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Sunday, September 01, 2002 ISSUE #242


MORGANTOWN, West Va.: The baseball strike got settled before it started, but nobody here much cares... football season is underway and the University won their first game.

The baseball owners gave their lowest paid players a 50 percent raise and promised not to eliminate any jobs. Can you imagine any big company doing that today? The baseball fans wanted cheaper seats and dollar hotdogs, but that idea went nowhere. What we'll get is $5 drinks and the Yankees in the World Series again.

Big news from television this week... they're planning to do one of those Survivor shows with hillbillies. Only it's backwards, where they take some rich, uptown Hollywood-type folks and put them out in the boondocks and see if they survive among the hillbillies, kinda like Green Acres. The producers are out prowling around searching for an "ideal location, probably in a southern state."

It's created quite a stir among our Governors. They're accustomed to showing off their state to big manufacturers, bragging about the fine highways, railroads, airports, schools, museums, and a plentiful supply of natural gas, electricity, and well-trained ambitious workers.

How will these same governors convince a TV network their state consists mostly of hollows, hicks and moonshine stills?

You might think the perfect spot would be an old house five miles up a dirt road, where you chop wood for the stove, grow your own food, and the only modern communication is a telephone party line. (For those too young to remember what that is, think of it as an internet chat room where you don't have to type.)

No, for this reality show, they should take these millionaires and set them down in the middle of an ordinary country community. It could be in any state... Arkansas, West Virginia, or even Massachusetts.

They'll have to trade their fancy Lincoln or Humvee off for an old Chevy pickup with a rusted tailgate. The music on the radio will be by Alan Jackson, not Michael.

There'll be a full calendar... go to church twice on Sunday and again on Wednesday night. High school football on Friday night.

Saturday night they'll have a choice... square dance at the Legion Hall, or listen to a band at the high school auditorium. It won't be a symphony... those are fiddles, not violins. There'll be banjos and guitars, and if it's really high class, a hammered dulcimer and a washtub bass-fiddle.

They'll have to learn how to survive receiving a bushel or two of tomatoes and squash from a neighbor's garden. (Better bring along a Martha Stewart recipe for zucchini bread.)

The children can join 4-H or Scouts and learn how to make or grow something to show at the County Fair. After school they can play softball in the backyard.

Throw in an occasional weiner roast, quilting bee, ramp dinner, and coon hunt, and you've got the makings of quite a show.

Most of these so-called reality shows start out with about a dozen people, and weed 'em out down to one survivor who walks away with a million dollars. For this Hillbilly Survivor show, if they follow this plan and start with 10 or 12, by the end they're liable to have 20 or 30, because all their city friends will be arriving to get in on the fun. And I bet they'll each willingly pay a million dollars for the privilege.

Historic quotes from Will Rogers:

"Anytime you tangle with an Arkansaw hillbilly or hillbillyess, you are going to run second." DT# 2803, July 30, 1935

"Baseball is the greatest game in the world, for the greatest number of people. And it's the least crooked sport ever invented. And I am going to go to it, and believe in it, and admire the type of men that play it, till I get so old that my whiskers will get caught in the turnstiles." WA#215, Jan. 23, 1927

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