Harvey Maria

Chapter 30

December 15, 2011

Forecast for the week of December 18 to 24: This looks like it could be a snowy week, with rain turning to the white stuff on Monday and continuing off and on through Thursday. Daytime temperatures will be in the low to middle 30s, so any snow will likely stick around to give us a white Christmas.

Principal Jeffries reminds parents that the Elementary School will be dismissed for the holidays at noon on Wednesday.

Hazel Bradford visited Ruth Stanford at Walnut Rest on Tuesday. Millie is home with a cold.

Glenda Singleton received word that her book of poems “Prairie Flowers and Prayers” will be published by Bonaduce Press and should be on the shelves in April.

Frank and Sally Oswald hosted Susan and Jerry Hall for lunch on Sunday. Susan and Jerry rarely get a day off from their cooking duties, so they said they were quite appreciative of the treat.

Randy Humphreys was in town on Monday visiting with Jim Fillmore and Melody Watkins.

Lorene Robertson reminds farmers that pesticide applicator licenses will be renewed starting January 1. You can pick up the application and study materials at the Extension office in Fremont.

Jason Glenn and Harry Singleton have been busy putting the finishing touches on The Convent and their White Marigold Restaurant, which will officially open on New Year’s Eve with Jim Fillmore and Melody Watkins’ wedding reception.

Ilene Wick says that her grandson Charley and his wife, Harriet, will be visiting from Boulder between Christmas and New Year’s day. It’s not official yet, but Ilene says that Harriet has been offered a position at the Johnson Space Center in Houston in the Astromaterials Research and Exploration Science Office.

The Prairie View Extension Club will have their annual Holiday lunch on Monday. Members are reminded to bring a gift to exchange and a gift for the family the Club has adopted for Christmas. Susan Hall will be catering the lunch this year.

Jeff Barnett and John Cramer went to Lawrence on Saturday to watch KU play Ohio State. KU had a solid victory and will host Davidson next Sunday. Jeff says this looks like a Kansas team that could be undefeated this year.

Sally Oswald reports that the Main Street Committee will be hosting a Holiday tea at the Convent on Sunday. Reservations are required.

For my part, I have absolutely no reservations about anything the Main Street Committee does, so…

Until next week, I remain…
Your Faithful Correspondent


Despite the fact that there are three churches in Walnut Shade, residents of this town tend to be freethinkers (except, of course, the members of the First Baptist Church who profess to believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible, at least when Pastor Powers is within earshot). Though nearly everyone is a member of St. Brendan’s or St. Stephen’s or First Baptist, mostly because they all have such good potlucks, the churches don’t demand a lot of their members in terms of adherence to theology or philosophy… or showing up. There are exceptions that happen at times: one Sunday several years ago, reported attendance (when Arlene White was including that in her weekly column for the Ledger) was 262 for the three houses of worship, that in a town that had an official census of only 297. Admittedly, there were probably two or three dozen of the attendees who were visiting relatives or came in from the “rural” parts of the county surrounding Walnut Shade. And it was “Mothers’ Day” after all. But still, that might have been the highest percentage attendance of any community in the country ever. Someone should consult the Guinness Book of World Records; Walnut Shade probably should be included for that feat.

Most Sundays, though, you can find more people having breakfast at Shirley’s, the Stop and Go, or the Tasty Freeze than you’ll see in the pews. Sunday breakfast is an important tradition in this town; attending church is one of those things we do when the wait is too long at an eatery. Often heard around here is something like this: “Looks like it will be another twenty minutes before we can get a table. How about we go to church to kill some time?”

While religion is pretty much an afterthought, if thought of at all, religious holidays are still quite popular and Christmas is a big deal around here, especially the Holiday Pageant presented every year at the Elementary School. Many years ago, even before discussions of whether it was appropriate or legal to have religious displays on public property, folks decided that they should help the students celebrate the season without overt reference to the Biblical Christmas story. One of our local teachers, Norton Wormington, helped the kids in the sixth grade write a play that included veiled references to the Bible story of Jesus’ birth, and “Holiday Inn,” an O’Henry short story, Frosty the Snowman, and “The Night Before Christmas.” Imagine Joseph and Mary, dressed as Bing Crosby and a pregnant Rosemary Clooney, being pulled into a Vermont supper-club in a sleigh with eight 4-H livestock project animals and you’ll get the general idea.

Over the years there have been modifications to the play (eliminating Frosty the Snowman, for one thing, after too many unscripted snowball fights broke out in the middle of his big number). The most significant change occurred in 1982 with the inclusion of the singing of “Ave Maria” by the cast and audience at the conclusion of the evening. That revision came about the year that Hazel and Millie Bradford’s nephew Roger won the state music contest and he was invited to come and lead the singing of the work. Every year after that, an outstanding high school music student from Walnut Shade was asked to be a part of the event and everything went smoothly, and rather boringly, along until the year that Orvie Robins was selected to be the soloist.

Everyone agrees that Orvie had/has the best tenor voice ever produced in Walnut Shade. By the eight grade, he was becoming the star of any school musical event and the choir directors of the three churches vied for the chance to have him sing on those religious holidays when special music was called for. Orvie was happy to oblige, but music wasn’t his first love by a long shot. Give him a baseball glove and ball and he was in ecstasy. Besides his fine tenor voice, he was also possessed of a wicked curve and a developing fastball. His won/loss record in Little League has never been equalled in the State of Kansas and during his freshman year at Miller County High, he led the team to the state finals.

At the beginning of his sophomore year, Mr. Rollins, the music teacher asked Orvie to be prepared to sign “Ave Maria” during the Holiday Pageant and Orvie agreed without hesitation. Once a week, he would stay for a few minutes after school to practice the song and by October, he had memorized it and was signing it perfectly.

Then came the accident.

The baseball team was finishing fall play and Orvie was pitching against Blue Valley West in the last game of the season. For six innings, no one on the Blue Valley team had come close to getting a hit; in fact, only one of their hitters had even been able to foul off a pitch. In the top of the seventh, Orvie had retired the first two batters when Jason Harold, the star of BV managed to connect with a fastball and sent it straight back to the mound, striking Orvie just above the right eye, dropping him to the ground. For what seemed like the proverbial eternity, Orvie lay on the ground in a heap, barely moving. Stunned, his coach and the team trainer finally ran onto the field, but by the time they reached him, Orvie was already on his feet, looking around for the ball to throw to first base.

A trickle of blood was rolling down his cheek and the Coach Dane told Orvie to sit back down while the trainer took a look at him. Coach went through the list of things you ask someone who has sustained a head injury: name, day of the week, where they are, how many fingers, etc. Orvie answered everything perfectly and seemed to be fine, except for the cut, which eventually required four stitches.

For the rest of the game, he sat on the bench, laughing and joking with his teammates, but when the game ended, Orvie seemed a bit disoriented. Coach Dane called Dr. Oswald who suggested that Orvie go to Miller County General to be examined. Bill Robins, Orvie’s dad drove him to Fremont where they met Dr. Oswald. An exam revealed that Orvie had suffered a mild concussion and he was admitted for observation.
Over the next couple of days, he developed a mild aphasia which affected his ability to pronounce certain consonants. The condition was so slight that most people had no idea that he was experiencing any difficulties. Not even Orvie knew that he was saying some words differently than he had previously. Dr. Oswald thought the problem would go away eventually, but it didn’t resolve itself and during the month leading up to the Holiday Pageant, Orvie’s music teacher noticed that when he sang “Ave Maria,” it sounded like

“Harvey Maria.”

“Orvie, say ‘Ave Maria’ for me,” Mr. Rollins asked.

“‘Harvey Maria,’” Orvie said.

“When I say it, does it sound the same as when you say it?”

“Sure. Is it different somehow?” Orvie asked.

“Well, there’s a little bit of a difference, but we’ll work on it,” Mr. Rollins told Orvie. “Your voice sounds great. You’ll do just fine.”

Mr. Rollins was undecided what to do. He knew that Orvie was looking forward to singing the “Ave Maria” at the Holiday Pageant, but Mr. Rollins didn’t want him to be embarrassed when he did so in this new way. Mr. Rollins finally decided what to do and it was just the right thing for the situation.

The day of the Pageant arrive. The school auditorium was filled with parents and grandparents, brothers and sisters, cousins, aunts and uncles and everyone else in town not related to the kids. The stage was set like a New England winter resort. Joseph and Mary/Bing and Rosemary arrived in a sleigh pulled by three calves, two goats, and a llama, courtesy of the Willing Workers 4-H Club. Joseph/Bing gave Mary/Rosemary a locket he had bought with the money he received for pawning his collection of Spiderman comic books (the episode is shown these days in a video projected on a screen high on the stage, thanks to advancements in technology) and Mary/Rosemary presented Joseph/Bing with a baby son. Seemed like a fair trade. Santa Claus came down the chimney and distributed gifts to Batman and Robin and Wonder Woman, who were stand-ins for the traditional Wise Men, and who in turn presented them to the unnamed baby.

Then, it was time for Orvie. As he took the stage, Mr. Rollins addressed the crowd.

“As it says in the program, Orvie Robins will sing the ‘Ave Maria’ tonight. Most of you know that a couple of months ago, he was injured during a baseball game and it has taken him some time to recover fully. Every now and then, things happen to us that are unexpected and that have unexpected results. Orvie’s injury was just one of those unexpected things and as a result, he has discovered a new interpretation of a song that we all have heard many times in this auditorium. I’m sure that you will be as delighted with it as I was the first time I heard Orvie sing it.”

With that, Mr. Rollins gave the signal to the pianist, Mrs. Simons, and Orvie began to sing.

At first, there were a few snickers from the audience, mainly from Orvie’s classmates, but as his clear, strong voice spread through the auditorium, silence overtook the fading giggles and people sat enraptured by the song. When he finished, all you could hear was the sound of folks blowing their noses and wiping their eyes.

And thus was born the tradition of Orvie Robins singing “Harvey Maria” at the annual Walnut Shade Holiday Pageant, a tradition we will celebrate for the twentieth time tonight, a tradition that even us freethinkers can embrace without guilt.

About stclairc

Abstract artist, photographer, writer
This entry was posted in Dada, Observations, Small Town Life, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

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