The Train to Will Rogers

willToday is the birthday of one of the greatest Okies who ever lived. Will Rogers, who was born Nov. 4, 1879, said, “It’s great to be great, but it’s greater to be human.”

In honor of Will, here is a poem that I wrote many years ago. It is based on a memory my gangy told me about when she would ride the train from Locust Grove to Tulsa to see a movie or to go shopping.

Train

They were fifteen and smoked Lucky Strikes
on the train to Tulsa. Both wore their best dress.
Montie Jean’s was blue taffeta with lace
crocheted along the collar. She had to stand
or stroll to keep it from creasing at her hips.
She held Ann’s arm and they squeezed their heads out
one window and shouted into the spring
day at the flitting bright spots of bluebirds
and young men in the fields, checking the soil
to see if the seeds could be planted yet.
They waved to the men, and their smart curls held
in the wind and in the hot, cramped theater
where Will Rogers lassoed both their hearts and
Montie Jean, laughing, swallowed her mint gum.

–Shaun Perkins

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