Good Horse Sense!


Dream BIG! However, never get too BIG for your dreams.

Inventors want their gadgets and gizmos marketed and used. Entrepreneurs want their products and services to perform well and to be profitable. Does it matter where the ideas and innovations are marketed or how? Not as long as those ideas and innovations are represented honestly and presented fairly.

Writers want to be read — by as wide an audience as possible. Does it really matter if the book is hardcover or a paperback, in print or available in an ebook format? Singers and songwriters want to be heard — in a variety of mediums. Should a musically-inclined dreamer sneer at an opportunity to perform for a local venue, be heard on a small radio station, or be produced by an independent record label? These are steps forward to bigger and better things, after all. So, should we underestimate or devalue any opportunity or venue? The simplest and most straightforward answer comes from God’s Word: “Do not despise these small beginnings, for the LORD rejoices to see the work begin….” (Zechariah 4:10 NLT)

Of course, not every person pursuing a dream is a “beginner.” Many may feel they’re well on their way to success, and that they’ve paid their dues; others may feel they’ve already arrived. Still, should these dreamers look down their noses at lesser opportunities to spread their talents and abilities? Before you answer, please allow us to share the following example of an actor who momentarily got just a little too big for his britches — and later regretted it.

Actors want to be seen. Right? And famous! And remembered! Remember Rocky Lane? He was a handsome stage actor discovered in the 1930s by a Fox Studios talent scout. But “Rocky” Allan Lane was never able to make it as a leading man in A-list productions. However, Lane found his niche, when he was in his forties, starring in a string of popular “B” movie westerns. During the 1940s through the early-1950s, Lane enjoyed enough success to be featured on kid’s lunchboxes. But by the late 1950’s he was back to smaller parts, mostly in TV westerns.

Only hardcore western fans and a few nostalgia buffs seem to remember those Rocky Lane horse operas today. Although he made close to four dozen of these short films, only a handful are available now. But the character actor got another — even greater — shot at immortality in 1961. Lane was in his early fifties by then, but apparently he was still tightly gripping the reigns of the idea he had “star” potential. When he was approached by a television producer with a steady job offer, Lane turned it down cold.

It was easy work in a weekly television series, but with good pay. The producer wanted Lane to provide the humorous voice for a wisecracking horse! Lane felt the job was beneath him; which shows how far Hollywood and actors have come since then, because Bradley Cooper, the A-list actor nominated for an “Oscar” for his lead performance in American Sniper (2014), recently supplied the voice for an ornery raccoon in Gaurdians of the Galaxy!

Well, the producer finally convinced Lane to do the voice, but the actor had two stipulations: he didn’t want an acting credit, and he wanted his part in the series kept a big secret. He wanted absolutely no association with the TV show. That wasn’t exactly using good horse sense, however, because Mister Ed ended up being a top-rated series during its six-year run, and is now considered a cult classic.

Make my day: Clint Eastwood happily guest starred in an episode of MISTER ED.

The scheming-but-lovable Mister Ed was so popular, in fact, that some of the biggest stars of the time wanted to play opposite the horse. A few who came on the show, playing themselves, included Clint Eastwood, Zsa Zsa Gabor, George Burns and baseball great Leo Durocher. And today — five decades later — people still fondly remember Mister Ed. He’s immortal, so to speak. Rocky Lane? Not so much. We’d never heard of him before we researched the show.

Leo Durocher (left) played ball with Mister Ed (literally). Right: Ed’s costar, Alan Young, playing Wilbur Post.

After Mister Ed became a hit, Lane decided he wanted that screen credit after all. Too late! The show was already crediting Mister Ed as playing himself — and the producers didn’t want to spoil the fun for all the kids watching by saying otherwise! Snort!

Horses may have been beneath Rocky Lane in all those westerns — literally — but doing  Ed’s voice, as the actor realized too late, was not. Too bad he didn’t come off his high horse sooner! (Sorry.) Moral: lighten up. Don’t take yourself TOO seriously. And above all, stay humble, no matter how much success you encounter. Dream big, but don’t get too big for your dreams! “For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Luke 14:11 NLT)

Young (left) as Wilbur, and Mister Ed as himself.  Ed: “All us big celebrities just play ourselves!”

In the Coils of the Creator (Encouragement for Creators)


President George W. Bush declared it the national toy of the United States; and in his 2002 State of the Union address he stated, “I can not think of a recreational device that better exemplifies the inventiveness of the American spirit.”

Over the last 70 years it’s sold well over 300 million units.

It owes it’s unique ability to descend a staircase to “simple harmonic motion,” the mechanics of which are governed by Hooke’s Law and gravity. (Huh?!? Don’t worry about this particular point; we promise there won’t be a quiz.)

In 1995, it got a plum role in Pixar’s Toy Story. What on earth are we discussing? According to the popular jingle sung on numerous TV commercials, “a spring, a spring — a marvelous thing! Everyone knows it’s Slinky.” And it was created by accident!

In 1943, at a shipyard in Philadelphia, a naval mechanical engineer named Richard James was designing support springs that would be able to cushion and stabilize sensitive shipboard instruments during rough seas. He accidentally knocked one of his springs from a shelf, and was amazed to see it “step” down a stack of books, then walk across his worktable, before finally doing a summersault onto the floor. James the inventor instantly recognized a good thing, and he was ready to run with it. When he got home that evening, he told his wife, Betty, that he wanted to experiment further with the spring. He was convinced that — using the right properties of steel, and finding the perfect tension — he could create a toy that walked all by itself. James’ wife was skeptical, until — after a year of fiddling with various springs — HE DID IT!

James unveiled his creation to a group of neighborhood kids who all cheered the “sleek and graceful” new toy. Wife Betty decided to call it a Slinky, which means … um … “sleek and graceful.”  Trivia time: the original Slinky was two and a half inches tall and was made of 98 coils of high-grade blue-black Swedish steel. A local machine shop produced the first batch of 400 units; and initially, Richard and Betty James had trouble convincing toy stores to carry the product. The Gimbels department store in Philadelphia finally allowed the couple to set up an inclined plank in the toy section, where they demonstrated the Slinky to wide-eyed kids and their parents. Those first 400 units — each hand-wrapped in bright yellow paper and priced at $1 — sold out in 90 minutes.

But that’s nothing. During its first 2 years, the newly-formed James Industries sold 100 million Slinkys at a dollar apiece. Adjusting for inflation, that’s equivalent to $1 Billion!

In 1960, Richard James left the company, and Betty took sole ownership; and she continued to preside over the ever-growing business until 1998. During those 38 years, she insisted on keeping the price of the original Slinky affordable. Betty once told The New York Times, “So many children can’t have expensive toys, and I feel a real obligation to them.”

And what of Richard? After creating one of the most unique and unusual, most popular and profitable, toys ever known, what does a millionaire inventor do for an encore? Well, after leaving his company in 1960, Richard James became an evangelical missionary in Bolivia with Wycliffe Bible Translators. Strange? That’s not for us to decide.

But what’s the lesson in the Story of Slinky? That’s not for us to decide, either. There are several things we can take from this tale. For us to single out any one of them would minimize the others. What did you take from it?

“Call to me, and I will answer you; I will tell you wonderful and marvelous things that you know nothing about.” (Jeremiah 33:3 GNT)