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Lyr Add: Finn Who Would Not Take a Sauna (Keillor

Jim Dixon 10 May 08 - 12:24 AM
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Subject: Lyr Add: THE FINN WHO WOULD NOT TAKE A SAUNA
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 10 May 08 - 12:24 AM

THE FINN WHO WOULD NOT TAKE A SAUNA
Garrison Keillor

In northeast Minnesota, what they call the Iron Range,
Where a woman is a woman and some things never change,
Where winter lasts nine months a year, there is no spring or fall,
Where it gets so cold the mercury cannot be seen at all,
And you and I, we normal folk, would shiver, shake, and chatter,
And if we used an outhouse, we would grow an extra bladder;
But even when it's coldest, when our feet would have no feeling,
Those Iron Rangers get dressed up and go out snowmobiling
Out across the frozen land and make a couple stops
At Gino's Lounge and Rudy's Bar for whiskey, beer, and schnapps—
And then they go into a shack that's filled with boiling rocks
Hot enough to sterilize an Iron Ranger's socks
And sit there till they steam out every sin and every foible
And then jump into a frozen lake and claim that it's enjoy'ble—
But there was one, a shy young man, and although he was Finnish,
The joys of winter had, for him, long started to diminish.
He was a Finn, the only Finn, who would not take a sauna.
"It isn't that I can't," he said. "I simply do not wanna.
To jump into a frozen lake is not my fondest wish.
For just because I am a Finn don't mean that I'm a fish."
His friends said, "Come on, Toivo! Let's go out to Sunfish Lake!
A Finn who don't take saunas? Why, there must be some mistake."
But Toivo said, "There's no mistake. I know that I would freeze
In water colder than myself (98.6 degrees)."
And so he stayed close by the stove for nine months of the year
Because he was so sensitive to change of temperature.

One night he went to Eveleth to attend the Miner's Ball.
(If you have not danced in Eveleth, you've never danced at all.)
And he met a Finnish beauty there who turned his head around.
She was broad of beam and when she danced, she shook the frozen ground.
She took that shy young man in hand and swept him off his feet
And bounced him up and down until he learned the polka beat.
She was fair as she was tall, as tall as she was wide,
And when the dance was over, he asked her to be his bride.
She looked him over carefully. She said, "You're kinda thin.
But you must have some courage if it's true you are a Finn.
I ain't particular about men. I am no prima donna.
But I would never marry one who would not take a sauna."

They got into her pickup, and down the road they drove,
And fifteen minutes later, they were stoking up the stove.
She had a flask of whiskey. They took a couple toots
And went into the shack and got into their birthday suits.
She steamed him and she boiled him until his skin turned red;
She poured it on until his brains were bubbling in his head.
To improve his circulation and to soften up his hide,
She took a couple birch boughs and beat him till he cried,
"Oh, couldn't you just love me now? Oh, don't you think you can?"
She said, "It's time to step outside and show you are a man."

Straightway (because he loved her so, he thought his heart would break)
He jumped right up and out the door and ran down to the lake,
And though he paused a moment when he saw the lake was frozen
And tried to think just which snow bank his love had put his clothes in—
When he thought of Tina, Lord—that man did not think twice
But just picked up his size-12 feet and loped across the ice—
And coming to the hole that they had chopped there with an ax—
Putting common sense aside, ignoring all the facts—
He leaped! Oh, what a leap! And as he dove beneath the surface,
It thrilled him to his very soul!—and also made him nervous!
And it wasn't just the tingling he felt in every limb—
He cried: "My love! I'm finished! I forgot! I cannot swim!"

She fished him out and stood him up and gave him an embrace
To warm a Viking's heart and make the blood rush to his face.
"I love you, darling dear!" she cried. "I love you with all my might!"
And she drove him to Biwabik and married him that night.
She drove him down the road to Carl's Tourist Cabins
And spent a sleepless night and in the morning, as it happens,
Though it was only April, it was absolutely spring,
Birds, flowers, people put away their parkas and everything.
They bought a couple acres around Hibbing, up near Chisholm,
And began a life of gardening and love and Lutheranism.
And they lived happily to this day, although they sometimes quarrel.
And there, I guess, the story ends, except for this, the moral:
Marriage, friends, is a lifelong feast. Love is no light lunch.
You cannot dabble round the edge, but each must take the plunge.
And though marriage, like that frozen lake, may sometimes make us colder,
It has its pleasures, too, as you may find out when you're older.

[From Pankake, Marcia. A Prairie Home Commonplace Book: 25 Years on the Air with Garrison Keillor. St. Paul, MN: HighBridge Company, 1999, pp. 42f. GK also read this poem on the air, on the January 11, 1997 episode of APHC.]


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