Garrison Keillor: Mr. Fred Newman of LaGrange, Georgia, has been doing sound effects on our show for years and people naturally wonder -- How does a young man from a good family wind up honking for a living? (HONK HONK). What went wrong? Fred grew up in a respectable family where all the men knew how to use tools (DRILL, HAMMERING) and there were dogs around (DOGS) and they had a banjo (BANJO) and there was grits (SPLORT) or were grits (SPLORTS) and boys went off in the woods and blew up things (EXPLOSION). Old rotten logs. (EXPLOSION). Garbage. (EXPLOSION, SPLAT)
But one day Fred got strange. He was lying in bed one night (DRIPPING) and the bathroom faucet was dripping and soon there were aliens from another cosmos (ALIEN WARBLE) in the room who told him he could communicate with them if he took the whistle out of one of those party noisemakers that uncurls (PARTY WHISTLE), and he stuck it up his nose in class and made a noise (MUFFLED WHISTLE) and woke up the family and then when he went to take it out he accidentally jammed it up even further (PANIC PARTY WHISTLE), and had to be taken to the hospital (SIREN), where they had to perform surgery to remove the whistle (DRILL, SUCKING NOISE), and after that operation Fred was never the same. (FN GOOFY-SPOOKY LAUGH) He started wearing elastic pantsuits (STRETCHING) and eating lots of popsicles (SUCKING) and hanging out with Knuckles the Cat (MEOW) and learning to make sounds (DOUBLE WHISTLE) that got him sent to the principal's office and other sounds (FROG) that got him put out of Sunday School and if not that one, then this one (VILLAIN LAUGH, INTO HONKING) And when you're kicked out of school and out of Sunday School, there's not much left for a boy in LaGrange, Georgia. (TRAIN WHISTLE) And so Fred hopped a northbound freight and rode. Picked up odd jobs along the way.
Fred Newman (DEEP, SCARY): You want to sweep up, I'll give you two dollars and you can sleep in the basement. (BELCH)
GK: It was a seedy bar with an orange neon sign (NEON SIGNS) that said Jimmy John's Gentlemen's Lounge, where an old sax player named Buddy (SAX) played for a sad-faced girl dancing on the bar.
FN (JADED SOUTHERN WOMAN): What are you lookin' at? Get lost. I got kids to feed.
GK: He worked scrubbing toilets (SCRUBBING) and cleaning mirrors (SPRAY, SQUEAKING), and when he had enough money, he bought himself an old ice cream truck and drove that around (ICE CREAM TRUCK JINGLE), selling hunkies, what we'd call Eskimo Pies. And somewhere out on the road, he had a dream...a dream of going to Harvard -- (FN: Harvard! Harvard!!!) and wearing knickers and a shirt with a big crimson H on it and learning a new accent (FN PLIMPTON: Where am I from? Well, that's an interesting story. My parents came from Georgia. Yes, really. Town of LaGrange. Hard to believe, isn't it. But they gave me up to a Unitarian adoption agency and I grew up right here. In Cambridge.) And Fred went to Harvard. And he did everything he could to be un-Southern. He joined a Renaissance music ensemble (KRUMMHORN, SACKBUT) and he became a Morris dancer (SFX) and he played squash (SQUEAKING OF SHOES, SLAMMING OF BALL) and he did well in chemistry (POURING, SIZZLING) and he decided that what he wanted to be was a urologist...
FN (TO PATIENT): Okay. I'm going to just have a little look-see into your bladder and check out that prostate, and I'm going to just insert this little tube with a camera at the end--you'll just feel a little pressure now-- here we go-- (LONG SQUORT) there-- that wasn't so bad, was it--
GK: And then Fred's dad came to visit and he was disgusted by what he saw--
FN (DAD): No son of mine is going to dance around and play that pitty-pat music and play silly games with racquets. No sir. You're from the South, son. Let's see you go out for football.
GK: So Fred went out for football and he became their punter. (FN P.A.: Coming in... to punt for Harvard...No. 13...Newman) I don't know how much you know about the football program at Harvard, but the linemen all keep journals and in the huddle they talk about chaos theory. This was the year that Harvard played Georgia Tech and Fred did a lot of punting that afternoon from deep in his own end zone -- (FN CADENCE, CRUNCH OF BIG LINEMEN, FLIGHT OF BALL, LINEMEN RUSHING) and Harvard's defensive line was four slender boys in the visual arts and (PUNT) Fred got the punt off just as (CREAMING OF FRED) he was hit by three 250-pound linemen (REF'S WHISTLE) and there was a penalty on the play -- (REF ON P.A.: ROUGHING THE KICKER. FIRST DOWN, HARVARD) (ROAR OF CROWD) -- Fred had gotten Harvard its first first-down all year...
FN: Where am I?
GK: You just got off a great punt and you drew a Roughing the Kicker penalty. You did great.
GK: You'll be okay. Give him some oxygen. (OXYGEN VENT)
Harvard was down by six touchdowns and the only way they could move the ball was by attracting roughing the kicker penalties-- (CADENCE) the ball was snapped and those big crackers ran over the Harvard line (FLUTTER OF BALL) (ONRUSHING LINEMEN) and Fred got the ball and he stepped forward and (PUNT) kicked a magnificent high high (CREAMING OF FRED) punt that flew straight and true for sixty yards and (REF'S WHISTLE) -- there were red flags all over the field. (REF: ROUGHING THE KICKER. FIRST DOWN)
GK: Okay-- we got em right where we want em. First down on Georgia Tech's 35 yard line. It's 49-to-zip but let's put some points up there, Fred? Okay? (FRED GIBBERING) Think you can do it? Kick the field goal?
FN (INCOHERENT): Okay. I'm going to just have a little look-see into your bladder--
GK: Fred-you're on the football field. You're not in clinicals--
FN (INCOHERENT): just want to check out that prostate, and I'm going to just insert this little tube with a camera at the end--you'll just feel a little pressure now-- here we go--
GK: Get up, Fred (HOISTING), get up. Come on. You can do this. (GROANING, APPLAUSE) Fred was at the 35-yard-line-- let's look at it in slow motion-- here's the snap from center (SLOW FLUTTERING) and here come the Georgia Tech linemen (SLOW GRUNTING, STOMPING) and the snap from center is a little high and Fred reaches way up for it and then he sees the linemen coming (SLOW MOTION CRY OF HORROR) and he turns and runs the wrong way (SLOW MOTION HORROR, RUNNING) and a thousand pounds of flesh lands on him (WHOOMP, SQUASH) and when he came to in the locker room -- his hair was white, and further more, he had no interest in urology. So he packed his bags and he went back to Georgia. And his mother was thrilled.
FN (SOUTHERN WOMAN): Well land sakes, look who's back! You want a fried moon pie, honeycakes?
GK: After that Fred spent a lot of time sitting on the screened-in porch, watching lightening bugs (BUZZING) and counting the cars on the two-lane highway going from Atlanta to Montgomery. (CARS ROLLING BY). He sat there a long time, and had a cold beer (POP TOP). Played his banjo (BANJO). Went out and chopped up some possum and cooked it up in a deep fryer (BUBBLING). And he fed some to his dog Blue. (DOG) And that's where we found him. Except it wasn't really a porch. It was a small upstairs room at the LaGrange Sanitarium where he was sitting all alone looking out into space. (DRIPPING) Cognitive disconnect, they called it. We thought, hey we can work with that. And he's from the South so we won't have to pay him. (FN: Be my privilege, darling.)
And the rest is history. That's the story of Fred Newman.