My Cardboard Box

A Pirate among the Corn

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A line from Sippican Cottage’s recent post:

“It’s crappy to say kids these days, and all that other nursing home remembrance, but the radio sure could use a dose of plain fun right now.”

That reminded me remembering about a post about radio that I’d promised to do some eight months back.

Many years ago on the journey with the Green Dragon,  we spent a week at Andy’s dad’s farm in eastern Nebraska.  It was late October, but just warm enough for the grownups to lounge around in the back yard in the evening, drink Jack and Coke (both out of the can), swap lies  and stare up at the stars.

And listen to the radio station from somewhere in the cornfields.

“You have to hear this,” was all that Andy’s dad said as he turned on the old sun-beaten radio. And we listened, late into the evening.  I listened to it again the few more nights that we weren’t at the high school football game or playing pool down at the bar.  Perhaps four or so nights total.

It was an AM station at the lower edge of the band.  It didn’t have call letters and only broadcasted ‘after supper’, maybe a little earlier on Sundays.  It was a good, clear powerful signal; perhaps a bit too powerful. If folks knew who it was they weren’t saying. There was no patter. It just sounded like an older guy who was having a visit with the world.  The rule that the airway-must-be-never-made-empty didn’t exist. There was lots of dead air as he wandered off to pull a record off the shelf, or the sound of a bottle tapping on the edge of a glass or coffee pouring into a cup. Sometimes he’d read what was on the album liner.  There was no real rhyme or reason to the music he played. Sort of like the station I get to hear once in a while in Palms Springs, only more eclectic. One night it was an opera, then some swing, then a Jimmy Durante song to close it out. The next night, early Beach boys, lots of Louie Armstrong, then a Hank Williams song.   The night before we left for Iowa, he played nothing but old jazz and sounded really, really drunk.

There was no real sign-off either. The voice would either say “that’s it for me – I’m going to bed” or just a terse “goodnight” and then dead air.

A college professor I once mentioned it to nodded and said “pirate radio” and went on to talk about the radio-ships moored offshore of England.  Maybe the guy was a pirate in the technical sense of the term. But to me it sounded like someone who found a way to fill the hole in his evenings.


Written by PappyBro

June 23, 2012 at 20:56

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