A Prairie Home Companion’s 50th Anniversary Tour comes to Akron, OH with Heather Masse, Christine DiGiallonardo, Rich Dworsky, Sue Scott, Fred Newman and Tim Russell.
A Prairie Home Companion’s 50th Anniversary Tour comes to Scranton, PA with Heather Masse, Christine DiGiallonardo, Rich Dworsky, Sue Scott, Fred Newman and Tim Russell.
Keillor & Company with Prudence Johnson, Dan Chouinard and Dean Magraw bring their show to Spokane, WA for a performance of classic love songs, poetry, The News from Lake Wobegon, and a conversation about Why You Should Go On Getting Older
A Prairie Home Companion’s 50th Anniversary Tour comes to the Grand 1894 Opera House in Galveston, TX with our favorite regulars, Rich Dworsky, Sue Scott, Tim Russell and Fred Newman. Additional guests to be announced.
New Philadelphia, OH
Garrison Keillor brings his solo show to Kent State University. Poetry, Limericks, Sing-Along and the News from Lake Wobegon.
by Annie Lighthart
Reason is a fine thing, but remember there are other ways
to live: by instinct or passion, or even,
maybe, by revelation. Try it. Come around again to the verge –
that place of about-to-open, near where we comprehend
and laugh and see. Why shouldn’t something marvelous
happen to you? Take even an occasion like this:
A man reading at night looked up at the window to find
a moose looking in, interested and unafraid
with quiet dark eyes. He reports he has never been the same;
he finds the ungainly and miraculous everywhere.
He said it started the next night in the empty window
as he watched his reflection looking right back through.
He said he saw his own beauty, how even in his same old face
the quiet eyes were curious and ready to be true.
Annie Lighthart, “The Verge” from Pax. Copyright © 2021 Annie Lighthart, published by Fernwood Press. (buy now)
The first wagon train arrived in California on this date in 1841. A 21-year-old New Yorker named John Bidwell led the settlers. He and John Bartleson had founded the Western Emigration Society in Independence, Missouri, to help outfit and prepare would-be pioneers to make their journey to settle the West. One day Bidwell, always on the lookout for an adventure, met a French trapper by the name of Antoine Robidoux; Robidoux painted a very tempting picture of California, so Bidwell resolved that he would join the first wagon train out of Missouri. Bartleson agreed to help lead it, but only if he was given the title of “Captain.”
The Bidwell-Bartleson Party left Westport, Missouri, in May, in order to make it across the Sierra Nevada before autumn snowstorms hit. There were 69 adults in the party, most of them men — only five women and a couple of children dared brave the journey. They traveled 12 to 15 miles a day in Conestoga wagons dubbed “prairie schooners” because of the way their white canvas covers resembled bellying sails as the wagons crossed a sea of grass. They were able to hook up with a Jesuit missionary party led by Pierre-Jean DeSmet who took them as far as the Rocky Mountains. The Jesuits were guided by a crusty and experienced mountain man named Thomas “Broken Hand” Fitzpatrick. That was fortunate for the wagon train because, as Bidwell later wrote, “Otherwise probably not one of us would ever have reached California, because of our inexperience.”
The wagon train parted company with the Jesuits in Idaho. They also split into two groups: Bartleson led one group to Oregon’s Willamette Valley while Bidwell led the rest to California. When Bidwell’s group got to the Sierra Nevada mountain range they were forced to abandon their wagons. They arrived in the San Joaquin Valley dehydrated and nearly starved after subsisting on stringy mule meat for the last part of their journey. Bidwell kept a diary of the emigration, which found its way back east and was published in 1842. He wrote about arriving at a land unspoiled by European settlers, “Roaming over it were countless thousands of wild horses, of elk, and of antelope.” But it had also been one of the driest years the territory had seen and all the crops had withered. “Cattle were almost starving for grass,” Bidwell wrote, “and the people, except perhaps a few of the best families, were without bread, and were eating chiefly meat, and that often of a very poor quality.”
It’s the birthday of humorist, actor, and vaudeville performer Will Rogers (1879), sometimes called “America’s Cowboy Philosopher.” Rogers was born in Cherokee Nation, Indian Territory, near what is now Oologah, Oklahoma. His father was a Cherokee judge and prominent in the community. Rogers once joked that his family didn’t arrive on the Mayflower, “they met it.”
He was a poor but affable student, preferring cowboys, lassoing, and jokes to school, so he dropped out after the 10th grade and mucked around before deciding to try his hand at being a gaucho, or cattle rancher, in Argentina. That didn’t work out and he lost all his money and soon found himself in Australia working on a ranch and learning lasso tricks. By 1904 he was back in the United States, performing at the St. Louis World’s Fair. It wasn’t until he moved to New York City, though, that he truly began turning heads. He was in the stands at Madison Square Garden when a wild steer broke loose from the act and charged the audience. Rogers stood up and lassoed the steer. He made the front pages the very next day and job offers rolled in.
By the 1930s Rogers was the most popular entertainer in America. He made more than 70 films, silents and talkies, and public school teachers often took their classes to see his shows during the day. He’d refined his stage act and added monologues, which showed off his cheeky sense of humor. He began each bit with, “All I know is what I read in the papers,” and then he’d go on to skewer daily life, especially politics. He once said, “There’s no trick to being a humorist when you have the whole government working for you.”
Rogers was in the Guinness Book of World Records for throwing three lassos at once: one went around the horse’s neck, one circled the rider, and the third slipped under the horse and looped all four legs together.
After college he became a psychotherapist in Philadelphia working with troubled teenagers. He met poet Anne Sexton at a reading. She adored him, calling him “a Fellini of the written word,” and referred him to her editor who promptly published Williams’s first collection, Lies (1969). It was the 1960s and Williams’s was a vocal anti-war activist. One of his most famous poems, “In the Heart of the Beast,” was written as a response to the shootings of student protesters at Kent State in 1970. It begins, “this is fresh meat right mr nixon?”
William’s early poetry was generally short, with clipped, concise lines. But he gradually began lengthening the line. He said, “I thought that by writing longer and longer poems I could actually write the way I thought and the way I felt.” He published over 20 books of poetry in his lifetime, including Tar (1983), which examined the nuclear reactor accident at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania (1979), and Repair (1999), which won the Pulitzer Prize and contained a poem called “King” that Williams had been working on for 30 years.
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®