Saturday, April 4, 2015

Bill Barrow and his Sagebrush Philosophy

I have made several posts in the last few years about Edgar Wilson (Bill) Nye. Nye was one of the most famous newspaper columnists of the late 1800s. So famous he went on humorous lecture tours and shared billing with Mark Twain. His Laramie Boomerang writings appeared in papers throughout America and overseas. Seems unlikely that a state as small as Wyoming could have a newspaperman of such prominence, but they did, and they also had another.

Merris C. (Bill) Barrow was nearly as well-known as Bill Nye. He came to Wyoming in 1878 and after a few months was working for Bill Nye who was then the editor of the Boomerang. He worked in an entry-level job in the papers make-up department but in a few years he was running the Douglas Budget.

Barrow wrote two segments for the paper that were widely circulated and appreciated. Authoring both, Sagebrush Philosophy (once a month) and his weekly column, Bill Barrow’s Budget. Barrow’s folksy cowboy philosophy was a hit. He advertised his newspaper as, “five the chunk”, (five cents each) or, “two plunks per” ($2.00 a year) and reported it was printed on, “prickly pear papyrus.”
He reported his sagebrush philosophy, was “pungent yes, but palatable.” The paper did well, for a small town paper, but it was Bill Barrow and his words that were sent around the country.

I am not sure today if newspapers present the type of vehicle a writer needs to become known worldwide. A few columnist writing for papers with circulations in the hundreds of thousands are well known but not the superstar writers of the old days. Today we reserve that status for our favorite novel writers.
Sunset in the Park
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