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Silver Threads: 80 years of wisdom

“After eating an entire bull, a mountain lion felt so good he started roaring. He kept it up until a hunter came along and shot him. The moral: When you’re full of bull, keep your mouth shut.”

This bit of wisdom came from the late Will Rogers, and it immediately made me think of Donald Trump. Ditto this next Rogers quote: “If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.” That’s advice that could be given to the whole cast of presidential hopefuls.

William Penn Adair "Will" Rogers was a Cherokee cowboy, vaudeville performer, humorist, newspaper columnist, social commentator and stage and motion picture actor. He became one of the most famous American media stars during the 1920s and 1930s, according to Wikipedia.

“He was the leading political wit of his time, and was the top-paid Hollywood movie star. Rogers died in 1935 with aviator Wiley Post, when their small airplane crashed in northern Alaska.”

Wikipedia says that Rogers could “poke fun at gangsters, prohibition, politicians, government programs and a host of other controversial topics in a way that offended no one. He also offered humorous observations about older folks, and here are some of them, along with my thoughts:

- “Eventually you will reach a point when you stop lying about your age and start bragging about it.”

As I neared 80 this year I began pointing out my approaching milestone to friends and column readers and whoever else would listen. Go figure. There must be something about having made it this far that made me proud.

- “The older we get, the fewer things seem worth waiting in line for.”

The last time my craving for beignets almost overcame me, the line from the entrance to Cafe Du Monde stretched almost to Canal Street. (Well, at least across Jackson Square.) I slipped furtively into the place, and the waiters compassionately seated me.
- “Some people try to turn back their odometers. Not me; I want people to know why I look this way. I've traveled a long way, and some of the roads weren't paved.”

See first above.

- "When you are dissatisfied and would like to go back to youth, think of algebra.”

When I’ve thought of being young again, it’s been with the proviso that I know all I know now. And that includes knowing that I will never ever need to use algebra after high school.

- “You know you are getting old when everything either dries up or leaks.”

'Nuff said. Too true but also too embarrassing to comment on.

- “I don't know how I got over the hill without getting to the top.”

Sad, but true, in the case of those of us who dreamed of fame as children but never achieved it. If I had, you’d be reading my best-selling novels now. I’d have been just as famous as Harper Lee and more productive.

- “One of the many things no one tells you about aging is that it's such a nice change from being young.”

In many, many ways, yes. The pressure is off.

- “One must wait until evening to see how splendid the day has been.”

I thought about that the other night, standing on the back porch, looking at the moon, and giving thanks for my family, the friends I’ve known, the places I’ve been, the fun I’ve had.

The last quote from Rogers is advice that not many people in today’s world need, but it makes me laugh: “Never squat with your spurs on.”

Bettye Anding is a former editor of the Living section of The Times Picayune, for which she wrote “Silver Threads” until her retirement. Email comments to her at [email protected]