I regret to inform you that there will be no Prairie Lights column today.
When I launched this basically one-man operation, I was warned to be on the alert for signs of burnout, things like neglecting to shave for several weeks, sacrificing small animals on the altar of Google Analytics and finding myself, unaccountably, in a closed casket.
Although I have noticed nothing along those lines, I have definitely encountered lesser strains of burnout, including the sudden inability to collect my thoughts or to write an understandable story about a fairly straightforward subject.
The problem I encountered today, today being Saturday, is that I am so distracted that I couldn’t possibly deliver a connected, coherent column on some pressing matter like the vote on fast-track trade authority, or the downturn in Bakken oil production.
What am I distracted by? The weather, for one thing. Even though it’s still Saturday morning, I have been outside quite a bit and I am of the opinion that this might be the most beautiful day we have yet seen in 2015. If I were a poet, I could go on at length about how beautiful it is, and that would be a column. But after a bit of head-scratching, all I came up with was this:
This day is so lovely,
So very great,
Even by half past eight.
By nine, I must say,
It was really fine.
I am also distracted by the imminent arrival of former Gazette reporter Jim Hagengruber and his lovely family. A bunch of us are going to be staying in a cabin near Cooke City with the Hagengrubers this evening, which means that if I had written a column, it would had to have been done fairly early today.
And I just want to hit the road, to witness the finest day of the year from the Top of the World, which is quite close to Cooke City. I am also distracted by thinking of how Hagengruber, some years ago, bet I could not work this word—Donaudampfschiffahrtsgesellschaft—into my City Lights column at the Gaz.
Well, I did, and it even made some kind of sense. I would refer you to the actual column but I cannot find it in the Gazette’s electronic archives. It may be that I misspelled Donaudampfschiffahrtsgesellschaft, but that is unlikely. I mean, I’m a professional.
A further distraction is that I find myself, for some strange reason, wondering how different my life would have been if, instead of going into newspaper work, I had become a captain with the Danube Steamboat Shipping Company. I don’t know if it was my German heritage that got me thinking of this or seeing Vol. 1 of Mark Twain’s autobiography at the library book sale yesterday, but there you are. The mind is a strange thing.
If I had written a column today, there was a fair chance it would have been about Jimmie Rodgers, the Singing Brakeman, the Blue Yodeler and the Father of Country Music, whose biography I am reading.
But even a one-man operation like this has to show some restraint. I can’t just write about whatever I want without thinking of what my readers might be interested in. Even so, allow me to share one anecdote about Jimmie.
In 1970, in a backstage interview, the great bluesman Chester Burnett, known to the world as Howlin’ Wolf, was talking about his musical influences. He said the first record he ever listened to was by Ma Rainey, often called the Mother of the Blues, and he also expressed his admiration for Blind Lemon Jefferson.
He went on: “And then, my man that I dug, that I really dug, that I got my yodel from, was Jimmie Rodgers. See, he yodeled, and I turned it into something more of a howl.”
Damn, that makes me want to write that Jimmie Rodgers column right now. But I can’t. I’m too distracted.
One distraction is, in fact, musical. I keep thinking about how Martha Scanlan, one of the best singer-songwriters anywhere, and who happens to live down on the Tongue River, will be performing Sunday from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Garage Pub at the Yellowstone Valley Brewing Company.
As if that weren’t good enough news, she’ll be accompanied by Jon Neufeld, a wonderfully talented guitarist. I think even Howlin’ Wolf would have dug his playing. Get yourself down to the Garage, is what I’m trying to say.
So, let me apologize again for neglecting to write a column this week. Next week for sure, unless I find myself in that casket.