Where’s John Wayne?

Published 2:50 pm Tuesday, May 25, 2010

John Wayne, according to a 2010 Harris poll, still ranks in the Top 10 among the most popular America actors.

That’s amazing, considering that he died more than 30 years ago. As a boy, I loved to go to the picture show on Saturdays, especially, if a John Wayne movie was part of the double feature.

I bring his name up today because of one of his films.

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In 1968, he made a film by the name of Hellfighters. It was based upon the life of Red Adair, a renowned American oil well fighter. At that time, an oil well fighter was called to extinguish the hellish fires that resulted when a land-based oil well exploded.

As the Deepwater Horizon oil rig disaster in the Gulf of Mexico heads into its second month, I am wondering “where is John Wayne when we really need him?” My silly mind began to wander as I tried to think of just how The Duke would have handled this real and shameful disaster.

The scene is the Houston headquarters of British Petroleum and the ultra-expensive and lavishly appointed board room is full of BP executives and U.S. governmental representatives wringing their hands over the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster, now over a month old and no nearer being controlled than on Day One.

BP (Beware People) CEO Tony Hayward is explaining the latest effort.

“We’ve got 10,000 people chewing Bazooka bubble gum, three pieces each (total cost: $3,000), and as soon as they get it ready we’re going to transport it down to the gushing site via remote control robots and we think that will plug the hole.”

The administration’s representative pointed a bony finger at Hayward and said, “That better work or we’re going to take control of this disaster and we’re really going to do something!”

No one bothered to ask “what they were going to do” because the doors to the board room suddenly burst open and in walked a tall man with a cowboy hat cocked to one side and he spoke with a very distinctive voice.

“Pilgrims, I hear ya need some help. I’m gonna need a little dynamite, a short underwater fuse, and all of you pinheads to get outta my way.”

Hayward was taken aback and said, “Who is this yo-yo and who let him in?”

No one remembered The Duke except an old-timer who had been vacuuming the outside hall. He looked inside the room and thought to himself, “Thank you, Lord. Finally, someone who knows how to get something done.”

Wayne answered the BP head, “John Wayne here and you must be the CYA of this outfit.”

“Wrong,” said Hayward, “it’s CEO.”

“I don’t care whether it’s CEO or CIA, but all it seems like you’re trying to do is Cover Your [Expletive deleted.]” Mr. Wayne wasn’t speaking for a family-oriented newspaper.

The Duke went on to explain that he knew all about oil rig disasters because he had once made a movie about it and he was pretty sure he could fix the problem.

“This one is a little different,” Mr. Hayward said disdainfully. “It’s almost a mile deep in water. You’d better let us handle this one. After all, we do know what we’re doing.”

“Coulda’ fooled me,” Wayne replied. “It’s been 36 days since the explosion and you have yet to tell us just how much oil is being released. Looks like, to me, you tried to do something that showed you really didn’t know what you were doing. You got 11 people killed and the whole southeastern coast of my country is potentially endangered.”

The Duke had created an awkward moment in the board room and the government representative sought to soothe the frayed feelings in the room.

“Mr. Wayne, we appreciate your offer, but we aren’t sure of the environmental impact of your proposal. To simply go down there and use brute force to fix this problem could have serious implications for this most important natural resource,” the administrator said.

John Wayne was irritated beyond measure.

“You want to lecture me about environmental impact when your agency gave the permission for this company to drill here on April 6, 2009. Not only did you give them the license, you also exempted them from the normal environmental impact study because they (BP) told you “the impacts associated with the proposed action are minimal or non-existent.”

The governmental rep began to “hem and haw,” to which The Duke offered this ultimatum.

“Pilgrims, you have messed up big-time. Both sides in this board room are paralyzed by, either, decisions based upon what is good for a company or decisions that are based upon politics. I ain’t got time for your talk. Either you want to fix this problem or not. Are you going to let me be John Wayne or not?”

Tony Hayward looked at the government official and they seemed to come to an agreement. They approached The Duke.

“Mr. Wayne, we have come to the agreement that you are a throwback to the old days when things were done without thinking. They might have gotten done, but there was not enough thinking. Sometimes it was good and sometimes it was not so good. We have decided that we have progressed past those days and we are determined to work in a new way. Thanks, but no thanks. We’re going to form a committee.”

The Duke strode out of the board room in that way that only he can walk and put his arms around the janitor who was finishing up the hall.

“Well I tried, old-timer. Looks like you and me might as well head on down the dusty trail. Our days have past.”