Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Will Rogers State Historic Park

"I never met a man I didn't like."
               Will Rogers

"Everything is changing in America.  People are taking their comedians seriously and the politicians as a joke."

"There are three kinds of men.  The one that learns by reading.  The few who learn by observation.  The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves."
"I am not a member of any organized political party.  I am a Democrat."

"Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there."

"The income tax has made liars out of more Americans than golf."

I looked closely at the other tourists walking through Will Roger's home above Santa Monica.  They were all over 60--anyway, not a youngster among them.  So when I got home, I asked my 28-year-old son, "Do you know who Will Rogers is?"

"Nope.  Never heard of him."  So then I started spouting his famous quotes and suddenly my son said, "Really?  He was the one who said that?"

Like:  "Advertising is the art of convincing people to spend money they don't have for something they don't need."

Probably the only reason I know of Will Rogers is because I was born only a few miles away from his birthplace near Lake Oologah in Oklahoma.  I drove by his ranch numerous times, but don't remember ever stopping there.  He died in 1935 so he was more my parent's contemporary than mine.  
I explained to my son that he was a cross between the late Andy Rooney and today's Stephen Colbert.  Throw a little John Wayne in and you get the picture.  Witty, talented, folksy.  He went from being a cowboy doing rope tricks to making films in Hollywood.  His newspaper column poked fun of politicians.  His radio talk show was hugely successful.  I read that he was second only to Shirley Temple in popularity.

For history buffs and lovers of antiques, touring these old homes is always a rewarding experience.  Sadly, pictures are not allowed inside the home, but, trust me, the interiors are charming.  Filled with early California craftsman-style furniture, western art and Navajo rugs, he stayed true to his roots.  By the time he moved here in 1929, he was very famous so his friends and house guests included Howard Hughes, Walt Disney and Charles Lindbergh.  Who wouldn't want to visit when there was a golf course, polo field and riding stables to keep you busy, not to mention Rogers himself with his entertaining wit?

The docent told many an entertaining story herself, as well as a few heart-breaking ones.  It's a beautifully maintained home and a personal one.  His boots remain by the side of his bed.  All of Mrs. Roger's dishes are still in the cupboards.  The shelves are filled with the books he collected.  A tiny table still sits in the corner of the kitchen--the special place  where he spent every morning reading ten different newspapers.  "He got all his inspiration for his comedy routines from these papers," the docent said.

After touring the house we walked up to the stables.  It was late in the day so many families were returning from hiking the trails which surround the 186-acre property.  There are beautiful views of Los Angeles and the Pacific Ocean from up here,

I'm glad I made the effort to visit this place.  Will Rogers, the Cowboy Philosopher, is a man worth knowing.  He is a national treasure--one of America's greatest humorists whose jokes and political satire remain relevant to this day.

"There's no trick to being a humorist when you have the whole government working for you."

See what I mean?

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