(GK: Garrison Keillor; SS: Sue Scott; TR: Tim Russell; TK: Tom Keith; DL: David Lehman)
SS: THE LIVES OF THE COWBOYS....brought to you by Cowpoke Brand Cappuccino...
TR (GABBY): That's right, young un. Cowpoke Cappuccino. It's the
gourmet coffee you can make in any dang pot, over any dagnabbed campfire
even with the dang cows standing next to you---- Git! Gitouta there! (MOO)f..and
now here's today's exciting western adventure....
GK: Sure smells like fall is coming on, Dusty. Smell those leaves burning.
TR: All I smell is cow poop.
GK: What do you say we get the herd moving--- get to Billings so I can make it to my book club on Tuesday.
TR: Thought you quit that club.
GK: I did. Bunch of philistines. Wouldn't know good writing if it bit 'em in the butt.
TR: They wouldn't let you read your poems, would they?
GK: That had nothing to do with it.
TR: So why're you going back?
GK: I miss the donuts.
TR: Well, I don't think the herd is ready to move. The cattle are worn out. They ain't been sleepin well. I think maybe someone's been singing t' 'em.
GK: Plenty of time to sleep once we reach Billings. (HAWK, SPIT, PAUSE, DISTANT CLANK)
TR: That was the coffeepot, Lefty.
GK: Aren't you done drinking coffee?
TR: I am now.
GK: Well, if you want to sit around in camp, then I guess I'll make a few more phone calls.
TR: I noticed you got that antenna on the chuckwagon.
GK: Satellite technology, Dusty. Make a phone call from anywhere in the vast empty plains. Listen. I'll turn on the speakerphone so you can listen. (CLICK)
GK: Ma'am, this is Louis Wofford calling you from out in Montana. You having a pretty good day today, I trust?
SS: Well----My cat just died.
GK: Glad to hear that. Ma'am, I know you're busy, so I'll only take a moment of your time, I'm calling for the annual fundraising drive of the Emergency Cowboy Retirement Program, helping out the brave men on horseback who risk their lives in order to put beef on our table--
(CLICK. DIAL TONE)
TR: What happened?
GK: Hung up.
GK: Sir, this is Louis Wofford calling you from out in Montana. You having a pretty good day today, I trust?
TK: I was. Until you called.
GK: Good to hear that. Sir, I know you're busy, so I'm only going to take a moment of your time, I'm calling about the Emergency Cowboy Retirement Program, for the brave men on horseback all alone out there on the wide windy plains ---- and I wonder if you'd like to join us at the $100 Roy Rogers level or the $250 John Wayne level, and if you have your credit card handy-----
GK: Sir, I'm sure that you----
TK: Cowboy Retirement Program, my aunt Esther! (CLICK. DIAL TONE)
TR: Lost another one.
GK: It's like fishing, Dusty. You keep casting, and eventually you get a bite.
TR: Maybe you're using the wrong bait.
GK: You want to try?
TR: Sure. Gimme the headset.
TR: Ouch. Kinda tight.
GK: You want it tight.
TR: What number do I dial?
GK: Just press the button, it dials automatic. (DIALING BEEPS) (PHONE RING) The name of the person you're calling is right there on the screen.
TR: Good evening morning or other time of day, ma'am. Warmly, not too fast.
GK: Not the part in parentheses.
GK: Don't read the part in parentheses.
TR: Oh. ---- Ma'am, I'm calling you from Montana about the Emergency Cowboy Retirement Program, and I'm sure you agree with me that it's high time we remember the brave men on horseback---- (CLICK. DIAL TONE)
TR: She hung up on me.
GK: They'll do that.
TR: I was using every ounce of charm at my disposal.
GK: Don't blame yourself.
TR: Lemme try it again.
SS: Hello. Rutherford residence, Sally speaking.
TR: Listen, ma'am. Listen carefully and don't hang up. I'm calling from a cellphone near your house and I have a gun and a rope and I can see your dog in the front yard and if you don't give me your credit card number, I might swoop down and----
SS: My dog is right here in the kitchen.
TR: Well, I'll wait until your husband comes home from work and I'll jump him and tie him up and rob him blind----
SS: I already did that in the divorce.
TR: Oh. Okay. Well, have a nice day. (CLICK) Here. You can have your headset back.
GK: You don't want to try another one?
GK: You might get lucky.
TR: What you going to do with the money, Lefty?
GK: Billings. Near my book club.
TR: Thought you were mad at them.
GK: I still am.
GK: What good is it to be mad at people and not be around where you can make em suffer?
TR: You gonna make another call?
GK: One more. (DIALING BEEPS)
DL: Best American Poetry, 2002. David Lehman, speaking.
GK: Sir, this is Louis Wofford calling you from out in Montana for the Emergency Cowboy Retirement Program, and I'm sure you agree with me that it's time we remember the brave men on horseback who risk their lives in order to----- what was that you said when you picked up the phone?
DL: I said, "Best American Poetry, 2002."
GK: You're in the poetry business?
DL: I am. Yes.
GK: Well, isn't that a coincidence. The best poetry in America, you say.
DL: It's a book I edit. Best American Poetry. A new one every year. Put out by Scribners.
GK: Well, isn't that something. And it's called "Best American Poetry"----
DL: That's right.
GK: How would a person get into your book?
DL: Well ---- you get published in a magazine first. That's where we find most of them.
GK: How about the Newsletter of the Billings Poetry Association?
DL: Well, I guess----
GK: Trouble is, they didn't print my best one. They printed one they liked and they sent the best ones back.
DL: I've heard of that happening.
GK: My best ones are songs. You have a minute?
DL: We don't include songs---- just poems.
GK: You include lyric poems?
DL: (PAUSE) All right. ---- You---- uh------ you're about to sing me something, aren't you----
GK: Yes, I am.
DL: I thought so. ---- Would you mind if I sit down first?
GK: You just do what you need to do, sir. And I'll just get myself tuned up here. (TUNING)
TR: You know, I think the cattle are ready to head for Billings. I see them edging away in that direction.
GK: Just a minute, Dusty. You hold em, and I'm going to talk to this fella in New York.
DL: Okay. I'm back. Go ahead.
GK: Good. Here goes. (CHORDS)
When the shadows of ignorance cross the garden of my art
And the sticks and stones of critics tear my tender plants apart
And in the darkness of prejudice and envy and fear
The evil laugh of deconstruction comes ever near,
Then I take my poet's pitchfork and go to that barn of mine,
The barn that symbolizes metaphor.
And I collect a steaming pile from where the sun don't shine,
A souvenir of academia's shore.
DL: Excuse me?
GK: Yes, sir.
DL: There's more, isn't there---
GK: Yes, there is.
DL: Several more verses, right?
GK: Six more. Yes.
DL: I got that feeling. Listen---- weren't you calling me about a Cowboy Retirement Program?
DL: Is this something I could make a contribution to? Like--- give you money?
GK: Yes, sir. Did you want to do that now? Or when the song is over?
DL: I think now. While I'm still conscious.
GK: Would you like to contribute at the $100 Roy Rogers level or the $500 John Wayne level?
DL: I wonder if I could come in at the $25 Gabby Hayes level?
GK: Yes, of course. Would it be possible for me to-----
DL: No, I don't think so.
GK: You don't think I could-----
DL: No. (THEME)
TR (GABBY): That's today's exciting western adventureffbrought to you by Cowpoke Cappuccino. Yessirree, Bob. Ask for it wherever gourmet cowboy products are sold.
SS: And join us again soon for another episode in The Lives of the Cowboys. (THEME OUT)
© Garrison Keillor 2002