I tune to WOJB for an in-breaking from another world. The indigenous
people speak in even tones, softly on the microphone, nearly a chant. Their
idiom camouflages a humor I sometimes get.
Dead air, then a night-time jock speaks with refreshing lack of pretense, clear and simple. She says, “Good evening everyone. It’s Tuesday and I hope you’re having a good night. It’s Tuesday isn’t it? Wait a minute, let me check…. Oh, it’s Thursday. Ok then, I hope you’re having a good Thursday.”
I’m here to listen and to put my hands on all the stubborn things: the old Evinrude motor, the long-handled red pump, the Dixie stove, the Gibson refrigerator, the cast iron frying pans and then fish filet knives. “
I lift the pan and feel its weight, I
swing the knife from side to side
and feel its balance. I smell
leather casing for the J. Marttini
Rapala filet knife; I will test the
blade against a hair on my
forearm. Is it sharp enough to
slice arm hair? If not, I will whet the sharpening stone and slide that knife in one direction, over and over, making an arc like a roller coaster. The Rapala will resist at first, but metal will yield and raise its edge.
WOJB turns its broadcast menu to music with Mountain Stage, and I love the songs. I wait for the next program and the dry unmistakable voice of
Garrison Keillor as he spins tales of life on The Prairie Home Companion. I listen for his opening line, “It’s been a quiet week in Lake Woebegon.”
He speaks of Norwegians in a cold land, sharpened
by hard work and manners. I hear him poke fun at their frugality and the neighborly ambiguity forming Lake Woebegon’s crucible of gossip. Lake Woebegon, and its reticent characters, are beautiful to me. I feel their pathos, I understand how pine trees and snow shape a psychology.
Lake Woebegon people in all their stubbornness, kjeck, gumption, sisu, guts and patience are familiar and edgy, sharp as a Finnish knife.
A Norwegian bachelor farmer’s kitchen in Lake Woebegon is like this one: candle-lit, wood stove crackling, a glass of Canadian Whiskey, melting ice,
a hard-headed resistance to modernity’s effects. I listen and wait for the final line to his story. It brings a tear to my eye