A Bad Case of Diorama

Curator’s Comment: Below is an excerpt from the Prairie Home Companion’s sketch “Cowboys.” Go here to read the entire script or listen to the archived broadcast.

SS: The Lives of the Cowboys, brought to you by Old Chisholm Trail Blazers —– if you come to town and need to wear a jacket and tie, reach for Old Chisholm Trail Blazers, it’s the jacket that holds everything you need with no unsightly bulges. And now the Lives of the Cowboys


GK: Well, we made it to New York finally, Dusty. I tell you, going through the Lincoln Tunnel on horseback is not for the timid.

TR: Where are we? Manhattan?

GK: Yep.

TR:  How do you know?

GK: Tourists. People walking slowly and looking at things. You don’t find that in the Bronx.

TR: Hey look up yonder—– a statue of a man on horseback. Who’s that, Tom Mix?

GK: No, sir, that is Theodore Roosevelt. Grew up in New York and went west and became a cowboy and that toughened him up so he was able to come back to New York and get into politics. He was police commissioner here for two years and after that, being President was kind of a cinch. No sweat. That’s the Museum of Natural History, where he and his horse are standing on the steps.

TR: They allow men on horseback in the museum?

Press button to start interactive.

Press button to start interactive.

GK: No, but they’ll let us in because we’re going to be in a diorama.

TR: Diorama —- I had a bad case of diorama, after I ate some beans and fried raccoon—–

GK: Diorama is a three-dimensional display in a museum and the curator of the show, Miss Delilah Cheevers, is paying us an excellent sum of money to sit on horseback among the stuffed buffalo and antelope so that New York schoolchildren can come and observe a disappearing way of life.

TR: I wish it had disappeared sooner so I wouldn’t have to live it personally. Wish I coulda gone to a museum and seen it and gotten it out of my system. Woulda saved me a whole bunch of misery.

GK: Well, I guess we better go in.

TR: What do we do with the horses?

GK: I’ll ask this fellow right over here.

TR: What’s he selling?

GK: Felafel.

TR:  If it’s that bad, why sell it?

GK: It’s a noun, Dusty. It’s a patty made with chickpeas and fava beans served on flatbread. I’ll have one.

FN: Yes, my friend, coming right up.

TR: I hope it doesn’t come right up. Which it will if it gives you Diorama.

FN: There you go my friends. Where are you headed?

GK; Say, we’ve got to go in the The Museum of Natural History here. If we tie up the horses to the railing there, would you mind keeping an eye on them?

FN: It would be my pleasure. Salaam, my friends


GK: Well, here we are. And there’s the giant brontosaurus.

TR:  So we cowboys are considered sort of like prehistoric?

GK: I guess so.

TR:  Not the sort of thing that makes a fellow attractive to good-looking young women, is it.

GK: I don’t know. —– Hello—-

SS: Hello gentlemen, you must be Dusty and Lefty.

I’m Delilah.

GK: Wow. I never met a Delilah before. (STING, BRIDGE) She was tall and lean and she wore a plaid skirt and knee-high stockings and tortoiseshell glasses and she carried a clipboard against her blouse and I never had wanted to be a clipboard before but now I did. She was a curator who could’ve cured just about anybody. So—– here we are —– looking forward to the diorama.

SS: It’s right down this way, our Wild West Exhibit.

TR: Excuse me, I feel some diorama coming on, I’m going to go find the men’s room.

SS:  Right down that way—–


SS: So—– Lefty —–  there’s the buffalo and the deer and the antelope playing —– and there’s the flat godforsaken plain, and the sagebrush—– couple of cacti —–

GK: “End of the Trail” it says —– that’s nice. So you want me and Dusty to be in there, behind glass—–

SS: That’s the idea, yes. Sitting on those rocks, beside that campfire. Doing natural cowboy types of things. Sauntering, squinting, spitting, storytelling, eating your grub off a tin plate.

GK: And would we sleep here too?

SS:  We’ve got some nice bedrolls for you.

GK: I see. And who is this man coming this way?

TR (BLOOMBERG): Hi there, I’m Mike Bloomberg, I’m the mayor of New York. Elected by popular acclamation and at considerable personal expense, doing my very best for the city I love. Hello Delilah—-

SS: Mr. Mayor—– like you to meet Lefty, who’s going to be an exhibit in our End of the Trail show.

TR (BLOOMBERG): Yes, I heard about the End of the Trail show and I came here to make sure it did not refer to yours truly.

GK: Hope it doesn’t refer to me either.


About T.H. Gray

T.H. Gray is the self-appointed court jester and Dr. Demento for the history museum field. A lifelong museum professional and reenactor, he is a graduate of the prestigious Peale-Barnum Public History Museum Studies Program. Until 2011, when the AHS hired him away, he was on staff at the Benjamin Dover Memorial Museum & Swimming Pool ("Our History is All Wet!"). He remembers when museums were still about history, science, and art. BTW, all of these posts say they are by T.H. Gray because he can't turn off the byline. Credit, when due, is given. View all posts by T.H. Gray

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