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Host Garrison Keillor answers your questions about life, love, writing, authors, and of course, A Prairie Home Companion.

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March 26, 2007 |

Post to the Host:
Being an English teacher I don't have the dough to waste on fancy dress shirts for work, especially since I keep forgetting to cap felt-tip pens and stick them in the pocket. So I buy them at the resale shop. I also have a couple of holy grails that I check for on every visit: a Burberry raincoast and anything from Patagonia. Well, last Saturday I got a scarlet Patagonia jacket for $4 and something made me stop by the T-shirt rack.

There it was: an almost new, hardly-worn St. Olaf's T-shirt. Medium-sized and not even a lutfisk stain on it. How did it get here, out of all the resale shops in the world? Why was I drawn to it. What does it mean?

How did it get to Atlanta? I imagined some failed romance; a heart broken by a feckless bachelor farmer, perhaps.

Also, my daughter will be looking for colleges in four years. She has Viking hair but a Sl avic genetic background, with some Lithuanian. Would she be welcome at St. Olaf's or do you have to be Norwegian?

Janusz M.
Atlanta, GA

I don't think you should take that t-shirt as a sign from heaven that your daughter should go to St. Olaf's, Janusz. It wound up at the resale shop because it was a gift to a Georgia woman from an Ole who was crazy about her and she about him until she started to read about Minnesota climate and that cooled her jets. Also she had no interest in living on his family's soybean farm west of Olivia. That's how Norwegian bachelor farmers are made, Janusz. They're good men who fell in love with southern women. The women got over them but they couldn't get over the women. They sit in their lonely farmhouses listening to Hank Williams and grieving into their beer.

I don't know enough about colleges to advise you. The last person I put through college graduated in 1993 and the next one I will put through is only nine years old. A big gap there. St. Olaf ranks well among small liberal-arts colleges and it aims to be diverse in its student population — the Minneapolis Star-Tribune recently ran a big article about the admissions process at St. Olaf, which you'd find interesting. But it would be good for your daughter to come have a look at the Midwest — visit Grinnell in Iowa and Lawrence in Wisconsin and St. Olaf and any other schools that strike her fancy, and do it in the winter. If she goes to college up here, it would be a cultural exchange experience without need for a passport.

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