We have been listening to Prairie Home Companion on NPR since the mid 1970’s when it first began. This musical variety show reflected the midwestern sensibilities of its host and creator Garrison Keillor and touched the souls of many of us who live nowhere near the coasts. Over time it caught on nationwide and listeners were charmed by the folksy stories Garrison told to end to end the show about his fictional home town and its residents. While they were fictional characters, in Garrison’s hands they became as real as people we knew from our small midwestern towns.
All good things come to an end and when Garrison decided to retire we were happy for him and sad for us. The show has carried on and is still a great listen, but it’s not the same. When we read that Garrison announced his farewell tour, we were glad that he would be in the Chicago area, but disappointed to discover not when we were there. He planned to come to Arizona to Prescott, a town four hours north of Tucson. We wondered if we would run out of things to do in Tucson (we haven’t), so we decided to book a hotel and drive north to see a man we had enjoyed and admired for thirty years. Once again we forgot to pay attention to the elevation of Prescott and were dismayed to see that a snow storm would be passing through in this mile high town. We drove past snow covered mountains and it did snow in Prescott, but by the time we got here, most of it had melted and there were just a few decorative piles in shady spots under the trees. That's the way to have snow.
The auditorium was full of over 1,000+ fans, mostly of our vintage. Garrison told stories and sang for almost two hours all alone on stage without a script, quite an accomplishment for a retiree. The show was bawdier than what he had aired on NPR, and he made some references to a recent sexual harassment charge against him that was part of the #me too movement. He has nothing to lose at this point in his life but his reputation, but it was clear that this accusation rankled. With many of these “he said, she said” cases, we will never know what really happened, but this loyal audience was ready to cheer for him and clearly believed every word he said. We’re glad we made the pilgrimage.