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Backstory: A farmer who tills the airwaves

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In 1978, public-radio producers noticed his gag personals in a Maine newspaper ("Antique dealer seeks attractive young woman interested in one nightstand") and asked him to host a weekly jazz and humor show. A decade later, at the height of his popularity, The Boston Herald ran a cover story calling him "New England's Answer to Garrison Keillor."

Skoglund has a master's degree in linguistics and his on-air persona is that of a thinking-man's rustic, always one or two brain cells ahead of all those ridiculous city folk. His humor – delivered between 1930s-era jazz records in short segments he calls "rants" – is by turns wry, cryptic, and cranky, a hybrid of Mr. Keillor, Andy Rooney, and that grandpa from the "Pepperidge Farm Remembers" ads, served up with a crotchety Down-East accent.

The touchstones of his show, on Friday evenings, are small-town life, high prices, and people "from away." But he often veers onto tangents as esoteric as Chomskian linguistics, Parisian restaurants, and the gulag.

"Now I know that you have read 'One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich' and probably other accounts of prison life," he said in one rant, after mentioning a friend whose father survived nine years in Siberia. "So even if you have been spared this particular form of cultural enrichment, you know what was going on in Russian prison camps 50-so years ago.... Can you think of anything that would take more out of you than a prison camp in Siberia? Years later, they put the old man in a nursing home in Maine. And he died the next day."

The humble Farmer drew a respectable 13,000 listeners per show last spring, according to Arbitron figures. For many devotees, Skoglund is a precious relic from an age when public radio was a forum for distinctive local voices. "It's a show you want to have on when you're working a piece of wood with a chisel," says Matt Dunlap, Maine's secretary of State and a longtime listener. "It is kind of this country common sense that he reflects against everything."

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