Friday, May 21, 2010

Minnesota, Hail to Thee

So, it was 23 years ago this weekend that I visited Minnesota for the very first of many times and all a'buzz was I. Why? Because I'd grown up with Laura & Mary and Betsy & Tacy. Who? If you're reading this – or even if you're not – you know Laura & Mary Ingalls. Betsy Ray & Tacy Kelly are the heroines of a downright delightful set of books written by Maud Hart Lovelace (1892-1980). About what? Her happy childhood and high school years in Mankato., known to us B-T initiates as Deep Valley, Minnesota, in 1897-1917, the horse-drawn, lamplit years before the U.S. entered WWI. Oh baybee, if you haven't read these books, lucky you: You still get to discover them. Do head yourself to the library and please do visit You'll find pictures there of Maud, her childhood home, and that of her best friend, Frances Kenney (Tacy Kelly), right across the street. As of yesterday, May 20, "Betsy's" and "Tacy's" homes are a National Literary Landmark. Just for you to know.
For all of that, Mrs. Lovelace and her books were not my reason for traveling to the North Star State. No, that would be because I won a much-sought-after ticket to see and hear one of the last times Garrison Keillor and a stage full of other performers would do their live radio show out of St. It was in February 1987 that G. K. announced he was shutting his radio show down - "not to leave you, but to rejoin you listeners out there..." He'd gotten prettydamned publicly besotted with a lady. You'd better know I cried genuine tears. I was still working for Current then, designing greeting cards, wrapping paper - all kinds of paper hoohah and trying to break into children's books. Many a painting I'd done while listening to the radio, particularly on Saturday evenings when Prairie Home Companion was on.
Mr. Keillor probably wishes he knew then how badly he was going to get his heart busted and end up bringing back his radio show, but then it was the big fat end of a chapter. Me, I was healing up from a huge bust-up myself. It cheered me up considerable when I won or a ticket for one of the last shows. It would be Saturday evening, of course, May 23, 1987, which happened to be within a couple of days of the 60th anniversary of the time when Charles Lindbergh, the Lone Eagle of Minnesota navigated the Spirit of St. Louis clear across the Atlantic Ocean in 33 and 1/2 hours. 83 years it's been now. My younger, thinner self, the 1987 version, walked past a swell statue of the "Lone Eagle" in front of the State Capitol and admired both it and the building, there in St. Paul. A happy time.

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