Russ Ringsak

He Who Shall, So Shall He Who

April 28, 2001

There's a little more than the usual backstage buzz at the annual T-TUTT show, compared to the typical Saturday. With the touring pros who've seen a thousand green rooms, you just try to make them feel at ease without unduly bugging them. With the contestants you feel more like a host, and even though you can tell they've been in front of audiences before, still you try not to act indifferent. It's obviously not a grade school recital, but it is a contest and there are anxious relatives hovering somewhere close. So you smile and say hello and don't act too calloused.

You read all kinds of things about the backstage side of show business but for some reason we don't get much of that kind of excitement at our show. Folks might be surprised how quiet it is-- no divas throwing tantrums, no shouting matches, no loud accusations and recriminations. No food thrown around and nobody running around in their underwear. Maybe it's just because things are so crowded backstage, or maybe it's because we don't do rock and roll. Or opera. Nothing that requires a lot of makeup.

Newspaper editors have discovered that when they want their gossip columnist to quit, all they have to do is assign her or him to cover backstage shenanigans at the Prairie Home show for a month or two. That usually does it.

. . . . . . . . . .
Saw a bumper sticker on a raggedy small pickup recently:

YES - This Is My Truck
NO - I Won't Help You Move

In today's correct world it seems a good thing to find harmless hostility; some folks might take issue with that, but humor is where you find it and the uniformity coming from the smoothing of the generations puts a powerful brake on good old mean cynicism. A lady gave this graffiti to me once, found in the women's room at a wayside stop somewhere that I forget:

Aunt Em -
Hate the farm.
Hate Kansas.
Hate you.
Took the dog.

One of the few inside jokes that nearly everyone in America could get. More provincial is this non-hostile little reckoning, seen on a hand-carved wooden sign behind the bar in a saloon in Forsyth, Montana, when a few of us were riding through on our hogs about six years ago. Montanans treat North Dakota pretty much as Virginians treat West Virginia, and as Minnesotans treat Iowa. It read:


I didn't mind that; thought they captured my home state pretty well there. They wouldn't sell that sign, either. On that same trip we rode behind a young guy with this on the back bumper of his Camaro:


He's looking, presumably, for that woman we saw wearing the T-shirt that said YOU CAN'T BE FIRST BUT YOU MIGHT BE NEXT. Both of these messages fall into that category of You better be careful about what you wish for because you just might get it, which is just another way to state the First Law of Unintended Consequences.

On the way back from Indiana a couple weeks ago I came up behind a semi with "WASH THIS TRAILER" scrawled by a fingertip in the heavy dirt on the back door. Beneath it, in a different handwriting, it said: "WASH YER FINGER." And now, one supposes, that guy has to wash his finger.

And then just this week, driving close behind the bumper of a very cautious white-haired old man and his wife in St Paul, I found saw this little pearl:

But it sure keeps the kids in touch.

. . . . . . . . . .
A man I know who's been farming for over 60 years told me last week that he discovered a good way to pull stumps. It's the season for that now, with the ground as wet as it is these days. He says he hooks about 30 feet of chain to the tractor, which is a 1937 John Deere model B, and ties the other end around an old truck tire; on the other side of the tire he ties another chain, 20 feet long or so. He digs underneath so that he can tie that second chain through there and around the whole stump, and when he puts the power to it the tire stretches out like a rubber band and then pops it right out of there, roots and all.
"It seems to give it some leverage," he says, "Works a lot better than just tying it straight to the chain. She pulls down and then, bingo! Out she jumps. And you'd be surprised how strong those tires are. They'll stretch right out but there's no way you can break'em."
"So it's kind of a stored energy in there, when you pull on'em, and a sudden release, huh?"
"I guess," he said, "but I figured it out without no college degree."

I thought this might be a good tip to pass on, knowing how many folks will be rushing out there homesteading and clearing land for farming, now that corn is up to about $1.95 a bushel.

. . . . . . . . . .
We're heading into the heavy touring part of the season, with seven road shows coming up in the next ten weeks. We expect it'll be smoother this year because we have a new ramp rack under the trailer.

We've been hauling that 14-foot ramp around for 8 or 9 years now and to us it's kind of like the Hammond B-3 organ is to Rich Dworsky. It takes about four guys to lift it and you don't always need it; but when you do need it you need it pretty bad. And the main hassle with the ramp is just getting it back in the trailer. You have to leave a 6" wide slot along one side of the last 14 feet of the load for it and occasionally, in the heat and the dark of things, that'll get forgotten. People are in a hurry, maybe trying to avoid extra overtime for a union crew or maybe there's a beer waiting back at the hotel. Perhaps a steak. It's the end of a 15-hour day; a bad time to be rearranging the pack.

And even when it's remembered it's a problem because you like the load to be tight, front to back and wall to wall, and it's better and quicker to roll cases on board and lock them in place and you can't do that if you're leaving a void along one side. So we need the ramp outside the trailer, and now that's where it'll be. Amazing how anything as mundane and ugly as an underslung welded steel rack can please so many people.

Some might say the world's going to hell in a handbasket but in some ways and in a few places, like in the back of our truck, things are actually getting better.

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