As Congress continues to debate a Farm Bill, it's fun the dig up the words of one of America's best loved commentators Will Rogers, who wrote in 1933:
"I was there on the historic day when Congress actually passed the inflation bill tacked on to the farm bill.
Never in the history of the world has such a gigantic piece of legislation ever passed. It was more than gigantic, it was even big. It gives relief to the farmer in so many different ways that even if he received no relief at all, why, just trying to study it out will keep him so busy that he will forget he ever wanted relief.
Then there is two or three billion appropriations in there to get mortgages on small homes or farms at a small rate of interest and longtime payments.
Well that’s fine, but they already got ‘em on.
Then there was gold and silver. All in the farmers’ bill mind ya.
Now the poor farmer hasn’t seen any copper pennies much less gold or silver.”
Different times in deed. Will Rogers spoke to a country filled with farmers -- 6.8 million of them. And they were struggling farmers in a nation emerging from a Depression and Dust Bowl. But his words extended much further. His commentary reached 40 million readers and listeners. He was the most popular figure of his time. Imagine tuning the crackling AM band of the radio to hear his tongue-in-cheek humor carried on a weekly program or opening the daily newspaper to read his column which appeared in 600 newspapers at the peak of his career.
Thanks to Randall Reeder we have a new view of Will Rogers. Reeder’s new book “Will Rogers: I never met a farmer I didn’t like.” is a collection of agricultural quotes from the famed humorist. And the quotes Reeder shares ring with a clarity that jolts you to attention. How can it be that things Rogers said then still make such sense today?
Rogers on debt:
"There is a change coming over the country anyhow.
People just have to get used to more debt.
Let’s all let the fellow we owe the debt to do the worrying."
Rogers on political parties:
"A Republican moves slowly. They are what we call conservatives.
A conservative is a man who has plenty of money and doesn’t see any reason why he shouldn’t always have plenty of money.
A Democrat is a fellow who never had any, but doesn’t see any reason why he shouldn’t have some."
Rogers on marketing:
"These old boys with a pair of specs and tablet and pencil can sit a figure out how much wheat, corn and oats can be raised each year in order to sell each bushel of it with a profit."
Then along comes a guy called, “Elements.”
Rogers on farm programs:
"Here is my Farm Relief bill. Every time a Southern farmer plants nothing but cotton year after year, and the Northener nothing but wheat or corn, why take a hammer and hit him twice right between the eyes. You may dent the hammer, but it will do more real good than all the (farm relief) bills you can pass in a year."
One big reason the text runs so true is Reeder is one of us. He’s farm-raised and worked as an Ohio Extension agronomist. He continues to organize the Conservation Tillage and Technology Conference that attracts 900 farmers and consultants to Ada every March. He’s been speaking as Will Rogers to agricultural meetings since 1996. He says it all started with his striking resemblance to Rogers that prompted Oklahoma professional speaker Dale Minnick to declare, “God put you together to remind us of the most admired man in the U.S. in the 20th Century.”
Reeder followed up and learned more about Rogers from the ample printed copy he had left behind -- approximately 2 million words. He watched video of James Whitmore as Rogers. And he spoke with two others who gave talks and put on shows as Rogers.
“I quickly learned that using only Will's words, in historical context and knowing nothing that happened after 1935 did not work for me," Reeder says. "So I began presenting Will Rogers Today, pretending to still be here --now 134 years old. It gave me the freedom to add comments about current events, especially politics.”
In his presentations about 75% of the content is authentic, and the rest is added for humor or simply to relate an "old" quote to something current. Reeder also decided to wear a suit, as Will did for the last 10 years of his life, instead of speaking as a cowboy as most other impersonators do.
“If I could do more than one or two simple rope tricks, I might be a cowboy too,” Reeder jokes.
Reeder started collecting Rogers’ quotes related to agriculture all along the way so he could use selected ones for talks to agricultural audiences. He got the idea for the book several years ago. A conversation with former Ohio Farmer associate editor and freelance writer Susan Davis convinced him to write it chronologically instead of trying to divide it by topics. “I finally got serious after I retired 2 years ago,” Reeder says. “It's amazing how much time and work it takes to "write" a book when it's 99% plagiarized.”
The book has 216 pages. It includes a bonus section with Roger’s comments strictly on horses a topic he clearer loved:
“They used to take your horse and if they got caught, they were hung for it. Now they take your car and if they get caught it’s a miracle.”
And it includes a second bonus section with Paul Harvey’s Super Bowl hit “So God Made a Farmer” poem. Harvey is also an Oklahoman, who started his radio career at age in Tulsa. It’s a great bonus.
In fact the little book is itself a gem. Written in big print with just a few words on each page, its easy reading. The words are delivered as if they were spoken and best of all spoken by a farmer. If you’re looking for a stocking stuffer, this something any farmer would appreciate.
Thanksgiving Day 1934
In the days of the founders they were willing to give thanks for mighty little, for mighty little was all they expected.
But now neither government or nature can give enough but what we think it is too little.
Those old boys in the Fall of year, if they could gather a few pumpkins, potatoes and some corn for winter, they was in a thanking mood.
But if we can’t gather in a new Buick, a new radio, a tuxedo and some government relief, why we feel like the world is agin us.
To order online, go to: willrogerstoday.com. One click takes you to Amazon.com where the book is $15, plus S&H. Also available as an ebook on Amazon for a Kindle, $5.99.
Or send a check to Randall Reeder, 4779 Baldwin Road, Hilliard, OH 43026-7669. The total is $19 per book. Or if you want 3 or more the cost is $15 each (free S&H).