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The Eagle, 19 Aug 1935


Besieged on many sides to tell something personal of the life of Will Rogers, my fellow statesman and recent victim of an Alaskan air tragedy - I feel moved to say that my admiration for, and appreciation of Will Rogers as a philosopher and humorist, comes largely from the fact that we enjoyed mutual friendship in our earlier years and formed our philophies of life against a common background of rugged surroundings during territorial days in Oklahoma.

Yesterday's paper [I'm unable to find that issue] carried an Associated Press statement made by the former Lucille Mulhall, now occupying the old Mulhall ranch headquarters at Mulhall, Okla. Miss Mulhall related in this statement that Will Rogers taught her the rope tricks she used so successfully at the height of her exhibition career, when he was a cowhand on her father's ranch and she was 16 years old. My girlhood home was 16 miles from the Mulhall ranch headquarters, and I held the catechism and porompted Lucille Mulhall when she was being prepared for confirmation in the Catholic church at the age of 12 or 13 years. So it is likely (though my memory of the cowboys on Mulhall's ranch grew more vivid as I reached the age to dance with them) that while Lucille Mulhall and I sat on an abandoned stone foundation in the shade of the church and rehersed her catechism; that Will Rogers was among the chapped and dusty cowboys who went "hell for leather" down the street in the direction of Shemmerhorn's saloon and more than likely he was one of those who squatted on his heels in the shade and waited for Lucille and myself to "bring their broncs back," as we "borrowed" them for a bit of a ride while the boys spun yarns at the saloon bar inside.

Will may have been the cowboy who threatened once, after I borrowed his horse, to kiss me, if I ever loosened his rope and "messed it all up again." He got his skins well kicked for the suggestion.

The fact tha Zack Mulhall was the political boss of territorial Oklahoma and major government appointments from governor on down were largely made by congress according to his recommendations, may give the casual reader an insight into where, how and when Will Rogers got his early schooling as an observer of things that determine the course of governments and the fate of nations. The real capitol of the Territory was at Guthrie, some 30 miles distant. But the "little capitol" was at Mulhall ranch headquarters. They might know what had happened over in Guthrie - but Col. Zack, could if he wanted to, tell you about what was going to happen in the way of territorial laws, appropriations, appointments, etc. More than this, he was especially fond of impressing folk with the fact that he dictated policies of government, so one had only to keep "one eye open and one ear cupped" to read the colonel's mind.

Undoubtedly, Will Rogers was one of the cow hands going with the Mulhalls to St. Louis when they opened their famous wild west show on the Pike there during the Worlds Fair in 1903. Prior to that time, the Mulhalls had staged a number of frontier celebrations in Oklahoma and nearby state, featuring roping, bronc riding, and other ranch sports resembling the old English "joust," such as roping tricks, picking up objects on the ground without dismounting from the moving bronc, shooting at targets with horse at top speed, ctc.

Will Rogers also whetted his skill as an exhibition horseman and trick roper, while associated with the original Miller Brothers of 101 Ranch fame. Aside from their successes at wild west show operation and rodeo promotion, the Millers were also astute politicians of their day and baliwick - so here again Will Rogers had a chance to "sit at the feet of Gamaelie," so to speak, as an observer of "how things got that way," politically speaking.

From this rugged and unadorned atmosphere of "straight shootin'" and "hard ridin'" enterprise, one can see the homely philosophy and subtle humor of Will Rogers bud and develop into full maturity of judgment and courage of conviction. Many a cowboy of that day, when a good "cuttin' pony and a standard lariat" were about equivalent to a college diploma for getting a boy a job, formed his policies of life, good or bad, when he rode the range "all by his lonesome - ta talkin' to a horse," It was from this school, more than from Kemper Military Academy, that Will Rogers evolved his wholesome faculty for seeing things as they were, rather than as he probably wished they were. Later in life, Will Rogers found prosperity and abundance crowning his well directed talents and abilities. He might have turned to a life of ease and comfort at will; but he chose rather to remain a traveler of remote and uncharted trails, eschewing comforts and convenience for the rugged adventure of the frontier, those few remaining spots where "civilization had not yet done its dirty work."

Thus he came to his end, at the very outpost of American civilization, where natural surroundings were unsubdued by the hand of man the wonders of science. Will Rogers is gone, but he has left to America and the world, a well written saga of theold west, "where men were men, and notches on a gun barrel meant something."

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