All posts by Dale Connelly

I am a writer and broadcaster living in the Twin Cities.

The Magic Carpet

Today’s guest post comes from Steve Grooms

n 1950 my family bought a console radio. Our Magnavox was a big cherrywood box. The vacuum tube radio had a backlit tuning dial. Also included was a record player and an empty box. The salesman pointed to the hole and said, “This is for television. One day you will buy a television to put here, and then you will never turn the radio on again.” Our family sometimes gathered in a circle around the radio to listen to the classics: Fibber McGee, Gunsmoke, the Great Gildersleeve, Burns and Allen and many others.

I was especially fond of radio dramas. Wearing my cowboy hat, I would sit cross-legged in front of the speakers, my cap gun at the ready. When my heroes–Hopalong Cassidy, the Lone Ranger, and Sergeant Preston of the Yukon—got in a tight spot, I was ready to add my gunfire to help them.


Later my parents bought a cream bakelite AM radio from the downtown “Monkey Wards” store. The Airline became my personal radio. I listened to it in bed when I was supposed to be asleep. One dark winter night when I was about fourteen I was shocked to hear Elvis Presley sing “Heartbreak Hotel.” That was a lonely, confused period of my life. The anguish in Elvis’s voice, amplified with all that reverb, proved that at least one other person on earth understood my turmoil.

The Airline became my magic carpet, taking me to strange and distant places. At night the world accessible by AM radio was thrilling, for then the “clear channel” radio stations could send signals to lands far away. I liked a jive-talking DJ in Louisiana who called himself Gatemouth. He was a Cajun version of Wolfman Jack, and he played an earthy type of r & b, artists like Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters. This was my only escape from white bread Ames, Iowa. I later learned that a kid in northern Minnesota, Bobby Zimmerman, also lay in his bed at night listening to the same music.

Radio entered my life again in graduate school, once again at a desperately lonely moment. One station in Minneapolis played classical music in 1965. They published a monthly playlist. I pored over that schedule with a highlighter, marking the pieces I most badly wanted to hear. Sometimes I’d run home after classes to click on my radio and relax with great music.

Years later, early in my marriage, I read that a new station would broadcast classical music. When the first KSJN broadcast aired I was in my living room, fingers on the tuning dial, waiting for it. It could be tricky to find KSJN in the morning because the host, Garrison Keillor, was often silent for long spans of time. I later decided those long pauses were to let the host smoke.

Sometime in the early 1980s Garrison began talking to Tom Keith, the Morning Show’s

engineer. The banter between them was so witty and interesting that I concluded that “Jim Ed Poole was just a voice Garrison could do (the way Steve Cannon voiced the characters of Ma Linger and Morgan Mundane).

In 1983 Dale Connelly joined Tom Keith to do the Morning Show. We would have several radios tuned to it so we could listen to the show while moving from room to room, showering, brushing teeth, and drinking coffee. The LGMS tunes and Dale’s witty skits were the soundtrack of our mornings. Birthdays and anniversaries were marked by requests that Dale and Tom never failed to honor.

By that time, the only set moment in our week was the broadcast of The Prairie Home Companion. Our lives were chaotic and unpredictable with the single exception of Saturday evening. I realized that our fidelity to the show brought us full circle back to the time when radio broadcasts were enjoyed by a family sitting around a living room radio. Molly used to fall asleep listening to Lake Wobegon monologues. In a real sense, Garrison, Dale and Tom were honorary members of our family, often present and always welcome.

Radio was central to life in our weird cabin on the shores of Lake Superior. We could hear five public radio stations there. My favorite was the student station at the U of M at Duluth. They played a superb mix of folk music Saturdays after PHC. I listened for hours while swinging in a hammock in the dark. Folk music would blend with the rhythmic sloshing of waves and the occasional bark of a fox calling from the bush.

Radio played a crucial role when my wife left. I processed the emotions of divorce by walking my dog with a Sony headset radio clamped on my ears. Spook and I walked two to five miles a day. We were an odd figure in the neighborhood. Spook pulled 30 pounds of logging chain, a way of giving him a good workout at low speeds. I followed him holding the leash and listening to KNOW while trying to make sense of my life.

When Katie, my sweet setter, entered my life, she and I walked once or twice a day. We almost always walked a long loop in the Minnehaha Off-Leash Park. Our path took us past the great spring that is the origin of Coldwater Creek, a spot the Sioux regarded the center of the universe. At the far end of our loop Katie was usually hot enough to want to wade into the Mississippi. I was usually alone for these walks, but I had Catherine Lanpher, Robert Siegel or the Car Guys for company.

Looking back over a lifetime with radio, I am impressed with how intimate and reassuring it has been. My life would surely have been far less rich if not for radio. Nobody ever made a sillier prediction than the salesman who told us, “One day you will put a television here, and then you’ll never turn on the radio again.”

What has radio meant in your life?

The Minnesota 10

Today’s guest post comes from tim

35 years ago a guitar teacher told me we only get 10 perfect per year in minnesota and they are all in april and may before it gets hot and buggy.

i observed that he was correct and have been keeping track ever since. 10 is about right with the exception of a summer 3 years or so ago when we had 100 perfect days. no rain so no bugs or humidity made for the nicest summer ever but the drought was another issue.

i have discovered along the way that when you are thinking about the really hot or the really cold days here in our weather driven world that there are a max of 10 hot days and 10 cold days per year too.

it helps put it all in perspective

what do you hate? tolerate? and appreciate?

Rules People

Today’s post comes from Bart, the Bear who found a smart phone in the woods.

H’lo, Bart here.

So the Ranger on this trail thinks he’s going to take some time off?

That’s OK. I like it when the rules people decide to give it a rest, and that’s what a Ranger is to me.  One of the rules people. Ugh.

Us bears have rules too, but not written.

Bears make it their own business to let another bear know when a line has been crossed. That’s not a job somebody else can do, ’cause one day the line might be in a different place than some other day.

On the parks and trails us bears get to know the different Rangers – their habits and how hard they want to work. The best ones take it easy, but there are a lot of hard cases out there. How close the local Ranger follows the book is the single biggest thing that shapes a bear’s territory.

Yup, you heard that right.

It’s not nature, it’s the Ranger. If he (or she) is a prissy, particular, hard-nosed stickler for the Letter of the Law, no bear will call that ground home.

It’s not ’cause bears are natural beasts that don’t like to be bossed, even though that’s true. It’s not that we can’t stand up to some tin-badge authority figure, ’cause we can! And it’s sure not because we’re afraid of the tranquilizer dart. I love the dart the way campers love beer. The world gets all spinny, and then a bunch of gentle  hands come to lift you up, and then you get a ride in a truck!

Travel expands the mind!

No, the reason us bears steer clear of rules-lovers is that most rules run against our interests.  And every rules person plays favorites – usually they aren’t interested in following ALL the rules equally.

But there’s this ONE rule they all seem to like just fine and they follow it to the letter, and wouldn’t you know it’s the one we hate the most.

Don’t feed the bears!

I don’t know about you, but my favorite kind of trail has no Ranger.

Your woodland pal,

If you could suspend one rule, which one would it be?

Recruitment Tool

Baboons – this post launched early yesterday, and some have already commented.  Feel free to add to the conversation – already underway.

Today’s post comes from Captain Billy of the Clipper Muskellunge.

Ahoy, Landlubbers!

Me an’ me boys is delighted t’ hear of th’ popularity of th’ new disaster film San Andreas, on account of th’ fact that it is bound t’ cause landlubbers such as yerselves t’ freak out about dry ground an’ be more open than ever t’ the prospect of switchin’ t’ a life lived on th’ open sea.

That’s right, us pirates almost never worries ’bout earthquakes, since terra infirma is usually quite a piece distant from our location – either far below us or outta sight beyond th’ Earth’s curve.

Them images you see of collapsin’ skyscrapers an’ tsunami waves towerin’ over cruise vessels an’ the like is somethin’ what only happens close t’ shore, an’ we ain’t never close t’ shore fer long on account of various arrest warrants, Coast Guard facilities, an’ heavily armed civilians wi’ a minimum amount of firearms training.

But me boys does love watchin’ that San Andreas trailer, ain’t that right boys?

A long time before this here movie came out, us pirates saw th’ danger what always lies near land. Out where we spends our time, earthquakes is hardly a concern, an’ when they happens, they sounds more or less like the grumblin’ of a large submerged stomach an that’s about it.

Although sometimes that sound is a real stomach, fer sure. Several dozens of ’em, filled wi’ grog, t’ be exact. On Sunday mornin in particular.

An on occasion th’ Saturday night roughousin’ above decks gets things tippy enough t’ resemble an openin’ of a fissure in th’ Earth’s crust.

An’ I admits that random folks does go flyin’ overboard sometimes in a manner not entirely unlike th’ way them dispensable movie characters frequently tumbles into steamin’ chasms that opens up underfoot.

But that’s all in good fun, mostly. Except fer when it ain’t.

But anyone watchin’ earthquake disaster flicks an wonderin’ where safety lay – th’ answer is simple. Look t’ that yonder ragged dot on th’ horizon. An consider joinin’ us!

Yer carefree Capt’n,

Ever been in an earthquake?

Five Year Plan

Following a pattern well established by the Soviet leaders of old, I launched Trail Baboon on June 3, 2010 with a grandiose five year plan for world domination.

I had just been tossed from a job I’d held for twenty five years at the place where I’d worked for more than thirty.  During most of those years I’d been writing fake ads,  joke essays, sing-song poems,  and phony conversations with preposterous characters.

It was fun, and while my employers weren’t exactly paying me to do it,  they didn’t withhold my pay to make me stop.  I took that as tacit approval.

So when the gig ended I felt a strong desire to maintain my daily writing habit in case a sudden demand surfaced for random acts of topical whimsy.

The plan in the back of my mind was this – that the blog would become a widely-read creative and conversational spark plug and the audience would grow to such levels that the entire enterprise would turn into a financially self supporting side industry that could continue whether I was otherwise employed – or not.

Today it is my delightful duty  to declare that thanks to the tireless work of the People’s Blogging Army and a prodigious daily output of pithy remarks by the People’s Baboon Commentariat, our ambitious five year plan has led to spectacular successes on every front and all our dreaded foes have been humbled.

Which is Soviet shorthand for this – not a single one of the above mentioned goals was achieved.

But in the process we’ve had some wonderful fun while a loyal community has gathered to meander down the Trail Baboon. With an occasional hiccup, I have posted either here, or at the companion site, The Baboondocks, six days a week, every week, for sixty months.

The most rewarding aspect has been the fine writing and camaraderie that has developed in the comments section, powered by a diverse cast of characters that no one could invent.

Today you are reading post 1,397. Lest anyone think I am claiming credit for all that, 231 of those posts were written by readers – the famed Baboon Congress.  But at the end of this week we’ll hit 1,400 posts – high time to take a bit of a rest.

So after posting this Saturday, June 6th, I’m giving myself a three month sabbatical – some necessary time and space to take a look at how I schedule my days and where I spend my energy. And an opportunity to enjoy these precious summer evenings doing something other than hunching over a computer – just to see how that feels.

I’ll weigh in from time to time if the moment is right and other commitments align.  Some baboons are working on guest essays – I’ll happily post them when they come in.  But one of the beauties of a blog is that it need not follow any set schedule.  Trail Baboon and The Baboondocks will remain in place and open for comment while I rest.

And the internet is wide and deep and there are many other places to go where like-minded Baboons can have a conversation.

I know I don’t need to remind you of this – but like Dorothy and that thing with clicking her heels to go home, everyone has the power to create a blog.    Some already have – note that in the left margin of the screen we have  existing links to Blevins’ Book Club,  A Neo-Renaissance Writer, and The View From Birchwood Hill.

Describe a sabbatical you took and what it meant to you.



Ask Dr. Babooner

We are ALL Dr. Babooner

Dear Dr. Babooner,

I’m just as upset as I can be at the thought that my government continues to collect raw data about my phone calls without my permission, and just between you and me I want it to stop immediately.

Some say most Americans don’t understand the difference between tracking metadata around phone calls and “listening in” to what is said in the conversations.

They say I’m confused over this issue. In the parlance of today’s youth, they call me “all messed up.”

But how would they know how “messed up” I am unless they were listening to my phone calls?

That’s where you’d find sure evidence – the wrong numbers I dial, the incoherent messages I leave, my pointless rants, my misdirected anger, my smothering over-involvement in other people’s lives, and my creepy drunken midnight calls that dissolve into soft whispers and sobbing.

So oh yes, I’m sure they’re listening.

If they don’t stop collecting this data soon, they should at least have a relationship expert or a voice analyst listen very closely to that short conversation I had last Thursday with Carol. I think she still has feelings for me, not because of anything she said, but more in the tone of her voice.

Why won’t the NSA confirm it? I know they have the technology!

B. Reft

I told B. Reft he is a good citizen for caring so passionately about this surveillance issue, but he should stop drawing conclusions from scanning the headlines only and take the extra time to read the entire article. And anyone who needs the help of an NSA voice analyst to keep love alive would be better off looking for a new relationship.

But that’s just one opinion. What do YOU think, Dr. Babooner?


Curious advertisers ask –  “Is it possible to draw attention to your product by starting a conversation about something else entirely?”

The rest of us, who have been marinating in a marketing stew for most of our lives, answer “Where have you been living?”

Much advertising is based on this.

Until yesterday, I would have argued that this technique took hold sometime in the last 80 years or so, pushed forward by the creation of radio and television – two mediums that offer great advantages and even greater rewards to liars and deceivers.

But I was proven wrong while scouting about aimlessly on the Internet, when I stumbled across the odd marketing approach of a window shade merchant in Yonkers, NY around the turn of the 20th century.

The American Carpet and Upholstery Journal described it this way in 1902:

William Welsh, dealer in window shades, matting, oil cloth and linoleum, 5 North Broadway, Yonkers, N.Y., is a rather daring and novel advertiser. He makes use of a 6-inch space, in a good position, in the Yonkers Statesman, and always fills it with a semi-facetious matter, which is no doubt looked for and read by the subscribers of that enterprising daily.

While this style of advertising is generally considered bad, as Mr. Welsh conducts it, the effect is undoubtedly good.

Screen Shot 2015-05-31 at 10.05.45 AM

Welsh goes at his customers again and again from various odd angles, trying to get their attention with a barrage of words. Today’s advertisers use swimsuit models for the same purpose, but that wasn’t permitted in the Yonkers Statesman of 1902. Regardless of the chosen topic, he always brings it home to the real point – WINDOW SHADES.

Cold Chunks

Politically speaking, we have been lambasted, garroted, buncoed, gold-bricked, solar-plexed, sandbagged, knocked out, our picture turned to the wall, and otherwise treated with brotherly love and now we feel that we are not as other men – and to show our distinction we will have to wear a badge, but not one bought with the people’s money. It happened this way: Last fall, when the political bosses were fishing for suckers the bait looked tempting, and we swallowed the hook and were landed. Now, there would be no kick coming from lus if the bosses had not shoved whole chunks of cold political harmony down the back of our neck, remarking at the same time, “Peace be with thee, brother.” We are under the impression, from the chill it gave us, that it was not a “peace” of cold political harmony that went down our back, but the whole lump. Now the reaction is great, and our political temperature is 106 under the collar. There are sudden changes in some other things besides the weather, but no so with our WINDOW SHADES. They are always the same – A No. 1.

WM. WELSH, 5 North Broadway, Yonkers

Even when the talk is small and light, the payoff is as usual.


We met a friend of ours, this morning, who did not ask us if we liked this kind of weather, or if it was wet enough to suit us, or when we thought it would clear up, or even remark that we are having a wet spell. Now, this must seem surprising to you, but it is a fact; there are a few people in the world who think that some other people know when there is a wet spell without being reminded of it every few minutes in the day.

Now, we wish to say, right here, that we know when we are having a wet spell, and we also know when we have enough. The next time we have a dry spell we shall mind our own affairs and peg away at our WINDOW SHADES.

We have a large stock of Oil Cloths, Linoleums, Mattings, White Beds and Bedding:

 WM. WELSH, 5 N. Broadway, Yonkers

We forgot to say that the man who didn’t speak to us about the weather was deaf and dumb.

Like re-hearing a well-loved joke, you already know the punch line, but the fun is all in getting there.

Recall a character from your life who only wanted to talk about one thing.