River script
Saturday, June 13, 2009

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TR (ANNC): Up and down the Ohio they push their barges (LONG BOAT HORN) delivering wheat, coal, pig iron to the industrial east—but who are they really? Do we know? — Join us for... Men on the River. (BOAT HORN)


TR: How's it going, Captain?

GK: Cincinnati straight ahead, two miles, 13 degrees off the port bow, and we should make Maysville by sun-up and Portsmouth by noon.

TR: Not so many little boats out on the river this year. One advantage of a bad economy. You don't have to worry so much about the weekenders.

GK: Yeah.


TR: Something wrong , Captain?

GK: Always something wrong, isn't there?

TR: Something's eating at you. Spit it out. You and me been pushing barges up and down the Ohio for twenty-five years now. Out with it.

GK: It's this new deckhand you signed on. I wish you'd asked me first.

TR: What's wrong with him?

GK: He doesn't talk like a boatman. And he holds his cigarette funny.

TR: Well, he seemed okay to me.


BC: Evening, Captain.

GK: Evening, mate.

BC: What you see out there?

GK: Cincinnati. A river bend. What do you see?


BC: Angelheaded hipsters.

GK: That all?

BC: Also a red wheelbarrow
glazed with rainwater
beside the white chickens.

GK: I see.

BC: And Suzanne.

GK: Who was she?

BC: She took me down to her place by the river and she fed me tea and oranges that came all the way from China And I touched her perfect body with my mind.

GK: She must've been crazy to take you down to her place.

BC: She was half-crazy.

GK: And oranges don't come from China.

BC: Hers did.

GK: You're making it up.

BC: She had a perfect body and her place was by the river. In the woods, which were lovely, dark, and deep.

GK: She was crazy, if you ask me. Anyway, we're on a boat. Don't care about woods. (STATIC)

FN (ON CB): Big Boy, this is 409. Come in, Big Boy.

GK: Four-oh-nine, this is Big Boy. I read you.

FN: I saw the best (GARBLED IN STATIC)

GK: I don't read you, 409. (STATIC)—Well— Anyway, we're making good time. Coming up on Cincy. Not much traffic. Good night.

BC: Don't go gentle into that good night.

GK: Why not?

BC: Because old age should burn and rave at close of day.

GK: You talking about me?

BC: Yes, you should rage, rage against the dying of the light.

GK: Why?

BC: You get old, and Suzanne isn't going to take you to her place by the river.

GK: You sure know how to get on my nerves, mister.

TR: Better catch some more shuteye, mister. You're not on watch for three more hours.

BC: So you're saying I've got miles to go before I sleep?

GK: No, he's saying you've got miles to go when you can sleep.

BC: But what about the promises to keep?

GK: Well, if you promise to shut up, you can stand here and watch the river. Or the red wheelbarrow.

BC: How about the supernatural darkness of
cold-water flats floating across the tops of cities
and the crack of doom on the hydrogen jukebox?

GK: You know, I don't think I want you steering this boat, mister? What's your name, by the way?

BC: Cory.

GK: Cory.

BC: Richard Cory.

GK: Oh boy. Al, why'd you hire this guy? Why?

TR: Well, I looked at him. He was a gentleman from sole to crown, clean favored—

BC: — and imperially slim.

GK: Slimness is not a qualification for working on boats. Look around you.

BC: Imperially slim.

GK: That neither.

TR: And he glittered when he walked.

GK: He glittered when he walked.

TR: I thought we could put him out on deck in a fog and it'd be like running lights. (STATIC)

FN (ON CB): Big Boy, it's 409. Come in, Big Boy. (STATIC)

GK: Read you loud and clear, 409.

FN (ON CB): Big Boy, I'm seeing a red wheelbarrow glazed with rainwater and some white chickens.

GK: In the river? Over.

FN (ON CB): Sort of over the river. Over.

GK: You need to think about your drinking, 409.

FN (ON CB): And there's a hydrogen jukebox dead ahead.

GK: I'm not interested, 409. Over. Turn the radio off, Al.

TR: I did. There. It's off. (STATIC)—

GK: Where's the channel buoy, Al?

TR: Should be up ahead a quarter mile.

GK: I don't see it.

BC: It's up near the hydrogen jukebox.

GK: Put a lid on it, Mr. Cory. Better yet, go home and put a bullet through your head.

BC: Eventually. Not now. Right now I want to look at the jukebox and the birches.

GK: What birches?

BC: The birches that bend to left and right across the lines of straighter darker trees. Some kid's been swinging them.

GK: But swinging doesn't bend them down to stay.
Ice-storms do that. You've seen them,
Loaded with ice a sunny winter morning
After a rain.

BC: I have —I've seen their trunks arching in the woods
Like girls on hands and knees that throw their hair
Before them over their heads to dry in the sun.

GK: Nothing about girls at all. It's ice storms do that. Anybody knows that.

BC: I should prefer to have some boy bend them
As he went out and in to fetch the cows—
Some boy too far from town to learn baseball,
Whose only play was what he found himself,
Summer or winter.

GK: Boys didn't do that to those birch trees. Ice storms did.

BC: Maybe angelheaded hipsters did it.

GK: Look, forget about birches. I'm trying to steer six barges heading up the Ohio river in the dark. I've got things on my mind.

BC: One could do worse than be a swinger of birches.

TR: Captain, I saw something on your starboard side— Look. (CHICKENS IN PASSING) A red wheelbarrow. (FN CHANTING WITH TABLA AND SITAR) And what looks to me like angel-headed hipsters.

GK: I've got miles to go, Al. Don't bother me with a lot of nonsense. (BARGE HORN, OFF) Whoops. Steer clear there. Hang on. (STRAINS AT SQUEAKY WHEEL). There we go.

BC: A close one.

GK: Plenty of room.

BC: You almost hit that casino riverboat.

GK: Wasn't even close.


FN (ON CB): Come in, Big Boy. Four-oh-nine here.

GK: Yeah, 409, come in.

FN (ON CB): There's a place up here by the river.

GK: What about it?

FN (ON CB): A lady named Suzanne.

GK: What about her?

FN (ON CB): She's got a nice body. (GARBLED IN STATIC)

GK: You know something? Everyone on this river is crazy except me.

BC: Suzanne wasn't crazy. Just about me. Boy o boy. She was lovely in her bones and when small birds sighed, she would sigh back at them, and when she moved, she moved more ways than one.

GK: Don't talk dirty, okay? I'm a captain, I've got to concentrate on steering these barges upriver. That's my job.

BC: Mind if I ask what sort of cargo we're hauling?

GK: Got poetry anthologies.

BC: A bargeload of poetry?

GK: A hundred eighty tons of poetry anthologies heading upriver.

BC: What anthology?

GK: It's called My Pants are Too Tight and Other Poems.

BC: Is it good poetry?

GK: Somebody thought so.

BC: Which poets?

GK: All the biggies. Frost, Stevens, Shakespeare, Dickinson, Hughes, Williams, Kumin, Sexton, Oliver, Keillor.

BC: Keillor?

GK: Yeah.

BC: Never heard of him.

GK: Very big now. But among younger people, so that's why you wouldn't be aware of him.

BC: What does he write?

GK: Poems. Sonnets.

BC: Huh. Never heard of him.

GK: Ask Suzanne about him.

BC: He knew Suzanne?

GK: He knew Suzanne when she was young and beautiful. He was way ahead of you in line.

TR: How about a poet named Billy Collins? Is he in there?


FN (ON CB): Big boy, there's a woman in a boat (STATIC GIBBERISH) ... .mile below the birches (STATIC GIBBERISH)

GK: Billy Collins—Who's he?

TR: Poet. New York.

GK: Poet named Billy? There's evangelists named Billy and ballplayers and nightclub singers. No poets.

TR: Very popular, from what I hear. And he was poet laureate.

GK: Poet laureate of what? Teaneck, New Jersey?

TR: Poet laureate of the United States.

GK: Must've just sat around on his laurels then. Never heard of him.

BC: There was Billy Collins the bantamweight champion in the late Thirties. He had very quick hands. They called him the Human Hummingbird of Death and Destruction.

GK: Before my time.

BC: Hey, look over there— (CREAKING, WHOOPING) Boys swinging on birch trees. (FLIGHT OF BOY INTO RIVER) And chickens. (SFX)

GK: You'd better take that gun and go home, Mr. Cory.

BC: The name isn't Cory, it's Collins, Captain. (SPINS CYLINDER). And this right here is Mr. Samuel Colt. I am a pistol-packin poet, and I just want to say, “Captain! my Captain! your fearful trip is done.”

GK: What do you want, Collins?

BC: What don't I want— I want it all. I want money and fame, I want beautiful women, I want jazz, I want angel-headed hipsters and I want to swing on birches.

SS: Hi. Somebody mention beautiful women? I'm Suzanne. Want to come to my place by the river?

BC: Sure do, babes.

SS: How do you like my body?

BC: It's perfect.

SS: You care for tea and oranges?

BC: Love some.

SS: And I've got plums. Cold and delicious. In my icebox. Want to touch my body with your mind?

BC: Love to. How about I push you around in a red wheelbarrow and play you some songs from a hydrogen jukebox?

SS: I'll be waiting. At my place.

BC: By the river.

SS: I'll be there.

BC: See you round, Captain.


FN (ON CB): Big Boy, Big Boy, this is 409, waiting here by the birch trees... (STATIC) Over. (GIBBERISH, STATIC)

GK: On our way, 409. On our way.

TR: You gonna let him get away with it, Captain? Walk away with the girl? And the tea and oranges?

GK: It's okay, Al. We've got a load of poetry to deliver (HISS).

TR: It's smoke coming out of the hydrogen jukebox, Captain.

GK: C'mon, let's push it overboard before it blows.




TR (ANNC): Up the mighty Ohio they go (SFX), carrying cargo to the little towns along the way and giving quarter to no man... Men on the River.

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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