Apr 5, 2010

Garrison Keillor, On Being Folksy

Back when I was growing up, or, the “old days,” as some are fond of saying, people knew what it meant to be folksy. Nowadays, the Dave Barrys of the world are too few and far between, like the posts on a rickety old fence that has withered from neglect, as the sun and moon brought the spring, summer, fall, then winter. Yeah, my mom sure was a hell of a woman. They don’t make dames like that, least not anymore they don’t.

My father, who was as grizzled as he was proud, knew there was value in things like plowing a field and loving Jesus. Yeah, these days you’d count yourself lucky if you were to hear someone say “howdy” or “evenin’.” Come to think of it, I can’t say that I’ve been invited to a box social for going on a decade.

But there are places where the art of folksy still exists. Where a cell phone is about as rare as a dodo bird. Where people make their own ice cream. These are places like Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin. In the Midwest, you can throw a hedge ball in just about any direction and you’re more likely to hit a porch swing than a multiplex theatre or strip mall.

There’s a reason that people from small town America are called the salt of the earth, and it’s because they put more salt on their food than a family bible has wear marks. That’s a lot of wear marks, at least in my family it is.

No, I can’t say I’ve ever been to a movie premier. I probably couldn’t tell you where to find a Saks Fifth Avenue or a Blockbuster video. I like my clothes plain and my tones earth. I like to whistle and I certainly never raise my voice, that is unless it’s absolutely necessary.

I can tell you quite a few things about war, especially wars that the old red, white and blue struggled in. I’ve been known to pick off a pheasant from over two hundred yards. I’ve also been known to take that same bird home, strip its feathers and skin from its body, then cut its flesh from its bone and eat that flesh after most likely frying it in some fashion.

I know it’s not that cool to put ranch dressing on your salad anymore but then again I suppose it’s not too cool to sing in the local church choir, either. I guess I’ll take my chances.

I like movies about the struggles of man against impossible odds that are sad and yet wholesome in a somewhat understated way. If you think Grapes of Wrath is not the greatest American novel, then I am going to have to give you a stern talking to.

I’m somewhat socially progressive as well as frightened and unworldly. I believe that a pregnant teenager is a tragedy the likes of which Joseph Stalin could only envision.

I know enough to know that you can’t beat a rainy day at home with the family, wrapped up in a quilt that Grandma knitted with her own, weathered hands. Which grandma? Well, I suppose it doesn’t really matter, does it?

I have eaten potatoes cooked in more than a hundred and seventy forms. If you handed me a plate of sushi, I might confuse it with the newest Britney Spears album. I like my rock and roll rebellious, but nostalgic and non-threatening. I go to church, but I certainly don’t think I’m better than anyone else, because that’s how I was raised.

I’m folksy and I’m proud of it.