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the night garrison keillor sang me a song
by laurey masterton

The first week of February was NOT a quiet week in Asheville, my adopted home town. Garrison Keillor and members of his Prairie Home Companion gang, came here on a Monday night to do a show. Oh my, what a night it was!

First of all, let me go on record as saying that I have been a huge Garrison fan since that show started being broadcast – how ever many years ago that was.

One time, a number of years ago, right in the middle of what was supposed to be an extended mountain-climbing excursion in The Bugaboo Mountains of British Columbia, I decided that I did not want to die climbing and that, frankly, the previous day’s 19-hour climbing excursion was going to be my last. I calculated that, if we left that moment, and drove non-stop, we could be in St. Paul in time for the Saturday live broadcast of “A Prairie Home Companion”. My climbing partner/girlfriend grudgingly agreed to go (she wanted to stay and climb more) and we drove, stopping only for gas and minimal sleep, until we reached the box office – just a couple of hours before the show. We got put on the waiting list and only squeaked in at the VERY last minute. My heart still pounds remembering standing in that line, hoping, hoping, hoping we would get in.

That show was glorious. I sank into the story. Loved the music. And basked in the evening, thrilled, most of all, to be far away from those treacherous rocks. I never looked back.
All this came rushing back the other night when we got to provide the food for the morning, noon, and evening meals of A Prairie Home Companion’s Asheville show for our public broadcasting radio station: WCQS. John, our delivery driver, did full day’s work, shuttling back and forth with more coffee, fresh cookies, and such. It was my day off, but, curious, I went by in the mid-afternoon to check on things and happened to walk by Garrison’s dressing room.

The door was open.

He was there.

I skidded to a stop.

“Hi! I’m SO glad you’re here!!! My name is Laurey and we’re cooking dinner for you tonight!” I blurted out.

“Hello,” Garrison looked up.

I was a nervous wreck! (He IS my hero!)

“I was just up your way on a dog-sledding trip,” I said. (Boy did I sound nervous!)

“Um hmm…”

We had a conversation of sorts. Politics, dogs, food, and the book I am working on.

“This might just be my lucky day,” I blurted. (Was my voice really shaking? Sheesh!)

“Oh, why’s that?” he responded. (He probably gets this all the time, I scolded myself.)

“Well, I have been working on a book and today is the day the agent will receive it. She told me she’d read it this week and let me know what she thought next week. I’m pretty excited about the whole thing.”

“What kind of book is it?” Garrison asked.

“It’s called “Elsie’s Biscuits: simple stories of me, my mother, and food.” I said, still nervous.

“Hmm…I see.” (Right, I thought, probably EVERYONE who talks to him has a book in the works. Why are you rattling on?)

“Is any of it dark?” he asked.

(Great question!, I thought)

“Dark? Yes,” I said. “there are dark parts.”

“Good. It’s good if some of it is dark.”

I nodded.

“Now, your name, is that L-A-U-R-I-E?” he spelled.

“No, L-A-U-R-E-Y,” I spelled back, “like the show Oklahoma. The protagonist’s name was spelled that way and my father was reading a review of the show while my mother was in the delivery room.”

“Oh, I see,” he said.

“And Masterton is Scottish. Master of the town, or something like that,” I continued.“Well, nice talking to you. I need to run now.” (I didn’t, but I was feeling stupid.)

I left the theater, wandered around town, dazed at my conversation. I floated all afternoon, thrilled. Boy, so many years ago I had gone out of my way to see him and – wow – I had just talked to my hero. Wow, wow, wow. And then it was time for the show. What a show! The sound was amazing. The music blissful. Stories flowed. The time flew away.

“Okay,” said Garrison, “everybody stand up. It’s time for intermission. Leave if you need to, but, for all the rest of you, let’s all just sing together, shall we? I mean, how often do you get to sing together in a big room with all these people?”

So we all sang. What fun! How rich we sounded!

“And now,” he said after we’d all sung for a long time, “let’s do one more song. I’d like to dedicate this one to,” he paused, “Laurey Masterton. She made our dinner tonight which is why the music sounds so good. So,” he continued without explaining why, “let’s all sing Oklahoma.”

And then we – me and everyone else, all 2400 of us (give or take) sang. Oklahoma.

Can you imagine?

I still can’t. Wow. Wow. Wow.

P.S. The agent called, right when she said she would, and said that yes, she DOES want to work with me. So it looks like it WAS my lucky day – in so very many ways.

© Laurey Masterton, Proprietor, Laurey’s Catering. This piece was originally printed in the Newsletter for Laurey’s Catering and Gourmet to Go. To sign up, please visit laureysyum.com where you will see a sign up box.

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