BAGLEY — Either Aaron Brown got the memo from mother nature early, or he’s simply seen enough northern Minnesota months of March to know what to expect.
Regardless, he was dead on in his description of the 31-day stretch during the Great Northern Radio Show’s live broadcast at Bagley High School Saturday night.
See if you agree.
“When you live in northern Minnesota it’s not January that gets you, because you know what to expect. It’s March that fools you,” he said. “But when the light starts glinting through the window a little differently, you think ‘spring is here.’ And then, you get another foot of snow.”
The crowd in the school’s auditorium laughed. A knowing laugh.
The show - two hours in length - is an old-fashioned variety hour. Brown and over a dozen musicians, actors, stagehands and sound technicians put on the show Saturday, despite competition from some fresh, March snow, and what he called “a certain hockey game of some interest in Bemidji.” This led to a discussion of the two teams’ - Bemidji State and the University of Minnesota - mascots. That, in turn, led to a staged fight between a beaver and a gopher. Or at least their beaver and gopher noise-making human equivalents.
It’s one thing to hear a battle between rodents piped through your car’s speakers, but it’s quite another to see two adults scrunch up their mouths, lean toward a microphone and re-enact a battle between two rodents. Put simply: the faces that were made to achieve such sounds were unnatural, and hilarious.
The crowd laughed.
With Brown as emcee, artists performed original music between skits. These included a group of college co-eds on a misdirected spring break to Bagley (there was a mix-up between “birches” and “beaches,” thanks in no part to an iPhone autocorrect); a visit from a nun who worked with loggers in the 1900s; and a father teaching his children to tap for maple syrup (fingers were bruised in jest only).
Brown also provided plenty of geographically topical humor, specifically jokes about and at Bagley’s expense.
But the crowd still laughed.
“I have seen your stoplight,” he said. “It’s a nice stoplight. I hope you don’t think this is pandering, but I’ve been to other counties with only one stoplight and yours is nicer.”
No discussion of Bagley, or Shevlin or Solway or Bemidji, would be complete without mentioning U.S. Route 2 - the “Highline Road,” Brown said. For lonely truckers and weary travellers rolling down the highway - which spans more than 2,500 miles from the peninsula of Michigan to Everett, Wash. - Saturday’s show provided two hours worth of listening, a throwback to days when such programs were more prevalent.
And the words of Ian and Teague Alexy, brothers who make up the Hobo Nephews of Uncle Frank, might have given some of those roadway rovers a chance to slow down.
“Running in the cold and the rain and snow, holding on to the dream I’ll never let it go,” they sang. “I’m runnin’, singin’ in a travellin’ show.”
Along with the music, and the Alexy brothers’ stomps, the crowd clapped. The show was over.