The North goes south

In this heat, even respectable Northerners want to shoot at beer cans and sing about the good old days on the plantation.

Published August 2, 2006 10:00AM (EDT)

It is stifling hot in Minnesota, more like Savannah than St. Paul, and if the heat wave goes on much longer, I am bound to start writing a play in which folks sit around in their underwear beneath a ceiling fan and drink sloe gin and curse the degeneracy of their ancestors that cost them the old plantation, Bellefleur, where the negroes used to dance and clap and get happy every evening down by the smokehouse.

Up here we associate heat with degeneracy. Once the temperature gets above a hundred for several days in a row, you expect to see the minister canoodling with the church secretary and getting jazzed on joy juice, and the deputy shooting the sheriff over a hand of euchre, and the night before Jimmy Joe goes to the gallows he learns that his daddy was not his daddy. And you expect to come to church and see some snake handling.

Episcopalians have pretty much ignored snake handling, apocalyptic visions, ladies with big hats howling and moaning, but a few more weeks of this heat could change things. Attendance was good at our church last Sunday morning, considering the heat, and the sermon was OK (about having faith that the Lord will provide), but something in me wanted Father Frank to come right down into the congregation and pull out a gun and yell, "You peckerwoods have been ignoring me for too long now and I'm sick of it!"

Guns aren't allowed in churches up here in Minnesota, but in Texas and all through the South, I'm sure that the deacons are packing heat and anybody in a long white robe has got at least a .38 special under his belt -- nothing says "I mean what I say" quite like a loaded pistol -- and if Father Frank were to pull out a pistol on Sunday, right after the Exchange of the Peace and before the announcements, it would be an epiphany for all of us.

Northerners have a tendency to be cool, make nice, work out their deals, keep a low profile, but when it gets this hot for this long, I say, "What the hail!!! Let's git it done!"

I never touched a banjo before in my life, but I got one down from the wall this morning and was frailing it and singing about Dixie, and the demons of liberalism left my body and I saw the light and also my dropsy cleared up. Wham. Just like that.

It's hot here. And so the governor of Minnesota is campaigning for re-election on a platform of No New Taxes and Less Gummint, and I for one say Hallelujah. Taxes is way too high as it is. There is no point in pouring money into these danged schools and filling they heads with notions, let 'em learn to read the Holy Word, that is enough for any normal person. And quit telling us what we can and cannot do with our property. I intend to raise chickens in my garage and paint Scripture verses on my house and sell melons off the front porch and a medicinal formula called Rise & Shine which is made from goat gonads and bulrushes and which cures gout, dyspepsia, timidity and female problems. It is none of the gummint's bidness what I do here. According to Mr. Samuel Colt, this is still a free country.

The governor also wants to bring back capital punishment. Hail, yes! It's been more than a century since we had public hangings here in St. Paul and about time we get back to it. With this heat, we're going to have sex criminals galore, serial killers, traitors, blasphemers, hermaphrodites wanting to marry flag burners, you name it, and I say hanging's too good for that scum. Let's burn them at the stake, and let's stone the adulterers and cut the hands off the thieves. Vengeance is mine, sayeth the Lord. Hand me down another pint of busthead, honeypie, and fry us up some possum, and you children hush or I will clobber you so hard you'll be seeing stars for a week.

Hot enough for me? I thrive on heat, Precious. Heat is my natural element. And seeing you walk around barefoot in that little ole dress is getting me hot and bothered. Never mind the possum. Come here and sweeten up to your papa and then let's go out and shoot some beer cans.

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(Garrison Keillor's "A Prairie Home Companion" can be heard Saturday nights on public radio stations across the country.)

(c) 2006 by Garrison Keillor. All rights reserved. Distributed by Tribune Media Services, INC.

By Garrison Keillor

Garrison Keillor is the author of the Lake Wobegon novel "Liberty" (Viking) and the creator and host of the nationally syndicated radio show "A Prairie Home Companion," broadcast on more than 500 public radio stations nationwide. For more columns by Keillor, visit his column archive.

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