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A Life-Changing Moment

April 2, 2012 | 18 Comments

Dear Mr. Keillor,

I am writing you from Concord High School where I have been assigned to write a report about a comedian of my choice for my sophomore English class. I find A Prairie Home Companion to be an enormously funny radio show, and I was hoping you could share about a life changing moment, in your career or in your everyday life. I'm a big fan, and I'd love to hear from you.

Rigby Buckner
Concord, NH

--

I grew up in the Fifties, in the cornfields north of Minneapolis, Rigby, a stone's throw from the Mississippi, and it was an idyllic boyhood in many ways. We boys rode our bikes around the gravel roads and hung out at a deserted airstrip where pilots had been trained for World War II and some bare shells of old planes sat by the old hangar and of course we loved that and imagined scenes of glory. We played along the river and swam out to an island where we existed for hours without adult supervision and felt the thrill of independence. We played baseball on a vacant lot that we mowed ourselves and built up a pitcher's mound and painted foul lines. Ten years later, the township had become suburb and there were no wild places in which to play and adult supervision was tight and boys played baseball in uniforms in organized leagues, so mine was a privileged boyhood of a sort that's pretty rare today.
 
In the spring of 1953, I had to get eyeglasses, the old wire-rim kind, which didn't feel right on my face, and I dropped an easy pop fly in right field one afternoon, which felt like a catastrophe at the time.  I took a few steps back and settled under it and it came in chest high and caromed off the heels of my hands and the other team hooted and whooped and my teammates did not look at me. Even then it felt like a corner had been turned. I started spending recess in the schoolroom, reading books by the armload, encouraged by Miss Moehlenbrock who told me again and again that I was her brightest pupil. Instead of the respect of my peers, I sought the approval of teachers, a crucial turn in life. A sort of retreat, maybe a betrayal. Teachers and aunts and elders --- they were so grateful for my friendship. So much easier than competing with rivals ---- you turn your face up to an old man and ask a few questions and listen while he talks about the Depression and the Civilian Conservation Corps and Pearl Harbor and his years in the Navy and it changes your life. Could've become a mediocre athlete and instead I became a decent writer.


18 Comments


Great story! Thanks


GK always gives me catch in the throat when he shares such feelings, no wonder I have tix to see him & the gang in NYC soon.


Oh Master of Understatement! A 'decent' writer, indeed.
How I miss the weekly articles you wrote, the ones that appeared on Salon.com. They sustained me through those post-9/11 days of madness. Thank God you missed that pop fly...


Garrison,

We'll be eternally grateful for that missed pop-fly ball!

Sandy


I enjoyed reading your bio. It makes me think of the fun I had as a child in Indiana. I could walk down the alley to get bread at a little store for my grandmother. My grandfather and I would walk the railroad tracks to get hand packed ice cream, none of this stuff now with all the junk in it.
My friends and I played cowboy and indians, pretending our plastic guns really could shoot and had bow and arrows (rubber tipped ones). I had my little sister, five years younger hanging onto me all the time. We had lots of fun. It was a great deal to go with the family to the big park (it seemed big then) to see the local teams play baseball, none of th e tv stuff.
We slept with the windows open, the doors unlocked and woke to the sound of doves cooing and squirrels in the trees. The smell of lilac and roses were fantastic. We picked bouquets for my mother and grandmother.
We had a mother daughter home and it was great having your grandparents there all the time.
Well, I could go on and on down memory lane.
We moved to Miami, FL where my husband was born and he swam with the manatees in the canals and he and his friends put a small boat in and rowed all over the place.
Yes, those days are gone and I feel my kids and especially my grandkids missed a great time. My children did live in Alaska and that was like a step back in time and they have fond memories of the times they had there.


I love your story - brings back lots of memories for me. You and I are the same age so it was fun and carefree growing up in those years. We stayed outside playing all day long and were allowed to just go anyplace. Had a dairy across the street so we spent a lot of time there watching the cows. I too am so sad that my children and grandchildren could not have a childhood like that. It was a wonderful time to grow up.


Thank you, Garrison, for all you've done for all of us. And thanks to your crew and guests over the years.
I was lucky enough to also have played ball on a field we put on a lot. My grandfather took me crappie fishing, and he caught snapping turtles for soup.
I thought I would be a writer, not just a reader, but I was a history teacher. That worked out OK.


Wow!
Thank you for being a part of keeping true human culture alive.


Thanks for sharing a bit of your story, Elaine. I enjoyed reading it.


Thank you for that story. What a gift it is.


When I was forced, in gym class, to play a few games of softball in the spring, I hated it. Love the game, but playing it is not fun. I always expected the ball to hit me in the head. Only recently has it occurred to me that my uneasiness protected me from horrible mistakes. Avoid sports except as a spectator, I say. Remember that most of them (football, hockey, soccer, etc.) are basically watered-down versions of war. So they have their uses. My only sport these days is yoga.

I wanted to be a writer, but grew up with parents whose antecedents came from the Netherlands and England (with some Irish thrown in). For them, education was a route to finding a job and earning money. So I ended up a librarian for 36 years. I enjoyed it well enough, but don't miss it. Now I'm a writer, at last, at last. Look for my stuff in Amazon.

And thanks, Garrison. You've saved my wits on a bunch of dark days.



Thanks for the memories, Garrison, and your commenters too. Hold tight to the old days while you go into the future.


...and you just reaffirmed what a wonderful writer you are.


Lucky Four Eyes

Thank your lucky four eyes -
They raised you above
The average guys!

Thank your lucky four eyes -
You must feel the love
In stars in our eyes!


one fine human being,as hope always said
"THANKS FOR THE MEMORIES".AND WE THANK YOU GARRISON KEILLOR.
thanks for the memories.
we love ya


Elaine,

Here in Southern California my life was much the same as yours. My family all lived near each other. I spent much time walking around my grandfather's gardens until my grandparents moved into our house. It was a 1400 sq. ft. home for 8 people! My friends and I used to roam town walking in the "washes," and rode our bikes up and down the mountain roads. We walked everywhere! Life was good then, and it is now -- just different.


I cried out in joy when I read this. I wrote to you when I was just starting my research, and I have gotten so caught up in it that I forgot to come back here. Boy, am I glad that I did; the paper is due Friday! I can't wait to use this to help show what a kind and interesting man I had the privilege of doing my report on. Would you consider being adopted as my third grandfather?


After just reading "Grandfather is a role I resist," I thought I'd tell you there is also room for another uncle :)

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