Susan Spess Shay

Still playing make believe.

A Will Deal


This morning, after my commune time, I flicked on the flat screen and to my disappointment, there was a silent movie on my favorite movie channel. At least I thought I was disappointed, until I saw what it was.

Know who this is?

Will Rogers.

 The movie was a documentary (travel film?) he’d made called “Roaming the Emerald Isle.”

Ireland (a country my man and and I have always planned to visit, but haven’t. Yet. God willing, we will some day!) and Will Rogers–one of my childhood heroes. What’s not to love about that?

What I enjoyed most was Will himself. Will died in 1935, a couple of days before I was born. (My parents were 4 and 5.)

Did you know Will was Oklahoma’s favorite son? He was also one of my heroes when I was a kid. (I read his biography and later watched the movie about his life, which starred his son.)

From Wikipedia:

Rogers was born to a prominent Cherokee Nation family in Indian Territory (now part of Oklahoma). (From Susan–between today’s Claremore and Oolagah.) He traveled around the world three times, made 71 movies (50 silent films and 21 “talkies“),[2] wrote more than 4,000 nationally-syndicated newspaper columns,[3] and became a world-famous figure. By the mid-1930s, Rogers was adored by the American people. He was the leading political wit of the Progressive Era, and was the top-paid Hollywood movie star at the time.

Will had a great way of turning a phrase. Here’s one of my favorites.

 Isn’t that the truth?

I’ve seen some of his talkies, but watching him in this travel film, I saw something I’d missed before. His hat.

I knew he wore a hat–nearly everyone did until the ’50’s and ’60’s–but the way he sported and handled his fedora caught my eye. The man moved and looked like someone I’ve known. Or should have known. 😉

Or maybe it reminded me of my granddads.

This belonged to Granddad Reeves.

Kind of looks like Will borrowed Granddad’s hat for this pic, doesn’t it?

Granddad was a slow talking guy. Tall (in my mind, at least) with a perpetual cigarette in his hand. If he wasn’t smoking, he jingled coins in his pocket or fiddled with his lighter.

I don’t remember him saying a whole lot (Grandma said enough for both of them!) but he raised a passel of great kids and taught them a great work ethic. He built, wired and plumbed at least two houses that I remember. In World War I he was an army cook and such a great guy that my grandma lived in a tent to be near him.

  This belonged to Granddad Ray.

Will is the guy on the left. His hat isn’t very different from Granddad’s, is it?

Any guesses what that stain on Granddad’s hat is? If you guessed oil, you were right. (I’m not sure if that’s hair oil or petroleum.) This granddad was in a lot of different businesses from butcher shops to insurance sales to oil to farm/ranching. And he was a dandy. Always looked and smelled good! (Mama said before men’s colognes were available, Granddad would sometimes wear women’s cologne.)

He lived next door most of my growing up years and I remember a lot of things he said. How upset he got when my boyfriend brought another girl home from college. How proud he was of my brother when he went to college. And how he didn’t recognize me in Sister Debbie’s wedding. (That’s a real shocker.)

When my grandparents passed away, the thing I asked for was a hat. I got one of each of theirs except Grandma Reeves. (She had big straw hats she wore in the garden. I don’t know where they ended up, but I hope it wasn’t the trash.)

“Well, I can understand a man perhaps being eccentric enough to want to own a silk hat.”

“A difference of opinion is what makes horse racing and missionaries.”

“A fool and his money are soon elected.”(Susan–Can I get an amen?)

“A holding company is a thing where you hand an accomplice the goods while the policeman searches you.”

“A remark generally hurts in proportion to its truth.”

“A man only learns in two ways, one by reading, and the other by association with smarter people.”
Will Rogers

Wow. Wish I’d had a chance to be around Will. For a guy who didn’t graduate from high school, he had a lot of knowledge to share! If more people had his morals and values today, what a beautiful world we’d have!

You can read more about Will Rogers and his wife, Betty.

What kind of heroes did you have as a kid?

Author: Susan Shay

For as long as I can remember, I've loved two things--reading and people--and that led me to become a writer. Many of my stories are set in Small Town Worlds. I'm a wife, mother, sibling and an aunt. I have a deep faith in God, and an exciting life in Christ. Maybe I shouldn't be (after all, he's God!) but I'm constantly amazed at the things He's up to. :)

5 thoughts on “A Will Deal

  1. More trivia; Will jr was once a member of congress, & later was diagnosed with brain cancer(?), as a result he drove into the AZ desert & shot himself in the head. Sorry but your story brought this back to my mind. While living in socal I went to Will’s house(now a CA park) in pacific palisades, several times, a beautiful ranch style house, alot like Phillips’s house at Wooloroc.

    • Mike! Hi!!! Thanks for stopping by my small town world!

      Will, Jr. was in a couple of movies, too, Mike. The story about Will Rogers, Sr.’s life is the one I remember.
      I’m sorry to hear about Junior’s illness and the way he chose to die. Nice to know he was in congress, though, at least for a little while.
      I think I need to go back to Woolaroc pretty soon. It’s been too long.

  2. Will Rogers was so witty. I loved going to Claremore to the musuem when I was a kid. Now that I am older, I have visited the museum several times in the last few years. Taking my grandkids & showing them the miniature saddles he collected, watching one of his movies & just talking to them about how it was in the “olden” days is such a pleasure. Everyone needs to take a walk back in time at the Will Rogers Museum in Claremore. Also, It gives me a warm fuzzy feeling knowing this man was a true American from Oklahoma!

    Thanks for sharing your hat stories, too. My Dad and Pappaw Shoemaker always wore a hat in the fifties & sixties, too. I knew that Pappaw never left the house without his hat. One time, he came to visit when I was about 4 years old, and I didn’t want him to leave. Knowing he wouldn’t leave without his hat, I “hid” it by sitting on it. 🙂

    • Hi Sharon!
      What a funny story about hats. Funny, my dad only wore hardhats to protect his head when he was out in the field. I don’t remember him ever having a fedora. Maybe he was too young. Mama wore her share, though!

      Love your remembrances about the Will Rogers Museum. I think I was there once, but I don’t remember the miniature saddles. Guess I’d better trek back over there.
      He’s another guy I wish I could have known.
      Glad I know you!

  3. Pingback: When I was Just . . . « Small Town World . . .

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