Never Met a Man I Didn’t Like

I had a dream last night. It was a vivid dream. I was in a perfect place. A realm of unspeakable beauty. It was the kind of dream where anything could happen. The kind of dream where anyone could show up.

Anyone, such as, for example, Will Rogers.

I know this will sound stupid, but Will Rogers was in my dream last night. I’ve never seen Will Rogers in person. Never met him. He died 40-odd years before I was even a glint in the milkman’s eye. And yet here he was.

He was chewing gum, hands in his pockets, he wore a Stetson Open Road, slightly pushed back. He had an easy smile. He was sun-weathered.

This couldn’t be happening, I was thinking. Nobody even remembers Will Rogers anymore. Rogers, America’s favorite vaudevillian. Rogers, who predated the Great Depression. Rogers, America’s foremost syndicated columnist. Hollywood’s highest-paid actor. A lasso twirler. A jokesmith. A comedian.
He was the man.

At least that’s what my grandfather thought.

Not that you care, but William Penn Adair Rogers was born in 1879 in what became Oklahoma. He was a citizen of the Cherokee Nation. He got into performing because he was quick with a one-liner. He was good with a lasso. He was a comedian.

Soon, Rogers was touring the vaudeville circuit, kicking hides and taking names.

He was a guy who wrote his own epitaph when he said, “I joked about every prominent man of my time, but I never met a man I didn’t like. I am so proud of that, I can hardly wait to die so it can be carved.”

My grandfather adored Will Rogers. He saw him in person twice. You know how people today make a big deal about how they once saw the Beatles, or Elvis, or Barry Manilow in concert? That’s how granddaddy was about Will Rogers.

“I saw Will Rogers perform,” Granddaddy would say for the seven millionth time. Then he’d hold up two fingers, and everyone would say it with him: “Twice.”

The story went, one night my grandfather and his little brother traveled to see Will Rogers in a dusty Oklahoma village. Rogers walked on stage dressed like a cowpoke and started doing lasso tricks. The place howled with delight.

“He could make that rope sing,” said my grandfather.

Then, according to Granddaddy, Rogers asked for a volunteer from the audience to help demonstrate a lasso trick. Rogers’s bright eyes scanned the crowd and actually landed on my grandfather.

My little grandfather almost soaked his britches. He wandered centerstage while Rogers spun a lasso that was large enough for my grandfather to step through. When the trick was over, on my grandfather’s return to his seat, Rogers twirled the lasso, executed a rollover loop, and roped my grandfather like you’d rope a steer.

The rope fastened around my grandfather’s waist and everyone cheered. It was the best night of my grandfather’s life. He said the evening was more enjoyable than any he’d ever had, including his own wedding.

Sadly, years later I learned this story was not true.

My grandfather wasn’t lying. He was confused because this happens to old people.

Granddaddy had been slipping lately. He started doing strange things. He kept his bills in the refrigerator and sometimes he brushed his teeth in the kitchen sink. He had embarrassing accidents in his diapers.

It was difficult to watch. There is nothing as bitter and beautiful as watching someone age.

Granddaddy’s brother, my great-uncle, told us that it was another kid in the audience who had been selected that night. Not my grandfather.

But apparently my young grandfather was so in the moment, so totally excited by Rogers’s performance, that he might as well have been the one on that stage.

My great-uncle said to us, “Let your granddaddy remember it the way he wants to remember it.”

So anyway, there I was. Meeting Will Rogers. We shook hands. He looked at me with an easy smile. He told me we had a mutual friend, and I knew immediately who he was talking about.

Standing behind Rogers I could see our mutual colleague. He was a young man. Tall. Dressed the way men used to dress long ago. Trousers pulled up to his sternum. Hair slicked with pomade. He was built like a railroad spike. A farmer. He smelled like Prince Albert in a can. He was young. Lean. And happy.

The young man hugged my neck. There was a tear in his green eye.

“You’re going to love it up here,” he said.

And then I woke up.


  1. johnwilberswetnamgmailcom - April 7, 2023 5:58 pm

    I’ve been in NC for 60 years, but I grew up in Tulsa. One of our best and most beautiful high schools is named after Rogers. We were mighty proud of him, and a week never went by that I didn’t hear something about him — as if he were still there living with us. And after six decades away, I still say inside that I’m an Okie and I’m still proud about being from the same state as Will Rogers. One of my goals is to be able to say I never met a man I didn’t like. I’ve cleaned up my past inside, seeing my errors and seeing others through less of my illness of egocentricity. So I can say I’ve never, etc. about all those in my past. Being able to say this in my present, takes constant adjustments to my guidance systems. But that’s progress.

  2. Slimpicker - April 8, 2023 2:56 am

    Rogers also had another great saying, “I never met a man that didn’t like dogs that was worth knowing.” I agree!

  3. - April 9, 2023 3:08 am

    Sew Then
    Sew When

    Once upon a time…

    I Read this “post”
    then I read “ & then
    “Slim-picker – April 8, 2023 –

    and I realized that Will Rogers never ever really left us.

    Whether you are Left of Right or
    Weather you are Right from Wrong or
    weather you can deal with the Whether (or not)
    if round 3/4 (or 3&4) or 3 quarters time gets played
    at Augusta’s annual gathering tomorrow morning,

    Will Rogers will get in the way… because

    When there is a Will, there is a way…

    & that is my last Will Rogers & New Testament (on this Easter Morning).

    Rise above the noise, my Will Rogers Brethren.

    from the Womb
    to the Tomb
    To the …

  4. Peggy Campbell - April 10, 2023 4:32 pm

    Sean … Come west, young man, sometime … and be sure to visit Mr. Rogers’ (this one, not the other one) home in Pacific Palisades right above the polo grounds and overlooking the Pacific ocean–no wonder he was such a happy soul. Love what you write!


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