Literary Archaeology

While cleaning the basement this week, we came across a whole box of my father’s pastoral memorabilia, including some sermons, weddings, funerals, and speeches to sports banquets. His wit and insight stand the test of time.

I’m using my literary archaeology skills to put some of the loose papers into the right file folders by subject topic. Using my form critical skills, this one is on a long thin notepad like Dad often used to write as a cheatsheet for one of his talks. Like other notes, this one has abbreviated versions of stories or thoughts he intended to use, in the right order, but not necessarily with the connecting thought structure on which the stories would hang.

The trouble with this note is that not only can I not imagine the logical outline, I can’t even figure out what type of speech this might be.

Here are his notes as he wrote them. (You need to know that Hal and Nancy are my siblings.)

Declined hearing aid: “At 91, I’ve heard enough.”
“Mommy, if we give him the money, will he let us go?” (Rusty’s note: no doubt a child in church)
Sins of omission: the ones we should have committed
Nancy and neighbor boy (Catholic, Robinsons) splashed each other, decided to take clothes off. Nancy looked “Gosh, I didn’t know there was that much difference between Catholics and Protestants.”
Moved to Helena, church named St. Paul’s
Hal: It must be a franchise. We had one of those in Nashville too.
“God make me a good boy if you can. If you can’t, don’t worry about it ‘cause I’m having fun the way I am.”

What do you believe about God?
“I believe what my church teaches and believes.”
And what does my church ____________
“My church teaches and believes what I believe.”
What do you and your church believe?
“We believe exactly the same thing.”
“Deadly” is a good adjective to use with serious. I’ve never heard the phrase “deadly humorous.”
Coolidge never smiled. Will Rogers was bet that he couldn’t make the Pres laugh. When introduced, Rogers: “I’m sorry, I didn’t get the name.”

Since I never heard my father give a poor talk, I’m assuming the worshippers, mourners, wedding celebrants, or athletes hung on every word and were moved, comforted, given hope, or got fired up depending on the setting. If you were there, I hope you got what you wanted, and may I add my own support, condolences, congratulations or fanatical encouragement, although somewhat belatedly.

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Rusty Harper is outrageously happy because he is retired and living with the love of his life, Pat Callbeck Harper in Helena, Montana. So why does he inflict these ramblings on the rest of us, you ask? Because you deserve it. If you aren't smart enough not to read this stuff, then you have to suffer through it. Maybe that builds character, though I doubt it. Think of all the positive things you could do with the time you are wasting on things that occur to me in the night and then sound strange even to me when I write them down in the morning. Bake a cake. Complain to your Senator. Run for Congress. Do something.
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