name for he was a titled bird too, a “Don” or a “Donna” or something. Well he wasent dressed like the others, in army togs of their various nations. He had on a regular hunting outfit, that he had seen pictures of in England. Red coat, white pants, plush cap, black. Well while he was waiting for his time to start he figured this horse was standing too still, he dident have enough life for a man with such a name, so he took his whip and give the horse a couple of cuts with the whip. Now he had drawn the very best horse of the 26 that was in the race “Sir Anthony” a horse that the real riders would have won with. Well when he did this to the “Sir” (who was somewhat of a title himself) why he just up and throws Mr. Portugese right into the Bay of Biscay, then runs away without a single Portugese aboard.
Well after miles of chasing him they finally got him back and boosted him on top again. And they started. Well I have seen riders fall off at jumps, but this fellow wasent satisfied with that, he must fall between jumps. It was just too much name to stay on one horse. He whipped and beat the poor horse till at the finish it took all the negro grooms in the army to hold the horse up. And the Portugese claimed that he got a bad deal. Nobody will ever know what he started whipping him for in the first place, but you can bet he will never whip another one. It was a terrible lesson to a Portugese. The moral is don’t loan a Portugese a good horse. In fact don’t loan him any horse.
1Sebastiao de Frietas de Heredia, Portuguese nobleman, soldier, and athlete
GOODBYE OLYMPICSWell all I know is just what I read in the papers or what I see as I prowl about. Well the Olympics are all over, everybody has run as fast as they can, jumped as high as they can, swam as fast as they could, and now they have gone home to start practicing to start the whole thing over again. It was the most wonderful two weeks of thrills and excitement. It kept you looking nine ways to try and see half of it. It was a great job well done, by everybody connected with it.
There was many a laugh, many that dident get into the papers. There one day Ireland would like to have run off with the whole stadium. Some doctor from away down in the south of Ireland just had one more throw with the hammer, (I don’t know why they call it a hammer, it’s round) I would hate to have to drive a nail with it, well he just took his last heave and like to knocked down one end of the Stadium.1
Then on the same day an old Long boy named Tisdall won the I think it was 400 meters hurdles, he and a Lord Burghley and by the way he was the most popular man at the games was this very titled Englishman named Lord Burghley.2 He owns a place in England that has ten towns located on it, that’s quite a few towns, in fact that’s the first time I ever heard of a man just going in for raising towns. That may be the salvation of the farmer is to raise towns, in one of his Castles, (you heard me, one of his Castles). He has more Rembrandts than any man alive, and his hobby is footracing. He runs the hurdles or the flat, any kind of a race that England needed anyone to run why the Lord would get in it. Everybody liked the Lord, he was a real Democrat. And I hope he stays and votes in November, we are going to need all we can get.
But I must get back to my “Gag.” Well this Tisdall won the race, and I forget where the Lord finished, but it was either third or fourth. Well sir he and this Irishman went into the most wonderful and spontanious embrace you ever saw. Think of it an Irishman embracing an English Lord. If that got back to Ireland why they wouldent let him land with his medals. Ireland had a great representation, some good boxers, too.
Brazil was playing Germany water polo, and they had a Hungarian referee and he kept calling fouls on Brazil. In fact he called 35 during the course of the game. Well after it was over Brazil made for him and he started to hollering for a cop, but it was in his own language, and our cops couldent tell if he was hollering or cheering, and Brazil got to him, and how. They hit for every foul, then another Foreigner tried to rush over and the cops thought naturally he wanted to get in the fight, so they took care of him. Well he was the head of the whole Swimming Federation in Europe, and was trying to tell ’em who he was. Poor Brazil they had come up here on a Coffee Boat, and after they had been out a couple of weeks why their Government changed hands, and the new Government was trying to find out where the boat was. The Athletes dident know what Government or country they were really representing.
Then of course there is lots of jealousy down in South America among the different countries. Well when the Argentine won the Marathon why the other Republics wanted to know why their men hadent won it?3 They thought there was enough Marathons to go round. Why here we was having the whole thing right in our own alley, and we couldent get near the Marathon with our three men, so what was poor Boliviar, or Peru to do. I saw that Kid that won that in his quarters at the village the next day. He is only nineteen and he weighed only 123 when he went in and lost eight pounds in the race. He come out weighing 115. He is a skinny slender kid. That was a remarkable thing. Those long races are generally won by old fellows, the same as the hard long races with horses are won by old horses. It’s nothing for a horse 14 or 15 years old to win the Grand National Steeplechase in England, but these other South American athletes are afraid to go home now.
Met and got acquainted with a lot of our boys. There was one old Kid competing and I mean really competing, from right about twenty miles from Oolagah, my old home town called Skiatook. He was a distance runner. What a place for an Olympic runner to come from, I can’t imagine what he was running around there for. His name was Dawson.4 And say an “Injun” would like to have won the Decatholon, that’s the thing where a man is supposed to do everything. This kid was named Buster Charles who used to go to Haskell Institute.5 He was ahead almost up to the last two events. Those big guys in that event some of ’em weighing well over 200 pounds, pole vaulted over 13 feet. That’s a long way for a big guy to drop.
And say if Mr. Hoover had come out here and opened those games like he should have done he would have not been in Washington during that mess they had, in fact they wouldent have had it.6 I saw some movies of that away back couple of weeks ago, and what made it look so bad was the army going in with tanks and full war equipment. I was just thinking of the effect of that being shown all over the world. We can never go around preaching “Dissarmament” and “Brotherly Love” any more. It does look like there could have been some more sensible way out than that. I am a believer when you are at outs with a man or a Group, is not to send somebody (they always bungle it). Go out and talk it over with ’em, and lay your side right on the line and say, “Here there is no money in the Treasury to pay it, we don’t owe it to you till it’s due, don’t you think you have made a mistake coming here.” Or whatever it was he had to say. But it’s all over and they are big men and are supposed to know the right thing to do in big cases. Sometimes it makes you think we don’t need a different man as bad as we need different advisers for the same man.
1Patrick “Pat” O’Callahan, Irish veterinarian and athlete who won gold medals in the hammer throw at the Olympic Games of 1928 and 1932.
2Robert M. N. “Bob” Tisdall, Cleylonese-born athlete who competed for the Irish Olympic team in 1932, winning the 400-meter hurdles and finishing eighth in the decathlon. David Burghley, British lord and track star who competed in the 1928 and 1932 Olympics, winning a gold medal in the 400-meter hurdles in 1928 and finishing fourth in the save event in 1932.
3Juan Carlos Zabala, Argentine long-distance runner, won the marathon in 1932 with an Olympic record time of two hours, thirty-one minutes, and thirty-six seconds.
4Glen W. Dawson, American athlete who finished sixth in the final steeplechase at the Lod Angeles Olympics of 1932.
5Wilson David Charles, American athlete who finished fourth in th decathlon at the Los Angeles Olympics of 1932.
6Members of the Bonus Army (see WA 496:N 6) refused to leave Washington, D.C., after the Senate failed to enact bonus legislation. On July 28, 1932, Hoover ordered the Army to evict the marchers forcibly. Army troops set the veterans’ camps on fire and drove them from the city. Hoover was rebuked by the press and the general public for the severity of his actions.
WILL READS THE PAPERWell, all I know is just what I read in the papers and what I see as I prowl from hither to thither. The old stock market is trying awful hard to land back on the front pages like it used to be years ago. As they say in China, it “Lost Face.” You know, come to think of it, there is an expression that I don’t see how we get along without. Everything in the Far East is about “Somebody Losing Face.” It really don’t mean that a man has lost out, or failed to make good, but it means a hundred things. Anything in the world that happens to you in the Far East, mumps, measels, hat blew off in public, insulted by someone, shoes run down, throw three “craps” in a row—anything in the world that is the least bit “Dissconcerting” or embarrassing, why that is what you call “Lost Face.”
Well, the old stock market has lost so much face that it’s practically been headless for three years. But they are just stirring around among each other now, and the market is like a Mexican jumping bean, and nobody knows why it’s jumping. Course it’s jumping to get Republican votes in November and it’s got a lot of jumping yet to do.
Of course New York thinks that that is just what the whole world revolves on, they think that if the market was good today that every man, woman and child in the country should celebrate, and have a big meal on the strength of the rise. When as a matter of fact Amos and Andy have more influence on the whole American public than the market.1
Now let’s see what else has been agitating the natives. Jack Garner went back east a couple of weeks ago to meet his commander and lay out schemes and deadfalls to trip the Republican, and fix it so the Democrat could walk over it. Garner they say made a fine impression. He had never been further east than Washington before, and he got so he got around New York about as good as all the foreigners that live there.
Canada has a big Congress of some kind at Ottawa, and for a family that is kin why they get along pretty well. They all agreed to buy from each other and they will till somebody comes along and sells cheaper. But they are mighty patriotic, that English empire and when the real show-down comes they will stick together. Been reading a lot of criticism by our papers of what they did. But when it comes to running their own business that Empire don’t need any great advice from us. Mighty long headed old boys in their government. Canada is a mighty good neighbor and a mighty good customer. That’s a combination that is hard to beat.
The Irish free state and England are still at it over “The Irish taking the oath to the King.” They opened their parliament and they always did play “God save the King” when the Governor General who is appointed by England comes in. But the old boy had to walk in to his own whistling this time. The orchestra had a tip not to give him any entrance music. England is pretty stubborn themselves about these little details of giving the old country it’s traditional due. At the games out here, Canada was the only one of the countries that had their own national anthem. South Africa had several first winners and always played the king song. But Canada had their own.
This Hitler stuff over in Germany, I can’t get the straight of it.2 They are kinder like the “Facistists” but still they are against the German “Facistists.” There seems to be about a dozen or more different kinds of parties and they are hard to figure out. That old man Hindenburg must be a great old man.3 He is about the sole surviving hero of the big men in the war over there. Hitler’s main strength, if I get it right, is that the present generation of the Germans had nothing to do with the big war and they should not be made to pay. Now there is a lot of foundation to that. Every man ought to pay his own debts. The only way for him to outlaw ’em is to die. If they did that it sure would help to discourage war. If countries knew that they were not going to be paid but just a few years and then no more, they would be mighty slow about going out to start something.
Reading in the papers what Lord Cecil said about aerial disarmament, I have seen the old man at every one of these conferences and he is quite an authority on “Why they don’t disarm.”4 He made rather a unique statement. He said, “I understand there should be no bombing of Civilians but that does not eliminate aerial warfare. If bombing is to continue, I do not think that Civilians have any right to claim a particular measure of immunity.” Now I don’t guess we ever had thought of it in that way. War is just to kill, so one bunch can’t ask for any more protection than another. He said that, “It is a great pity flying ever was invented.” What about the autos, they kill more than all the wars. Their warfare is going on all the time. A War is started by somebody agreeing to fight, but the old auto just keeps on reaping ’em down with no previous agreement.
But everything will be fixed this fall, if you just listen to what the candidates say. In fact that’s about all we are doing now is just listening to what the candidates say. So you see even our minds are not working.
1For “Amos ‘n Andy” see WA 487:N 1.
2Adolf Hitler, German dictator and founder and leader of the National Socialist (Nazi) party in Germany. Hitler’s organization steadily gained support after its birth in 1921, basing its appeal on hatred, anti-Semitism, and German world power.
3Paul Ludwig von Hindenburg, president of Germany from 1925 to 1934. Born in 1847, Hindenburg served as German Army Chief of Staff during World War I. He held the presidency during a time of extreme economic distress and political factionalism in Germany.
4Edgar Algernon Robert Gasoyne-Cecil, viscount Cecil of Chelwood, a creator of the League of Nations and a British representative to many post-World War I disarmament conferences; recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1937.
WHAT’S THE EXCITEMENT?Well, all I know is just what I read in the papers, or what I see here and there. You know it’s been weeks since the Olympics finished, but for a couple or three weeks after it was over it felt out here like a kind of an old ghost town. We had gotten so used to going to the stadium every day, and we had seen the athletes so often, and the thing kinder got next to you.
Well one of the last to leave was some of the Japanese, and among them was little Nichi Baron Nichi.1 He is the one that won the high jumps with his horse. He was just about the most popular little rascal that was here. They say he is tremendously rich in his own country but no one knew that till after the games were over. He was just “another” Japanese cavalry officer to everybody.
They made a lot of friends the Japanese did over here. That Shanghai and Manchurian thing had just about put ’em in the dog house as far as we were concerned, but they acted so fine and were such good sports that they went away in the good graces of everyone. Course they haden’t any more than got on the boat till we read in the papers that Japan was taking Jehol. Jehol is a province in China. It’s a kind of a “Buffer” province. It lays between Manchuria, and China property, and the Japanese claim that they have to have it as it allows the Chinese to be too near to their operations in Manchuria. They was messing around about it when I was over there away last fall. They are always going to have a lot of trouble over there, but it’s a long way from our home. I sure wish our State Department was a far away from things as our folks are.
Politics is just a boiling trying to jell. I sit around and try to keep my ear to the ground. Nothing between it but a pillow, but I can’t get heads or tails out of what’s going to happen. Everybody on both sides if you talk to ’em will be so confident, that it makes you ashamed of how little you know yourself. They just up and tell you to practically a thousand votes, by just how many each side will win by.
Now I get this news from a fellow the other day and he is a man that should have some idea for he is doing nothing but just traveling around taking “hearings” on public opinion. “Have been since I saw you at the Convention in Chicago, in every city east of there, so have a pretty good idea of what will happen in the fall. First of all I think we will get a Democratic governor in Maine. Moses I think will be defeated in New Hampshire.2 Will get the Democratic governor in Indiana but will lose the Senate to Watson, Roosevelt will get Ohio and Michigan by slim majorities but will lose both of them to Republican Governors.3 The Far South don’t even know Hoover is running. If he gets a vote south of the Mason and Dixon line it will be some stray kin folks of his. Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, and Kentucky will all go for Roosevelt. Democrats haven’t got a chance in Pennsylvania, but will take an even bet that they get Maine and Vermont. I have done 15 east and Mid-west states, and start off into the Northwest, and West right away.”
Now you have it. He tries every way he can to get the opinions. He just holds a clinic over every voter. But a vote is a funny thing.
Bet the whole thing gives everybody something to gab about. What we do, what we say, what we think don’t mean much. Just glide along with ’em, give a lot of ’em a job. One man could do what 10 of ’em do. There could be a quarter or third as many Congressmen or Senators, and we would pick better ones then. But it’s the system that we have always used, and there is no use getting all overcome with prespiration over it. We get along pretty good, and things kinder run themselves anyhow. Most of our improvements are so big they can’t carry ’em off, and our laws we have so many anyhow that a couple of hundred passed every session don’t mean much to us.
Our congress is just like an old stray she cat. She will drag in with so many kittens just when you don’t want ’em, but you tolerate her, and know that she can’t help it. Well that’s about the way we feel about our two governing bodies. They can just cause us so much annoyance each year, and the only time we really get sore at ’em is when they do come with an extra big “Litter.”
It don’t make much difference who is in or who is out. They both draw the same salary. I have always claimed that they should be elected for life. The Supreme Court is our most respected gang, so it might work in our other branches. Now take this year for instance, what can they do towards helping the country? Nothing. They have all got to be trying to get back in.
This is the year when they really work, but it’s for themselves and you can’t blame ’em. They have had a taste of it and they like it. There is something about holding office that must just get right next to ’em. And they are seldom ever any good any more for anything else. But they are all likable cusses. You can’t help but like ’em, and they are always smarter than the people that elect ’em. So our election every four years is just what we need. We don’t know what we need it for but it’s for something if it’s only to get one-half of our folks sore at the other half every four years.
1Takeichi Nishi, Japanese soldier and equestrian who won the individual title in the prix des Nations competition at the Olympic Games of 1932.
2For George Higgins Moses see WA 440:N 6.
3For James E. Watson see WA 465:N 2
ROGERS ON LOCATIONWell all I know is just what I read in the papers. Been prowling around quite a bit lately away up in the mountains working on a movie. It’s the first time we have been on location since we made “Lightnin.”1 That was when we was up at Lake Tahoe. That’s the time Clara Bow visited us, remember?2 But we better let that drop. Well this time we are making the old silent picture that I made twelve years ago called “Jubilo.”3 It is a tramp picture and everyone that sees me in my street clothes say that I excell in tramp parts. I like to play tramps. There is something about an old tramp that kinder hits me, especially a kind of a good natured one that don’t take things too seriously.
Did you ever see a picture company on location? Well, now that we have to carry all that sound equipment and men with it, why it looks like Barnum’s circus coming.4 We have a very small cast, about five. Yet I bet there is about 50 of us. It takes lots of folks to make these things, even if when you see ’em sometimes you think they ain’t so hot. And the funny part about it is that a bad one takes just as much work as a good one, for we have never found anyone that can tell when it’s going to be bad. What I mean is that we don’t make ’em bad purposely. They sometimes look like we did, but we don’t. We do our best all the time, and all the crew, the cameramen, the carpenters, property men, sound technicians, and dozens of other expert men in their lines, they all do good work on all of ’em, but it’s us actors, and writers and directors that just don’t click in some of ’em.
It’s kind of a cuckoo business, but trains have been full for twenty years of so-called smart people that were coming out here to fix the movies, and they have all gone back. There is things that look like they ought to be changed, but the wise ones can’t seem able to think of any thing to improve ’em. It’s sorter like our government, it’s the cockeyedest run thing, we sometimes think, but darn it we keep living under it and nobody can scare up anything any different.
I don’t know the older we get the more “standpat” we get. The only change we want as we grow older is a change back to the things of our early life. We don’t want a lot of new ones. Just because a thing is new don’t mean that it’s better. Now take it right here where we are right in the edge of the High Sierras. Just a short ways from Mount Whitney, the highest point in the U.S. Now away back up in these high mountains, there is no automobile roads, so to get back there to fish and hunt, they have to “pack in.” They hire horses and say they have the greatest time of their lives. So where is your old automobile? There will never be a time when the old horse is not superior to any auto ever made.
Like the other day at the studio they was talking about a story. Said it had to be changed a lot, that the old idea of the mortgage on the old farm was all out of date, that the villian robbing the train and hiding the money was all the hooey. They claimed that all stories had to be made modern and up to date. So I told ’em, say listen there never was a time in our lives when the fore-closing of a mortgage was as timely as it is today. It almost comes under the heading of standard equipment with most homes and farms, and as for villians being out of date, why villians are getting as thick as college degrees, and sometimes on the same fellow. No sir, there is no new situations. Wives are leaving husbands, husbands are leaving wives. Robberies where they used to take your horse and if they was caught they got hung for it, now they take your car and if they are caught it’s a miracle, and they will perhaps have the inconvenience of having to go to court and explain. The old horse if the horse thief ever let him loose or give him half a chance he would come home. Our automobiles don’t stay at home long enough to know where homes are, even if they could get back. So your movies won’t be changed much more than your morals, or your taxes or any other of the things that you think should be remodelled.
There is one epidemic now that I think could be discontinued. I haven’t got any kick with my friend Bill Hayes, but you sometimes do wonder if it’s absolutely nessesary before a picture is released that it have the word “Hell” in the title.5 Looks like if they had to have it, they could put more hell into the picture and leave less of it out of the title. There is a lot of these where most of the Hell is just in the title. They are taking perfectly innocent stories now and there is no more “Hell” in ’em than there is amusement, but the bars are down and the word “Hell” makes good reading to ’em, so it’s just getting to be Hell to get a picture released unless it’s name is hell, something or other.
But it’s the old stuff. It comes from the preachers. Take any old preacher that is having a time drafting anybody to listen to him, and he announces that his sermon next Sunday night will be on, “Hell and Damnation,” or “I am going to skin the Devil alive and showup Hell.” Well that was just a lot of hooey like these titles are, but he knew that title would catch ’em. He knew that he couldent give the devil any more of a skinning if his title had been, “The outcome of a life without Christ.” But he was looking for something sensational, and that’s where the movies got the idea. Both of ’em ought to be made to cut it out. A picture that can’t draw without hell in the title ain’t much picture, and a preacher that can’t preach without hell in his title is just as weak as the movies. Why don’t they just for a change use the word “Dam” instead of Hell. It don’t sound near as bad, and it’s much more of a novelty. Instead of calling this picture “Tramping through Hell.” I want to call it, “A Dam Tough Villian, Dam Fine Gal and a Pretty Dam Fair Kind of Tramp.”
1Lightnin’, a motion picture which was released in 1930 and starred Rogers, was based on the play by Winchell Smith and Frank Bacon.
2For Clara Bow see WA 434:N 5.
3Jubilo, a silent film released in 1919 and based on the story by Ben Ames Williams. Rogers appeared also in the 1932 remake, Too Busy to Work.
4Phineas Taylor Barnum, American showman who opened the “Greatest Show on Earth” in 1871 and who was a cofounder in 1881 of the famous Barnum and Bailer Circus.
5For Will H, Hays see WA 438:N 2.
GOLD IN THOSE HILLSWell, all I know is just what I read in the papers and what I see here and yonder. Do you like to just be in a car prowling around? I know you do, everybody does. I would much rather be in a plane, but if you haven’t got one, and I haven’t, more folks ask me about my plane. They think because I do a lot of traveling that way that I must have my own plane. Why I haven’t got any more plane than Alabama has Republicans. I have always just used a regular organized line, walk up and pay your fare get in and go where you want to. It’s just about the same price as R. R. fare, in most cases cheaper, and by the way, it is really being patronized now. There is big travel on plane lines, and if you want to go somewhere book your passage away ahead. I can remember when it looked to me like I was the only guy traveling that way. But I am lost in the mob now. But all this has nothing to do with planes. I am the greatest guy to start in on telling something and then switch over to something that has nothing to do with it at all. I get that from working in the movies. You notice it in our movie stories.
Well, I was up in a town called Bishop making a movie, and we got through with our outdoor shots (you see we went up there to get the beautiful scenery and get the mountains in the background). We could have taken ’em at the studio in “minature” like they do, but we just wanted to show some real mountains for a change. Well we finished one afternoon and the next day being a holiday we wasent to work. The Company would be traveling back to the studio, so I had never been over into the South Western part of Nevada. So I jumped in my car that very evening and went over a range of mountains about 130 miles to Tonopah, Nevada, that’s the old silver town. It’s not a ghost town by any means because it has a couple or three thousand people living there yet and is a very interesting town. Used to be along in 1907 and 8 a big rushing thriving town of perhaps 10 thousand or more.
Well I stayed there that night and met a lot of folks, real folks. There is some great people live in those old western towns. Hope is their staff of life. If silver ever comes back, and Lord knows they ought to put some kind of real comparative value on it, for it’s used as money in 20 countries to gold’s one. Tonopah is one of the big silver diggings of the West.
Well up early the next morning and down to Goldfield. Now don’t that name and place bring back memories. One of the well advertised towns of the West. In 1906 on Labor Day, was the biggest and best advertised and best prize fight ever held. That was the famous Gans-Nelson fight of 42 rounds that was promoted by the famous Tex Rickard.1 It was the first big purse at that time $30,000. They kept the prize money all in gold in the window of the Northern Saloon and Gambling House, where all could see it. It was just exactly 26 years to a day when I was there. I had known two of three principals, Nelson and Rickard.
There is an old depot down where the fight was held, and the railroad of it has been torn up. The whole line is out of commission now, but there stands the depot right out here connected with nothing. It has now about 500 people in all that still live there. The Goldfield Hotel is kept up and is quite a place yet. It was a little city of twenty thousand in its boom days, and some of the fortunes of Nevada were made there.
It’s a gold town, and they are working some of the mines by small leases. The government is investigating it as they think there is big pay stuff there yet. Now here was an experience. The papers had been full of a new strike at a place called Clarkdale, for a fellow named Clark found it. So off I went to it, a newspaper man and mining man went with me, and sure enough away out there in the hills on those desert flats was dozen of camps all around a hole in the ground. Lots of ’em had leased from the original striker, and the others had staked near around there. Well they say there was some real gold there. Of course till they get away down in they can’t tell just how much, but the lead looked mighty good, so they said. Course to me it just looked hot and dry, but these old boys that was out there was real miners, they ought to know. It’s like us trying to sell a bum movie to a modern audience, it can’t be done. So I am going (trying to sell) to watch this new strike at Clarkdale, Nevada, and see how it pans out. But it was only two weeks old when I was there.
Nevada is a great old state to prowl around in. I went on down to another famous old place Ryolite, and another nearby called “Bullfrog.” But it had jumped its last. Then on that same trip and that same day I drove into Death Valley and visited Death Valley Scotty’s famous castle.2 But that’s a whole story in itself, in fact it’s a book, but just get in your car and drive around some time no matter where you live, you will be surprised the old interesting things there is to visit. But don’t miss Nevada.
1Joseph “Joe” Gans, American prizefighter known as the “Old Master,” held the world lightweight crown from 1902 to 1908. Oscar “Battling” Nelson, Danish-born boxer who held the world lightweight championship from 1908 to 1910. Helson and Gans met on September 3, 1906, in a scheduled fortyfive round championship bout in Goldfield, Nevada. Gans won the epic battle in the forty-second round when Nelson was disqualified for striking a low blow. George Lewis “Tex” Rickard, American sports promoter who started in the business by staging the Gans-Nelson bout of 1906.
2Walter Scott. “Death Valley Scotty,” self-styled prospector and miner who left his native Kentucky in the 1890s to travel through the West. Scott eventually settled in Death Valley, California, where his publicity stunts and moneymaking schemes netted him a small fortune and a legendary reputation. In the 1920s he built a huge, lavish castle on his desert estate.
GETTING OUT A COLUMN
Well all I know is just what I read in the papers and as there hasn’t been much in the papers why I am kinder stuck on something to write. I got it. I will do like those New York columnists do. I wish I could write like that fellow McIntyre.1 I never miss him. Old Odd can make spinach appetizing in print. Then he has got one of the biggest herds of words to ride in and out from. He is so far ahead of all other columnists there is no comparison. Then for real humor Bugs Bear is the King.2 Lord, how that fellow can think of all that?
OF OUR OWN
Here goes on my first lap of trying to be a columnist. I hate red neckties and I hate to see a fellow without sock supporters, even if he has got a diploma. I would like to be back on the old street corner at Oolagah, Oklahoma, and have one of the boys come by and say, “Come on, Will, let’s go out on the prairie and tie a couple of steers.” I will never stay in the city long enough to get away from the old steer roping. What’s become of the old-fashioned window pane that was out and we stuffed it up with gunny sacks?
Up betimes and at my stint. My first stint is a lot of sliced fresh peaches, then some ham and then some eggs washed down with about a dozen saucers of coffee. I lay late, almost till 6:30. The papers came, but having nothing but politics, I cared not one whit for ’em. It does seem that our country could be run much better by someone if we could only think who. Mrs. Rogers came down and we had the usual argument as to how late the boys stayed out. They have to drive over a cattle guard coming in and it’s as good as an alarm clock as it rattles under the car wheels.
There was a big opening in Hollywood last night, but as I had nothing new to wear or say, I didn’t go. Our Scotty dog has more fleas on him, weight for age, than any other dog in California. Son Jimmy came down at last to breakfast and said he was late, as he had to drive half the night to find some movie house where they were showing a double feature. I argue with wife over what little pieces of real estate investments we should try to pay on and hold, and which to let go back. As we blowed up higher than a Wall Street margin speculator, we said, “Put it in land and you can always walk on it.” We did, but no buyers would walk on it with us.
Came by Clara Bow’s ranch away up in the desert in Nevada the other day.3 She’s got a Hollywood home right in the heart of the desert. Got cattle on it, not a California ranch with rabbits or avocados. I love my navy beans better than any other dish, or half dozen dishes. Just old plain white navies, cooked in plenty of ham or fat meat, with plenty of soup among ’em. Not catsup or any of that stuff. Just beans and corn bread, old corn pone (white, with no eggs), with the salt and water it’s cooked with, and raw onions. Those three things are all I want.
Winnifred Sheehan, a Buffalo newspaper reporter who made good in a big studio.4 I used to love to sing coon songs and was the first fellow in Cooweescoowee district, Cherokee Nation, Indian territory, that ever did the cake walk. Who does the Kingfish and who does Van Porter—Amos or Andy?5 McAdoo’s daughter is very tall and very beautiful and very charming.6 Greta Garbo is high hattin’ Sweden more than she did Hollyhockville?7 I love to stroll down in the old part of Beverly Hills because I know of old places that have been built for four or five years. Marie Dressler is my pet actress.8 Charlie Chaplin is my pet actor. I got two teeth out away back, but they did adjoin, and it shows when I laugh too much in the movies. Why do they make the legs of pajamas so long? The fellow that wrote “State Fair” is out at our studio.9 They have already got the hog that I am to play with in there.
I have about quit trying to play polo; depression and old age hit me the same summer. Dick Powell, Master of Ceremonies in one theatre in Pittsburg for three years, made good in a big Hollywood studio.10 He come from Little Rock. His father sold harvesters since wheat used to be worth cutting. I used to have two ingrowing toenails. I know lots of people that used to have bad breath before halitosis was invented. There is nothing that will keep you awake more than a leaking hot water bottle. Every time I shoot a pistol I shut my eyes.
William Hearst has got the the biggest house I ever saw.11 I used to know Paul Bern eleven years ago, but I never issued any statement to the press.12 I don’t know who is “Blessed Eventing” this week, but as soon as they have a baby I will let you know. I was never in a night club; not morals, just never had a card. Mrs. Ziegfeld spent the evening with us yesterday, as lovely and bright a person as one could meet.13 Jim Rogers burned his hand roping a calf. I didn’t; I missed mine. Just read a book called “The Stump Farm,” as fine literature as ever I tasted.14 Got in my petrol wagon and drove over half of Nevada.
Why, my article is finished already. This kind of stuff is a cinch. Of course, I haven’t made it as interesting as they do, but it’s true. I must get a little more scandal in the next one, and I know a lot.
1Oscar Odd McIntyre, American syndicated writer whose column, “New York Day by Day,” appeared in more than 500 newspapers from 1912 until his death in 1938.
2Arthur “Bugs” Baer, popular American newspaper columnist and humorist; wrote for the New York World and New York American newspapers.
3For Clara Bow see WA 434:N 5.
4Winfield R. “Winnie” Sheehan, American motion picture director and producer; vice president of Fox Film Corporation from 1921 to 1935.
5For “Amos ‘n Andy” see WA 487:N 1.
6For William G. McAdoo WA 494:N 5.
7For Greta Garbo see WA 463:N 8.
8For Marie Dressler see WA 469:N 20.
9Philip Duffield Strong, American newspaperman and author whose first novel, State Fair (1932), was made into a highly popular motion picture, starring Rogers.
10Dick Powell, American singer and actor who had limited stage experience before signing a Hollywood contract in 1932 and making his film debut in Blessed Event. He continued to make motion pictures until his retirement in 1954.
11For William Randolph Hearst see WA 461:N 1.
12Paul Bern, American actor and motion picture executive whose tragic death in 1932, soon after his marriage to glamorous film star Jean Harlow, remains a subject of controversy.
13For Billie Burke Ziegfeld see WA:N 2.
14The Stump Farm, a 1928 non-fiction work by Hilda Rose that chronicled the lives of a poneer farm family in the Northwest.