(GK: Garrison Keillor, SS: Sue Scott, TK: Tom Keith, TR: Tim Russell, RD: Rich Dworsky)
GK: It snowed here on Wednesday and you could see the pace pick up, people excited, the post-Christmas torpor was over, we had our first winter storm.
TR (JOHN WAYNE, ON RADIO): Meteorologist Kent Clark reporting live from the tundra. The forecast: snow. About two feet of it. Maybe three. Then a cold front. Twenty below zero. That's the high. Long range forecast: glaciers moving south.
GK: Wednesday night heavy snow was falling and the streets were full of snow and because of the driving conditions a lot of men in St. Paul who had been planning to spend the evening at home suddenly realized they had to go somewhere.
SS: You're what? you're going out? in this? are you insane?
TR: It's not that bad.
SS: Honey, the radio says, Visibility is ten feet. The temperature is dropping. The Interstate is strewn with abandoned vehicles. They're opening schools for shelters. (TEARY) Please. For my sake. For the children. (WEEPING) Stay home. Please. (WHISPERING) Don't go. Please. Please.
TR: I need to go to the hardware store for some rope. It's only ten miles from here. It's not that bad out.
SS: (WEEPY) Please. I'll weave rope for you. I'll braid clothesline into cables. Please.
TR: It's not that bad.
SS (WEEPY): Chuck----it's a blizzard out there. It's a no man's land.
TR: It's not that bad if you know how to drive. (MUSIC)
GK: Winter. It's a time when Minnesotans feel most alive. (TR SWEDISH VIGOR) When we feel we're needed. When we feel the basic dichotomy of the Minnesota character.
TK: DICHOTOMY! (SERIES OF VOICES REPEATING "DICHOTOMY")
GK: Each of us has a male side and a female side, we have a side that says....
SS: Please be careful. You know how I worry.
GK: And we have another side that says....
TR: What's wrong with you, you don't know how to drive on ice--- where were you brought up, Washington D.C.?????
GK: And we never resolve this. We look out the window at the snow and we hear....
SS: I wish you wouldn't go out when it's snowing like this, honey.
GK: And we also hear....
TR: You think you're staying home from work, you got another guess coming---- what's the matter with you? Get out there! You got a shovel. Use it! (MUSIC) GK: Wednesday night, the snow fell, and even those Minnesotans who were tuned to public radio, effete elitists, saw the snow and were affected the same way .....(PIANO: CHOPIN ETUDE)....
SS: It's so beautiful.
TR: I love this part.
SS: So do I.
TR: This part right here....
SS: Yes. TR: Right here.....
SS: I know....I know. Oh God.....Yes.
TR: That is so beautiful.
SS: Oh Roland. I never met anyone like you before.
SS: Oh my God.....
TR: It's snowing.
SS: It reminds me of James Joyce. That line in The Dubliners.
SS: I love that line.
TR: So do I.
SS: Why are you getting up?
TR: I have to go.
TR: I don't know.
SS: Where are you going?
TR: To drive my car around.
TR: Why did Joyce have to leave Dublin and go to Paris?
SS: Please don't....
TR: It's a snow emergency. I have to go. (BRIDGE)
GK: A snow emergency. The hearts of true Minnesotans thrill to those words.
TK (BULLHORN): Snow emergency.
TR: Snow emergency!! (TK & TR REPEAT, IN SERIES, FADING)
GK: Snow emergency. Everyone loves a crisis and this is ours.
SS: Kids, I'm sending you to Grandma's house for a few days. There's a snow emergency. (CHORD)
TK: Honey, I decided I can't get married--- Not now.--- Maybe when the snow emergency is over. (CHORD)
TR (RUSSIAN): I despise myself. Life is meaningless. Without purpose. On the other hand, we do have a snow emergency.
GK: Wednesday evening, snow coming down, all the people who were embarrassed when the world didn't end on January 1st got out their generators, their guns and ammo, their dried food packets....
TR: (ON RADIO) This is meteorologist Kent Clark live from the state capitol in St. Paul. The legislature met in special session tonight and declared a snow emergency. The mood of the city remains calm. City authorities say that basic services ---- water, electricity, natural gas, sewer --- will continue without interruption. GK: A snow emergency --- It's a time when Minnesotans start to be decent to each other and help each other, when we put aside our petty differences and join hands as one people. Governor Jesse (The Body) Ventura:
TR (JESSE): Ya know, if I had a shovel, I'd shovel in the morning, I'd shovel in the evening, I'd shovel out cars for my brothers and my sisters all over this land. You bet I would.
GK: The airport stayed open Wednesday night --- there were planes taking off (SS ON P.A.: Flight 43 to Tampa- St. Petersburg --- boarding rows 35 and higher....) but there was no rush to go. Winter is to Minnesota what wine and cheese is to France: it's who we are. People who spend winter down south, they get weird. Solid hard- working Lutherans and they retire at sixty-five and go south and weeks later----
TR (MINN): Ya know, I've been sorta thinking about letting my nose hair grow. I saw a guy today, he had nose hair three feet long, had it tossed over his shoulder. SS (MINN): Yeah, that'd be different.
TR (MINN): Thinkin I'd get a pair of them mirror shades, y'know? And a pink T-shirt with a lotta four-letter words on it, and let my nose hair grow.
SS (MINN): How about you dye it pink?
TR (MINN): Sounds like a plan.
GK: This is what happens when our people go south. They get their wires crossed.
SS (MINN): I'm sorta thinking I'd quit the church and go with the Hells Angels, what do you think?
GK: Winter is what keeps us on track, it's what brings us together----
TR (OLD MAN): Gather round, kiddoes, and Gramps'll tell you about the winter of 41, when it snowed for forty days and forty nights and it got so cold my hair froze and fell off (FADES)--- yep, that's right.
GK: It snowed Wednesday night and Thursday morning we woke up (TR WAKING) to find about forty-six inches on the ground ---
SS: Honey--- get up----wake up---- here's the shovel---
TR: (SLEEPY) Huh? what---- (YAWN)
SS: The car is parked on the street. You've got to move it. There's a snow emergency. (SKITTERY CHORDS, VIOLIN & PIANO)
GK: A snow emergency means that the streets are going to be plowed and any car that isn't moved off the street by a certain time will be crushed in a car compactor (CRUSHING, ENGINE GRINDING), crushed to the size of a suitcase and tossed up in your yard (SPITS OUT CHUNK THAT LANDS, THUNK)--- In most states, the cars are towed but this is Minnesota--- Governor Ventura-- --
TR (JESSE): I say, if you can't figure out how to pay for college yourself then you're not smart enough to go and if you can't get out of the sack and get your car off the street by eight o'clock in the morning, then you don't deserve to have a car.
GK: The car compacter comes through at eight a.m., starting in the affluent neighborhoods ---- this is a Democratic city, St. Paul ----
TK: (OFF, RUNNING) No! Please!! Not my B.M.W.!!! (CRUSHING, ENGINE GRINDING, SPITS OUT CHUNK THAT LANDS ON LAWN)
GK: And moments later the snowplows come (JET- POWERED PLOW ROARING PAST), Minnesota snowplows, turbo-props, with six-foot balloon tires, a cockpit, a twelve-foot blade patterned after the French guillotine. Average speed, 85 miles per hour. (PLOW ROARS PAST) Many snowplow operators are aging radicals from the Sixties---
TR (BEAT): Man, you sit in the cab grooving on the Dead, and this, like, river of snow comes shootin up from the blade, man, what a rush--- it's hypnotic, man, I just sit and stare at it....
GK: And thanks to affirmative-action hiring programs, half of the snowplow operators are women----
SS: You got a problem with that?
GK: No problem.
SS: You think a woman can't handle a snowplow? Huh?
GK: I'm sure you can.
SS: What's your address, big boy?
GK: I'd rather not say.
SS: Tell me where you live, I'll show you how to plow snow.
GK: So during a snow emergency, residents of the Twin Cities set their alarms for six a.m. (KLAXON) and they put on their down parkas and go out into the teeth of the blizzard to shovel out their cars (BLIZZARD)---
SS: They say on the radio, visibility is eighteen inches. Be careful, darling.
TR: If I'm not back in half an hour, call the ski patrol.
SS: I love you...
TR: I love you---
SS: Do you have to go?
TR: It's a snow emergency, Karen.
SS: Couldn't we --- call someone to come and shovel out the car? A high school kid? A snow-shoveling service?
TR: I have to go, darling. It's a snow emergency.
SS: But you have a family, Chuck--- you have me....the kids---- please--- (MUSIC RISING, HEROISM)
TR: That's why I have to go. Can't you see? It's for you, it's for the kids. It's for Minnesota. It's not for me, Karen. It's for Bud --- Bud Grant --- it's for Bernie Bierman and Charles A. Lindbergh, it's for Gene McCarthy, it's for Charles Schultz, it's for Snoopy.
SS: (WEEPY) You're so brave....so good.
TR: If I don't come back---- Karen, I want you to remarry----
SS: (WEEPY) Oh Chuck---- TR: I want you to find a good man --- who'll make you happy and be a good dad and--- a guy who'll go out and shovel. (MUSIC, BLIZZARD)
GK: And he wraps the white silk scarf around his neck and heads out into the blinding storm (BLIZZARD) and finds the car and starts to dig (SHOVELLING, TR PANTING) and he gets most of the snow away from the front of the car and (WOLF HOWL) ---- sometimes winter does strange things to neighborhood pets ---- (SNARL)---
TR: Skipper? Skipper? (BLOODTHIRSTY SNARL) Yikes! (FOOTSTEPS IN SNOW, CAR DOOR OPEN AND CLOSE)
GK: He puts the key in the ignition.
TR: C'mon, baby, c'mon, baby---- (COLD STARTER). (PUMPING GAS PEDAL) C'mon baby, c'mon, come to daddy. (COLD STARTER) (WOLF) C'mon, c'mon. (CAR STARTS, REVS)
GK: And just then the snowplow comes careening down the middle of the street (PLOWING, JET ENGINE, AND TONS OF SNOW LANDING ON CAR, SLIGHT CRUNCH) ---- and he's buried under ten feet of snow.
GK: But he remembered to bring his cellphone.
TR: (SOBBING) (DIALING CELLPHONE, THREE DIGITS) (RING AT OTHER END) (PICKUP)
SS (AT OTHER END): This is Priscilla. For which city, please?
TR: Listen. I'm in my car in front of my house, buried under a couple tons of snow. Please. Send help.
SS (AT OTHER END): Sir, this is Information.
TR: This isn't 911?
SS (OTHER END): 4-1-1.
TR: (SIGH OF EXASPERATION) Sorry. (DIALS AGAIN, THREE DIGITS, RING AT OTHER END, PICK UP) TK (OTHER END): Yeah? TR: Is this 9-1-1?
TK (OTHER END): Isn't that the number you dialed?
TR: Yes--- TK (OTHER END): So --- it's 9-1-1. What's the problem?
TR: (WHIMPERY) I'm in my car --- trapped --- under tons of snow. The snowplow came by. I'm buried. I can't get my door open. It's cold.
TK (OTHER END): You got a windshield scraper with you?
TR (WHIMPERY): Yes, but--- TK (OTHER END): Use it! Start digging.
TR (WHIMPERY): But---
TK (OTHER END): Roll your window down! Start digging! Show a little character, for crying out loud! Dig!
TR (WHIMPERY): With a window scraper?
TK (OTHER END): Where are you from? Iowa? Start digging!
TR (WHIMPERY): But it'll take hours----
TK (OTHER END): American P.O.W.s locked in stinking Hanoi dungeons dug their way to freedom using old razor blades and nail clippers, mister. If they could do it, you can do it too.
TR (WHIMPERY): I thought 9-1-1 was supposed to help people.
TK (OTHER END): This is Minnesota, mister. 9-1-1's different here---
TR: (WHIMPERY) But I'm trapped----
TK (OTHER END): --- We're not in the hand-holding business here.
TR (WHIMPERY): It's cold----
TK (OTHER END): This is for emergencies!----
TR (WHIMPERY): I'm buried in snow--- it's dark----
TK (OTHER END): How long've you lived here?
TR (WHIMPERY): Six months....
TK (OTHER END): Didn't you go through the training program?
TR (WHIMPERY): What training program? (MUSIC)
GK: Minnesota provides training to people moving here. On all major highways at the Minnesota border, at the truck weighing stations, the Minnesota border patrol watches for people driving rental trucks or towing trailers....(TRAFFIC PASSING, FAST) (CRUNCH OF FOOTSTEPS ON GRAVEL)
SS: (BRISKLY) Good afternoon, sir. Sgt. Powell, Border Patrol. Couldn't help but notice the trailer. You folks moving into the state? You are, huh?--- Okay---- I'd like you to pull into that parking lot there, and step into the visitor training center for a film and demonstration program--- Only takes two hours. Thank you. (MUSIC)
GK: The training film is black and white, no need for color, it's about winter. (BIG SKY & GRANDEUR CHORDS) TR (PRETENTIOUS NARRATOR): Minnesota....the Land of 10,000 Lakes (LOON ON FILM SOUNDTRACK)....located at the top of the United States and directly in the middle....that's why it's called the North Star State....it's the state the rest of the country looks to for direction.....(BRIDGE)
GK: There's instruction in rocking your car out of deep snow. (TIRES SPINNING) The use of flags and semaphore code to signal rescuers. (FLAG FLUTTERS, TR: I......am.......lost.) The code of the trail. (TK: Two snowballs with a pebble, means: I am low on fuel. Two snowballs with two pebbles: I need warm clothing. Three pebbles and two snowballs: I am confused and off my medication.) And how to start your car in forty-below weather using a hairpin, a credit card, and fresh-ground pepper---- (PEPPER GRINDER) (CAR START UP AND REV)---- That and courtesy and common sense are about all you need to be able to live here. And of course you need to listen to your Mother. (SS: I worry about you, honey. Promise me you'll come back inside the moment you start to feel cold.) And your Father. (TR: What do you mean "it won't start"? Quit pumping it. You're flooding it. Here. Move over. I've shown you this a hundred times. "It won't start." You hold the pedal down, like this. CAR STARTS, ROARS. TR: See? It starts.)
GK: Winter. It's not just a season. It's who we are. (BUTTON)
(c) 2000 by Garrison Keillor