Winter
Saturday, October 28, 2000
Listen

(GK: Garrison Keillor, SS: Sue Scott, TK: Tom Keith, TR: Tim Russell, LP: Lynn Peterson)

GK & LP:
It ain't no use to sit and wonder why Babe
It don't matter anyhow.
Winter is coming by and by, Babe
It's on its way right now.
I wish there were something I could do or say
I wish we had the money to just fly away
But we're broke and married so we've got to stay
Don't think twice it's all right.

GK: Winter's arrived in Minnesota. We postponed it as long as possible. End of October. It's time. Nine years ago the famous Halloween Blizzard struck Minnesota ---- 28 inches of snow fell in the Twin Cities, 37 inches in Duluth ----- and trick-or-treaters had to struggle through deep drifts ------ (BLIZZARD)

 

SS: You tie this rope to your ankle and Daddy and I will hold onto the other end.

 

TR (CHILD): Do I have to go?

 

SS: There's three hundred feet of rope, that should get you as far as the Carlsons.

 

TR (CHILD): Maybe I should wait for it to stop.

 

SS: If you need to cut the rope because you find yourself being dragged along behind a car or something, here's a razor blade ---- I'll stick it here inside this apple. Okay?

 

TR (CHILD): Maybe I could go tomorrow.

 

SS: Other kids are going and you can too. You're a Minnesotan, son. Minnesotans don't stay home just on account of a little snow. (BLIZZARD, WOLVES)

 

GK: The blizzard of January, 1975: remember that one? Roads were closed for about 11 days. (TIRES SPINNING IN SNOW) Twenty foot drifts. The train got stuck at Willmar. Eighty mph winds, 35 Minnesotans died from freezing and exposure and you know something, most of them were glad to go----

 

TR (GEEZER): I feel warm, my whole body feels warm. I hear music, people are smiling at me. My wife's not here.

 

GK: There were temperature drops of 75 degrees when that storm came through, from 40 to 35 below. Eighty below windchill. (CAR STARTING ATTEMPT)

 

GK: There were two more blizzards that winter, in March. Twenty foot waves on Lake Superior. Zero visibility.

 

(FOOTSTEPS IN SNOW)

 

SS: Where are we?

 

TR: Got no idea.

 

SS: You don't think we're near home?

 

TR: What home?

 

SS: Do I know you?

 

TR: I don't think so.

 

SS: I thought you were Bob.

 

TR: Howard.

 

SS: Where'd you come from?

 

TR: Saw you reach out your hand so I took it.

 

SS: Wonder what happened to Bob?

 

TR: No idea.

 

SS: Want to come in the house and get warm?

 

TR: Sure. Why not?

 

GK: The next fall, November 10th, 1975, that was the winter storm that the Edmund Fitzgerald went down in. And then of course there was the November 11th, 1940, blizzard, the great Armistice Day Blizzard. Weather was balmy that morning and duck hunters were out and then it started raining and the rain turned to snow, and 27 inches fell.

 

TR (GEEZER): Yeah, I remember that one. Armistice Day it was. 1941, I believe.

 

GK: 1940.

 

TR (GEEZER): Back there. Forty or forty-one. Right in there.

 

GK: 1940.

 

TR (GEEZER): I remember it, it was in the early forties. Big blizzard. Friend of mine went duck hunting and never came back.

 

GK: Who?

 

TR (GEEZER): I forget his name. But he died in that blizzard. Blizzard of 41.

 

GK: 1940.

 

TR (GEEZER): Your mother and I were trapped in the house for a week. And nine months later, you was born.

 

GK: The blizzard of 1960, that must've been.

 

TR (GEEZER): 1940. I remember it now. (BRIDGE)

 

GK: Winter can come on suddenly. One January day, the temperature dropped 40 degrees in one minute in some places, as a blizzard came in. There have been times when the temperature never got above zero for 19 days straight. At Tower, in 1991, it got down to 60 degrees below zero. At 60 below zero, your spit freezes before it hits the ground.----- (HAWK, SPIT, DING OF ICE HITTING GROUND). In the winter of 1982 we had 38 inches of snow on the ground right here in St. Paul, all at the same time. In the winter of '96, 153 inches of snow fell at Lutsen: that's 12-feet-9 inches.

 

SS: I moved the living room upstairs. Too dark down here.

 

GK: We can go three, four, five weeks in a row without seeing the sun come out, the sky grey, it feels like you're on an entirely different planet, one of the gassy ones, like Saturn. That's the planet of winter. And it's here, folks. October is no indicator of what's ahead. We're stepping off into a new season, the one that can last six months, and that's why, as a public service, we bring you this message from the Minnesota National Guard.

 

(KLAXON WARNINGS)

 

TK (BULLHORN): NON-RESIDENTS, LEAVE THE AREA. (KLAXON)

 

TR (GENERAL): This is General Frank Mills of the Minnesota National Guard. Instructing all visitors to leave the area immediately. (TK BULLHORN: Leave the area.) Go to the airport. This is the last warning you'll get. Winter is a killer. It can come in and grab your leg like you were a pocket gopher and chew you right up. Winter doesn't fool around. This is not a movie. Repeat. This is not a movie. I walk around St. Paul on a winter afternoon, I see the frozen bodies ---- people wearing summer clothes, their bodies stiff, frozen as they tried to unlock their car. They wandered out ---- they thought, Oh the restaurant's only a few blocks ---- a minute later they were stiff as a bridge abutment. People, winter isn't kidding. We native Minnesotans, we can handle it. We can deal with it because we grew up here and we don't know any better, but the rest of you ---- for your own safety, I am ordering all citizens who have resided in Minnesota less than half their lives to report to the airport for evacuation.

 

SS: My husband's a native but I'm from New Orleans. I love the summers here. And fall was so lovely. I liked to sit out on my veranda and sip a cool drink and fan myself.

 

TR (GENERAL): The van is right outside, ma'am. We'll send for you in April.

 

SS: I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.

 

TR (GENERAL): That's exactly why we're doing this, ma'am.

GK & LP:
It ain't no use in turning up the heat, Babe
To drive away the cold
And it ain't no use in turning up the heat, Babe
Just try to stay on the road.
Winter is hard and it wants your soul
It makes you feel 86 years old
But it could be worse, so I've been told
Don't think twice, it's all right.

(c) 2000 by Garrison Keillor

Old Sweet Songs: A Prairie Home Companion 1974-1976

Old Sweet Songs

Lovingly selected from the earliest archives of A Prairie Home Companion, this heirloom collection represents the music from earliest years of the now legendary show: 1974–1976. With songs and tunes from jazz pianist Butch Thompson, mandolin maestro Peter Ostroushko, Dakota Dave Hull and the first house band, The Powdermilk Biscuit Band (Adam Granger, Bob Douglas and Mary DuShane).

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