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Garrison Keillor: An Appreciation by Harry Smith

by Harry Smith /
Harry Smith and Garrison Keillor
Harry Smith and Garrison KeillorNBC News

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This is an emotional moment for us listeners, as Garrison Keillor, 73, steps down as host of his "Prairie Home Companion" radio show after his final broadcast on July 1.

There are reasons we tune in: The innocence of singing old songs and hymns in harmony. It is corny and silly.

But it has also always been wry and insightful and quite frankly a comfort. One man’s voice echoing through the darkness — summoning us to set aside modernity and revel in a kind of fantasy.

A radio place where time stops and we hum along and tap our toes and hang on every syllable of the news from "Lake Woebegone."

A place whose citizens have the same anxieties and foibles as we do.

I have wept and cried at those stories.

And I have laughed out loud at the "Lives of the Cowboys" and "Guy Noir."

Harry Smith and Garrison Keillor
Harry Smith and Garrison KeillorNBC News

I know exactly what a box of "Powder Milk Biscuits" looks like. And I swear I have been to "Bertha’s Kitty Boutique" and "The Side Track Tap."

I will miss the choirs, the jokes and all the folks who regularly made it onto the show, which I first heard in the 1970s.

I was visiting my brother and his wife in Pella, Iowa.

We were eating outside. Tomatoes and greens beans and fresh corn form the garden And my brother says, “Have your heard this?” He turned on the radio. And there was the show.

This is an emotional moment for us listeners: We already have a sense that something is missing. We’re not sure how we will conduct ourselves on Saturday night.

The radio will be on as usual as meal preparations are being made. And when we sit down you Garrison will be there too.

It’s like you've always had a place at our table — a voice in our conversation.

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