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A tribute to Garrison Keillor

July 14, 2010

Newspaper readers including those who take the Messenger-Inquirer learned last month that Garrison Keillor, a star of public radio and author, was taking a hiatus of indeterminate length from his weekly newspaper column.

Garrison Keillor

Garrison Keillor

I, for one, was a big fan of Keillor’s, not only for his content and message, but the way he delivered that message. He relishes the English language, and though you might not agree with the point he was making, it was a fun lyrical journey to follow on his way to that point.

And so I was sorry to see that he was ending his weekly column for the time being to concentrate on other endeavors, including working on finishing a screenplay and starting to write another novel. Hopefully the weekly column will return soon.

In response to the news of Keillor’s hiatus, Robin Washington, the editor of the Duluth (Minn.) News Tribune penned a column in the style of Keillor thanking him for the columns he’s written over the years. Like Keillor’s columns, this one makes for a fun read. Enjoy.

So long, Old Scout

Robin Washington
Duluth News Tribune

Don’t do it, the editors warned. And it would have been a very good thing to have listened to them; they are, after all, editors, and not just the arbiters of style or even, at times, flair, but the protectors of all that is good and decent in the world.

I know a few decent people. In fact, more than a few. They’re the hardy Minnesotans who, after a day’s work in the taconite plants or husking corn in the corn husking places and making the world safe for ethanol and Lutherans, will unhesitatingly offer you their last bite of lutefisk. Not just any lutefisk, mind you, but the sweetest, perfectly jelled spoon-filling kind that beckons to be enjoyed in July.

Jelled, enjoyed, July. Three j-containing words that ordinarily wouldn’t stand for sharing a sentence with each other, except, again, we are Minnesotans and a folk filled with tolerance who demand no less from our lexicon. The same goes for rabbits, remoulade and Republicans, though one can never be too sure about Republicans and one is always sure of rabbits. Their soft fur is reminiscent of the gentle breathing of your gap-toothed, sandy-haired daughter who is surely frolicking in a dream world of even more rabbits having succumbed to slumbers after your reading of “Where the Wild Things Are,” even if none of those wild things concerned le lapin.

It is at this point that you realize you have done it, and gone ahead with the parody, damned be the editors if they don’t understand or have little faith in the capacity of the Gentle Reader to appreciate the most sincere form of flattery. Of course they’ll understand, and if they don’t, then it must have something to do with Republicans again.

All this is pondered as the summer days stretch their tentacles deep into the Minnesota night, or if we have somehow lost our way near the St. Croix, the dusk of the Badger State. It is a good pondering, one that has us re-reading long, convoluted sentences for far longer than it took the Major American Humorist and publically funded radio star to write them, and with that re-reading, sheer marvel or the scratching of one’s head.

But those long summer days know the impending threat of a Minnesota autumn, which is a hardy, above-average autumn, and into its inevitability you carry your sleepy, sandy-haired, gap-toothed daughter off to bed. Knowing she’ll hear nothing of your words, to her, if not to yourself, you say: Thanks for the columns, Garrison.

Robin Washington is editor of the News Tribune. He may be reached at rwashington@ duluthnews.com.

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