(GK: Garrison Keillor, SS: Sue Scott, TK: Tom Keith, TR: Tim Russell)

SS: Join us now for THE LIVES OF THE COWBOYS - brought to you by Peoria Brand Potpourri. When nature doesn't smell as pleasant as it looks, freshen the air with Peoria. Available in Gladiola Glade, Begonia Bouquet, and Love That Lilac. And now today's story. (HORSES)

GK: Whoa. Whoa. Easy. (HORSES STOP. THEY DISMOUNT) Let's tie the horses up to this satellite dish and take a look in here, Dusty. (FOOTSTEPS, HOOVES, HORSE WHINNY)

TR: There's the stage door right there.

GK: Good. And look, there's a saloon next door.

TR: Well, I'll be darned.

GK: What do you say we go in and have us some rotgut mineral water and maybe dance the schottische with some of them painted floozies of Peoria?

TR: You think it's a good idea with you entered in that contest and all? You got to sing in twenty minutes and, pardner, your singing is marginal even under the best of circumstances.

GK: I need to relax, Dusty. Get my mind off it. (FOOTSTEPS, OPEN DOOR, PIANO PLAYING "CAMPTOWN RACES," FOOTSTEPS, SIT DOWN AT BAR) Nice looking place.

TK (DRUNK): Hey, fella. Would you gimme a dollar for a sandwich?

TR: I don't know. I'd have to see the sandwich first.

SS: Howdy, strangers, welcome to Peoria, what'll it be?

GK: Boy, this is quite a bar - kind of surprising to find this in a place like Peoria -

SS (CHILL): What do you mean "a place like Peoria"?

GK: Well, you know -

SS: I don't know, so tell me.

GK: I mean, here in the midwest.

SS: Peoria isn't the Midwest, mister. Peoria is Peoria. What can I bring you?

GK: Just water for me.

SS: What's the matter? Our whiskey not good enough for you?

GK: I'm a little nervous - I've got to sing in ten minutes ...

TR: I'll have a whiskey. A double. I've got to listen to him sing.

GK: I'd like a Pepto Bismol too.

SS: Straight up, or caplets?

GK: Caplets.

SS: Cherry Vanilla or Lemon Creme?

GK: I'll try the lemon creme.

SS: You want some water with that?

GK: Sure.

SS: Plain or carbonated?

GK: Carbonated.

SS: We got Big Al's, we got Skinny & Booger, we got Broken Heart -

GK: These are from Peoria?

SS: Where did you think they'd be from?

GK: Sorry. I'll have the - is the Skinny & Booger mineral water - is that pretty good?

SS: Good for what?

GK: I'll have a glass of that.

TR: And a whiskey for me.

SS: Coming right up...(FOOTSTEPS OFF)

TR: What you going to sing?

GK: My Peoria song, of course.

GK: People in Peoria here seem a little touchier than normal, don't you think? (SILENCE IN BAR. SLOW FOOTSTEPS APPROACH)

TK: You say something about people in Peoria?

TR: He was just saying he'd rather touch one of them than somebody from Normal.

TK: He would?

GK: That's what he said.

TK: That's better. (FOOTSTEPS FADE)

SS: Here's your Pepto, and a bottle of Skinny & Booger. You want me to read you the health warning on the side of the bottle?

GK: Sure.

SS: "Warning: the consumption of mineral water may cause the need to urinate and if the floor of the men's room is slippery, a fall is possible which, if head is struck on floor, could make it inadvisable to operate Caterpillar tractors around a crowd of bystanders."

GK: Good. Appreciate the warning. Say, ma'am - who was that fella who came over here to talk with us?

SS: Him? That's Peoria Bob. Pretty rough fella.

GK: Gunfighter?

SS: Marimba player.

TR: What??? A marimba player!!! Ha!!! - (BAR HUSH. SLOW FOOTSTEPS APPROACH)

TK: You fellas got something you care to share with the rest of us concerning the marimba?

TR: Always admired the marimba, sir. I once saw four young ladies in organdy dresses perform "The Old Rugged Cross" on their marimbas and I came within an inch of becoming a Baptist.

GK: I see you're all dressed up, Mr. Bob? You giving a concert today?

TK: I'm entered in that talent contest on the radio.

GK: Is that right? So am I.

TK: You?

SS (OFF, OFFICIAL VOICE): Next act for the talent contest to the stage please -

GK: I believe they're calling me now.

TK: What do you do? Play the bassoon?

GK: Nope. I sing. Gotta run. Wish me well, Dusty.

TR: Good luck, pardner.

TK (DRUNK): Hey, fella. How about you give me a dollar for a whiskey?

TR: Don't need your whiskey. I already got one. (FOOTSTEPS, LEFTY PERSPECTIVE)

SS (OFFICIAL): Right this way -

TR (OFFICIAL): Go right out on stage ... they're waiting for you ...

TK (OFFICIAL): Right up to that microphone, sir.

GK: You want me to stand right next to the tall gloomy-looking guy?


TR (AS GK): We're very proud to welcome to our........Talent from Towns Under Two..............Thousand Show, this fine singer songwriter from a little town by.......

GK: You want me to sing now?

TR (AS GK): .....the name of Anticlimax, Wyoming, population twenty..........four. He's going to sing a........................song that he wrote especially for...........

GK: This occasion?

TR (AS GK): .....our contest, a song called "When------

GK: It's Moonlight.....

TR (AS GK): It's......

GK: Moonlight In Peoria Again.....

TR (AS GK): Moonlight In.....

GK: Peoria.

TR (AS GK): Peoria....

GK: Again.

TR (AS GK): Again..... (STRUMMING)

Riding in a boxcar with the vagrants
Keeping one eye open for the law
Something in the lovely springtime fragrance
Makes me think of sweet Peoria.
It's got a name that sounds just like a gum disease,
But oh how I love to see the moon shine through the trees.....
Moonlight on the cornfields of Peoria
How I wish I honeymooned with you
In the bridal suite at the Peoria Astoria
Oh that our euphoria had come true.
We were to wed when the corn was picked, you said,
And then you rode away on Old Paint
When it's moonlight, how I miss you, Gloria,
I wish that there were more o' ya, but there ain't.
Yodeladiadihoo. Thank you.

TR (DUSTY): Well, you did real well, Lefty. I'm proud of you.

GK: Took fifth place. The Lady Byng Sportsmanship Trophy.

TR: Congratulations. You sung the song real well.

GK: Well, it was from the heart. I knew a woman from Peoria once. Wonderful woman. Wonderful company. She didn't expect much of a guy. Give her a little cheese on a toothpick and she was happy. If you told her a joke, it amused her for hours. And they didn't have to be new jokes either. We'd go out and have us some chicken wings and iced tea and she'd say, Tell the one about how many dull people it takes to screw in a lightbulb, and I did, and she was happy.

TR: How many does it take?

GK: One.

TR: One?

GK: Right.

TR: It takes one dull person to screw in a lightbulb. Is that a joke?

GK: It is when I tell it.

SS: LIVES OF THE COWBOYS - brought to you by Peoria Potpourri. Now available in new Industrial Strength Formula for people living with large animals.

(c) 1999 by Garrison Keillor