Sue Scott: THE LIVES OF THE COWBOYS.....stories of boredom, romance, and misery in the Wild West....brought to you by Trailblazer Table Napkins......for special occasions when shirtsleeves just won't do......
(EVENING OUTDOOR AMBIENCE, DISTANT CATTLE)
Garrison Keillor: Hey Dusty?
Tim Russell: Yeah--
GK: You see that piece of paper I left sitting over here on my bedroll?
GK: Left it right here two minutes ago. Big piece of white paper folded twice? Had writing on it?
TR: Maybe it got blown into the fire--
GK: I just left it right here while I went over and got coffee. How could it just disappear?
TR: Was there something written on it?
GK: A poem. The beginning of a poem. And a $5 bill was pinned to it.
TR: A five dollar bill -- I woulda noticed that. Nope-- didn't see it.
GK: That's odd.
TR: You've been doing that a lot lately. Forgetting things. Forgot your dang rope the other day. It's getting so I gotta inspect you every morning, make sure you got your boots and pistols and your hat. -- What was the poem about?
GK: Loneliness and the sense of purposelessness drifting around in a cruel universe that is unaware of our existence.
TR: Oh. -- Okay.
GK: I was almost done with it and I was going to send it off to Poetry magazine in Chicago.
TR: And what do you expect them to do with it?
GK: I expect them to stuff it back into my stamped self-addressed envelope along with a rejection slip and mail it to that post office box in Cheyenne, Wyoming, the one that I haven't used for the past ten years.
TR: Why give them an address that's no good, Lefty?
GK: I can't bear rejection, that's why.
TR: But what if they should accept a poem? Send you a check for a hundred bucks and a big congratulatory letter saying what a terrific poem it is and beautiful and profound and brilliant and-- well, no, I guess that isn't very likely, is it--
GK: Anyway, it's lost. Blown away or something.
TR: How come you pinned a $5 bill to it?
GK: As a reward, in case someone should find it -- so he'd return it.
TR: So you were expecting to lose it?
GK: Just seemed inevitable, I guess. You write a poem about purposelessness in an uncaring universe and it just stands to reason, the dang thing is going to blow away or be eaten by a horse and it'll be like it never existed.
TR: If you remember it, you could write it down --
GK: I just remember part of it --
"vicissitudes of wind and rain
have worn away the rocks and changed
the shape of butte and the landscape
so it resembles the soft shape
of Wanda that night of long ago
and where she is I do not know
so I guess it matters not
who the hills look like or what
so why do I lie here awake
and think of her until daybreak?"
TR: That's from the poem?
TR: Well, at least it rhymes.
GK: You don't care for it?
TR: Sure. It's fine. -- Is there any more coffee in that pot?
GK: You didn't like it, did you?
TR: It was good. A little strong. Hard on my stomach.
GK: Not the coffee. The poem.
TR: What about it?
GK: Never mind. (BRIDGE, LONG, MODULATING TO INDICATE PASSAGE OF TIME) (END OUTDOOR AMBIENCE, SEGUE TO WESTERN TOWN AMBIENCE, WAGONS, HORSES, VOICES, ETC.) If you're goin' down to the saloon, Dusty, I figure maybe I'll head up to the library and try to write down that poem so I can send it off to Poetry magazine.
TR: How come you want to be a poet, Lefty? No money in it. No glory.
GK: I do it cause women like it.
TR: They do?
GK: They say they do.
TR: The women I know go for whiskey and dancing and smooching and whooping it up.
GK: They want you to think they like it but what they'd really like is if you wrote em a poem about how you can't ever forget em and how you lie away at night thinking about em because the shape of the hills and buttes remind you of them......
TR: But I can forget em. I do it all the time.
GK: It's called poetic license.
TR: Come on in here and have a drink, Lefty.
GK: I want to finish my poem--
TR: C'mon---- (DOOR OPEN. CAMPTOWN RACES. BARROOM AMBIENCE. WHOOPS AND LAUGHTER. FOOTSTEPS TO BAR. SIT ON STOOLS) Looks like Big Messer's here and his whole gang.
GK: Which one is Big Messer?
TR: The one with the whiskers and the blood on his face.
GK: Looks like he's been in a fight.
TR: He gets in three fights every day. One before noon, another one before supper, and one after supper.
GK: Well, I hope he's made his quota for the day.
SS: What can I bring you two gentlemen?
TR: I'll have a bottle of rotgut whiskey, ma'am.
SS: You want sittin' down whiskey or fallin' down whiskey?
TR: Sittin' down.
SS: How about you?
GK: You wouldn't happen to have some juice, would you?
SS: Juice? Did you say JUICE? (MUSIC, COMMOTION STOPS)
GK: Juice. Like-- cranberry juice? (WHISPERING)
TR: (WHISPER) Order a beer or something, for cryin out loud. People are looking at us. Get a glass of whiskey.
GK: I'd like a glass of juice so I can keep a clear head so I can finish writing my poem. (WHISPERS) Could I have a straw with that?
TR: (WHISPER) Oh boy, you did it now. I'm gonna go sit over here down the bar, Lefty. You're on your own, pardner. (SLOW FOOTSTEPS APPROACH)
Tom Keith (GROWLY): I hear somebody mention -- poetry?
GK: I did.
TK: You call yourself a poet?
GK: I reckon maybe I do.
TK: A poet. P-o-i-t, right?
TK: Well, isn't that interesting. (HAWKS AND SPITS) I'm the one who writes poems in this town, mister. Ain't room for two poets. Used to be two and now he's buried up there on Boot Hill.
GK: Well, I hope you gave him a nice funeral.
TK: We did. It was a lovely funeral. Almost made me cry and I was the one who shot him.
GK: Why'd you do that, Big Messer?
TK: He plagiarized from me.
GK: What'd he plagiarize?
TK: He stole the word "alas" from me.
GK: I see.
TK: I used the word "alas" in an elegy for a pal and this dirty rotten plagiarizer swiped it and used it in his poem and I called him on it and now he's a-laying up there in the ground and I'm standing down here.
GK: I see that. Is that a poem there in your pocket, Big Messer? The piece of paper with the $5 bill attached to it?
TK: It might be.
GK: I'd sort of like to hear it.
TK: It ain't finished.
GK: I know that. It wouldn't happen to be about a woman lying under an Army blanket looking like a mountain range, would it?
TR: Lefty, I don't think that's a good idea-- I think we ought to get outta here. C'mon--
TK: Who's this?
GK: This is the editor of Poetry magazine.
TK: Editor!!!! You're the editor of Poetry magazine???? You wrote me that stupid rejection letter???? Why you-- (HE SWINGS, TR OOOFFF. FISTFIGHT. WOOD & GLASS BREAKAGE, FADING) (BRIDGE)
GK: Dusty and Big Messer rolled around on the floor for awhile punching and gouging and biting and scratching and meanwhile I sat and worked on my poem and when they were done, so was I.
SS: If you gentlemen are done trying to kill each other, maybe you'd like to have a drink -- (POURING)
(SOME GROANING, DEEP BREATHING, AS THEY BRUSH THEMSELVES OFF)
TK: Boy, for a poetry editor, you sure know how to use your fists.
TR: Yeah, well, for a poet, you sure can bite, mister. I'll say that-- (GUITAR) Oh no......
GK: I wrote a brand new poem, boys. Have a seat, I'll sing it to you.
TK: What's it about?
GK: I don't know. I just finished writing it. (SINGS, TROUBLE IN MIND)
It's January and it's cold out
And we've got four more years of what we just had four years of
But the sun's going to shine and spring's going to come, my love.
And meanwhile.....I'm not going to get drunk
Or agitated or bitter or depressed
I'm going to be as happy as a person can be out here in the godforsaken West.
It's cold and it tends to be lonely
And there's a degree of sensory deprivation in this town,
But I've been all round the world so it's time to settle down.
Alas, O alas,
And alas they've said to me
But life is good with a lass who is good company
We can talk, we can walk,
We can sing we can swing and sway
I know the sun's going to shine and spring's going to come someday.
Oh yes, the sun's going to shine and spring's going to come someday.
TK: Not bad. You stole some from me, but if you're gonna steal, might as well steal from the best.
TR: Can't wait to print it in my magazine.
SS: More juice for you, sir?
TR (DUSTY): The Lives of the Cowboys was brought to you by Old Sagebrush Saddle Thesaurus -- the thesaurus that's shaped to fit in your saddlebag for easy reference. (MUSIC UP AND OUT)