Flying Fords in Minnesota

Sep 11th, 2009 | By | Category: Personal Columns

News on Wednesday that American writer and broadcaster Garrison Keillor suffered a minor stroke last Sunday is alarming – Keillor should be around for another thirty years, at least.

Garrison Keillor understands the serious stuff in life; not the economy or the future of the planet, but the thoughts that go through the heads of ordinary people living ordinary lives in ordinary places.  He understands those thoughts that we have in childhood days, that we are never going to repeat in our adult years, and certainly not if anyone is going to laugh at us about what we tell them.  Keillor reassures us that we aren’t the only ones to have had such ideas.

Clarence Bunsen, one of the most loveable of Keillor’s Lake Wobegon characters captures a moment that has about it a familiar feel:

“Anything that ever happened to me is happening to other people,” says Clarence. “Somewhere in the world right now, a kid is looking at something and thinking, ‘I’m going to remember this for the rest of my life.’ And it’s the same thing that I looked at forty years ago, whatever it was.”

If that is true and our lives are being lived over and over by others, I don’t know if I should laugh or cry.

If that is true, somewhere a boy rides next to his father in a car, his eyes level with the top of the dashboard, and pulls back slightly on the window crank which lowers the wing flaps and makes the Ford rise toward the clouds. He tests this principle with his right hand out the window, feeling the lift. He sees that the clouds are following this car; so is the sun. The car is under his power and is the center of the world”.

Are there not countless kids who had such thoughts, or similar ones?  The world is a magical place where reality has not yet crushed the power of imagination, where a big old Ford car can become an aircraft soaring through the sky.  Anything is possible in the realms of the imagination; the unexpected, the unlikely, the absurd, they are all acceptable.  All around the world there are kids whose imaginations can take them on the same flights.  Keillor captures those possibilities, those speculations, in a unique way.

And there is reassurance as well in Clarence Bunsen’s reflections.  “It’s the same thing I looked at forty years ago”, he says.  There is a continuity in childhood experience.

Standing at the front of a primary school classroom and wondering what lies ahead for the children of the school is to impose on them an adult agenda, it is to impose a worldview where imagination has been lost.  They can fly, why would they be concerned with our earthbound plodding?

The stories of a forever young Keillor are a reminder that being old is not the only way of living.

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  1. Everything that has happened to Keillor has happened to other people – younger too.

    Older people can fly too.

  2. I don’t take your dark interpretation of imagination Ian. I still have it, I’m still a romantic and imagine kicking over telegraph poles by sticking my leg out of the window when I’m a passenger in a car. My horses are sometimes unicorns and I live in a fantasy world quite regularly when I’m home alone and free to be me with nobody watching. I guess that’s the difference, I don’t dance like a fairy in front of shop windows anymore but I ‘feel it’.

  3. There’s a line in The Guernsey Potato Peel Pie and Literary Society about the child kit having not reached the dark ‘Age of Reason’. Being a cold rationalist at heart, it was something that struck very forcibly.

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