The Lives of the Cowboys
Saturday, March 3, 2001

(GK: Garrison Keillor, SLIM: Holger Off)



GK: Hey, Slim?


SLIM: Yeah?


GK: Looks like a creek up ahead. We can make camp there for the night, bed down the cattle in that canyon. Just up near that butte. You see that?


SLIM: A beaut? I thought a beaut was a beautiful woman. "Boy, she was a beaut."


GK: No, that's pronounced beaut. Up there is a butte. B-u-t-t-e.


SLIM: Oh…….I thought that was but-te.


GK: It's not but-te. It's butte.


SLIM: I thought butte was what you wore on your foot.


GK: No, that's a boot.


SLIM: A boot?


GK: B-o-o-t.


SLIM: Boat?


GK: Yeah, both of em are called boots.


SLIM: But there's only one up ahead. Where's the other one?


GK: No, you don't put it on your head. You put it on your foot. Anyway, let's make camp up there near the butte, alongside the creek. (HE WHOOPS) Hey, how come you're not whooping?


SLIM: I don't whoop.


GK: You don't whoop? Of course you whoop. All cowboys whoop. C'mon. (HE WHOOPS) What's wrong with you, Slim?


SLIM: I don't whoop, Lefty. I never whooped.


GK: You ain't never whooped. That's how you say it. You say, "I ain't never whooped." Not I never whooped. Ain't never.


SLIM: I ain't never whooped.


GK: I been riding with you nigh onto ten years, Slim, and you mean to say in all that time you ain't never whooped.


SLIM: Never.


GK: Not even a little whoop?




GK: How come?


SLIM: I'm German, Lefty.


GK: No!


SLIM: Yes.


GK: You? Deutsch? You're kiddin me.


SLIM: I'm German.


GK: How come you ain't never said anything about it?


SLIM: You never asked.


GK: Ten years I been with you, pardner, and you never said? Why not?


SLIM: I wanted to but there never seemed like a right time.


GK: I'll be dagnabbed. German. So that's why you took a bath every night. And your clothes were always folded. And you'd go out after supper and clean up all them tumbleweeds. And you never whooped, huh?


SLIM: I'm from the north of Germany. Hamburg. There is no whoopee in Hamburg.


GK: And when you went out at night to sing the cattle to sleep? What did you sing em, Slim?


SLIM: I sang an old German cattle-herding song, "Schlafe, Kleine Dogie". And I sang em "Heim auf der Prairie".
Oh, GIB mir ein Heim
wo die BUEFfel rumstreun'n,
wo das REH der Antilope verzieh.
Ein GeSPRAECH, das verstoert,
wird dort SELten gehoert,
und der HIMmel bedeckt sich dort nie.


HEIM auf der Praerie,
wo das REH der Antilope verzieh.
Ein GeSPRAECH, das verstoert,
wird dort SELten gehoert,
und der HIMmel bedeckt sich dort nie.
GK: That song never made sense to me. I mean, "Give me a home where the buffalo roam"? It makes no sense, does it. What do buffalo have to do with home? Nothing. A person needs people.


SLIM: Yeah. That's why I'm going back to Germany.


GK: You miss it, huh?


SLIM: Yeah. I miss the forest. The Schwarzwald. Miss the big rivers. The big cities. Berlin. I miss language. And conversation.


GK: Yeah. I suppose so. (PAUSE) Not much of that among us cowboys, is there. (PAUSE) Nope. (PAUSE) I always meant to talk to you. Nothing personal. You understand.


SLIM: Oh yeah.


GK: You know how it is with cowboys.


SLIM: Yep.


GK: You go riding down the trail and before you know it you've gone a whole week without talking and it's hard to break the habit.


SLIM: Yep.


GK: How come you wanted to be a cowboy?


SLIM: So I could chew tobacco and spit. I miss my bierstube.


GK: You never went for rotgut whiskey, did you?


SLIM: No. I prefer wine. A white wine.


GK: I know. I got into a lot of fistfights standing up for you all those years, pardner. Other cowboys saw you drinking white wine instead of whiskey, they said, "What kind of a sissy is that?" So I had to hit em. That's how I lost these here teeth.


SLIM: You had to fight for me? Really?


GK: Yep.


SLIM: How come you didn't tell me?


GK: I donno. It never seemed like the right time, I guess.


SLIM: Is there anything else you never told me?


GK: Well. Yes.


SLIM: What is it?


GK: I don't think I want to say.


SLIM: Tell me.


GK: I can't. I'm a cowboy. Cowboys don't talk about this sort of thing.


SLIM: What sort of thing?


GK: I don't want to say.


SLIM: I won't tell anybody.


GK: You promise?


SLIM: Promise.


GK: Cross your heart and hope to die?


SLIM: Cross my heart and hope to die.


GK: I miss eating off china.


SLIM: You do?


GK: I do.


SLIM: So do I!


GK: Really?


SLIM: Dresden china!


GK: With the little blue flowers.


SLIM: Exactly.


GK: And matching curtains and tablecloth.


SLIM: Blue linen!


GK: Exactly. And little porcelain candleholders and porcelain napkin rings.


SLIM: Gold porcelain.


GK: Of course.


SLIM: And what do you dream of serving on your Dresden china?


GK: I donno. Maybe lobster soup.


SLIM: Hummersuppe!


GK: Followed by a mushroom risotto.


SLIM: Risotto mit pfifferlingen!


GK: And a home-made bread.


SLIM: Hausgemachtem brod!


GK: And a nice white wine.


SLIM: Ahhhh. Schoene abend.


GK: And after dinner, a raspberry sorbet.


SLIM: Himbeer!


GK: And then we'd sit around with our coffee and sing songs by candlelight. (GUITAR STRUM) Like this one.
I ride an Old Paint, I lead an old Dan,
I'm going to Montana to throw the hoolihan
They feed em in the coulees, they water in the draw,
Their tails are all matted, their backs are all raw,
Ride around little doggies, ride around slow,
For the fiery and the snuffy are rarin to go…..
Ich fahre mit dem Nachtbus bis zur Endstation,
Doch ich steige nicht aus, obwohl ich gleich drüben wohn'.
Der Bus kehrt bald um, fährt zurück in die Stadt.
Der Fahrer sagt nichts. Ich hab's Reden auch satt.
Fahre weiter, Freund Schaffner, doch fahre nicht schnell.
Die Nacht kühlt Gedanken, und bald wird es hell.
'nen Sohn und zwei Töchter hatte Heinrich Heine.
Der Eine hat 'nen Kopf, und die Ander'n Beine.
Seine Alte ist mit dem Portier durchgebrannt.
Seitdem dichtet Heinrich schneller, federleicht schreibt die Hand.
Fahre weiter, Freund Schaffner, doch fahre nicht schnell.
Die Nacht kühlt Gedanken, und bald wird es hell.
SLIM: Lovely.


GK: I'll say.


SLIM: I didn't know you knew about white wine.


GK: I know a few things.


SLIM: I love those Rieslings. The ones from around Pfalz or the Ruhr. And Baden and Rheingau.


GK: I was thinking more of a Chablis or a Pinot Grigio.


SLIM: A Chablis instead of a Riesling??? You'd have to be a barbarian!!!


GK: Well, a Pinot Grigio, maybe.


SLIM: You would choose a Pinot Grigio over a Riesling? You insult my country and its vineyards?? (SLAP)


GK: Hey, wait a minute, Slim. Hold on. Slim---- (GUNSHOT. GK REACT.)


SLIM: Entschuldigen sie mir, bitte.


GK: Sounds like an apology.


SLIM: I'm very sorry. I didn't mean to shoot you.


GK: Kinda late for that, pardner.


SLIM: You want me to ride to town for the doctor?


GK: No, I want you to ride to town for the undertaker.


SLIM: Where do you want to be buried?


GK: Not on the lone prairie, that's for sure.
When I die, take my saddle from the wall,
Put it on my pony, lead him out of his stall,
Tie my bones to his back, turn our faces to the west,
And we'll ride the prairies that we love the best.
Fahre weiter, Freund Schaffner, doch fahre nicht schnell.
Die Nacht kühlt Gedanken, und bald wird es hell.
GK: So long, Slim.


SLIM: Auf wiedersehn.


Fahre weiter, Freund Schaffner, doch fahre nicht schnell.
Die Nacht kühlt Gedanken, und bald wird es hell.
(c) 2001 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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