Old Iron's Funny Man
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'In the 1960s, the pioneers I had interviewed told me that humor was a weapon of survival. Here were people facing death and disaster every time the sun came up, but they still managed to laugh. Textbooks never tell you about a lot of laughter going around on the frontier, so I started to relish those stories the old-timers told about their humor.'
Roger says his 'Tall Tales' column proved very popular, resulted in several books and landed him an invitation to write for Successful Farming magazine. 'I hated to leave Nebraska Farmer, but with Successful Farming I have such a gigantic audience, so when I was offered a chance to work with them, I didn't have much choice.'
Roger says his personal favorite of his books - about 30 to date - 'probably' is It's Not the End of the Earth, But You Can See It From Here. He likes that one because it has to do with real life. 'But that said, my most recent book is always my favorite; Love, Sex, and Tractors was the most fun to write, and the one people probably get the most kick out of reading.'
Welsch fans who visit Dannebrog often stop at Al Schmidt's, formerly a filling station, to inquire about Roger. 'That Roger Welsch,' they'll say, 'all he does for a living is writing?'
On 'Postcards from Nebraska,' which was a regular segment that Roger did in the 1980s on CBS News' 'Sunday Morning' show, he does appear to just sit around on his front porch, and whittle and spit while he talks. But that's not the real story.
In real life, Roger says, he prefers to meet his fans at farm shows. 'We can't run a reception center here at home, because I just wouldn't get any work done. At farm shows, I get to talk with the people who enjoy my material and answer questions, and even get some new material off and on.'
Bitten by 'old iron' bug
For the first few years of farm life, Roger says, he wasn't interested in old iron - but he did inherit a tractor with the place. 'When we moved down here by the river, we had a 1936 Allis-Chalmers WC tractor that ran every time you turned the crank. When there was snow and mud, the only way in and out of here was with that tractor. I appreciated the Allis, but I never changed the oil in a car, much less a tractor. 'Mechanicking' was nothing to me. I avoided it.'
One day though, 'for some reason,' Roger decided to tighten the brakes on the Allis, and when he opened it up, he was changed for life.
'I was struck by the mechanical ingenuity and incredible simplicity of it,' he recalls. 'Even a dullard like me could work and adjust it. That was a moment of triumph in an area that had nothing to do with my regular life, with making a living and keeping a household going and being a married, working, decent father.'