Butter Rum Cartoon

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Wednesday, January 21, 2015


Some time ago I agreed to teach Sunday School at St. Andrew's Catholic Church in Yellville, Arkansas. They gave me the curriculum materials to teach the junior high school class, but the curriculum seemed too milk-toast for me, and so, rebel that I was, out of my pocket I purchased several copies of the Jesus--Light of the World Catechism by Fr. Robert J. Fox to use instead.

During our first morning, the kids were really rowdy, as junior high school kids are. They were visiting with each other as I tried to teach, and one boy even went over and began drawing pictures on the chalkboard. Finally I pleaded, "Hey, this is my first time teaching Sunday School. Give me a break."  To my astonishment and delight, all the kids quieted down and the boy at the chalkboard returned to his seat. From that moment on, and throughout the year, the kids were polite and respectful, and I was greatly impressed and thankful. Each one became not only a student but a friend.

During the first teachers' meeting, we teachers went around the table telling how it's been going in our classes, and for my turn I told them that I thought the curriculum I was given was too milk-toast and that I wanted more meat in the lessons, and showed the woman in charge the textbook I had bought and was using. There were gasps around the table, and her eyes widened. I realized it was uncommon to take such an independent step without first getting approval. She paged through the copy I handed her for several minutes, while the other teachers waited for Dale to be reprimanded at best. Finally she handed it back, and nodded her head, and said, "I guess that will be all right. You go right ahead and use that."

Although the kids listened well and participated in class, I suppose my teaching was dryer than they were used to. I treated them as adults, and they responded in kind. Yet I quit after the first year; teaching is very stressful for me even with such a good class. I like to think they missed me after that, and they never found out that I had lied to them on that first day: It was not the first time I had taught Sunday School. The first time I had taught Sunday School, I bombed.

It was at the end of the 1960's, at the United Methodist Church in Sultan, Washington. My father was the pastor there, and somehow he or somebody talked Geneva and I into jointly teaching an elementary class. Geneva is the girl you read about in I Saw a U.F.O. It was shortly after the Christmas I received some new slippers, the book The Gospel according to Peanuts by Robert Short, the book A Treasury of Motorcycles of the World by Floyd Clymer, and a little, portable, reel-to-reel tape recorder, when tape recorders were still quite a novelty. And so, to help entertain the children during Sunday School on our first day, I brought along my new tape recorder. I have no idea why. It was just neat.

While Geneva and I were making do, presenting some sort of lessons, the kids saw my tape recorder and were fascinated. So I turned it on and recorded and played back some of their voices. They were amazed -- "I sound like that?" Then I showed them that, by rubbing the microphone on the leg of my jeans and playing it back, it sounds just like a saw cutting wood. And then, by whistling like a falling bomb while bringing the microphone closer and closer to my mouth, then cupping my hands over the microphone at my mouth and making a breathy explosion sound, and playing it back, it sounds just like a big bomb falling and a tremendous explosion when it hits the ground. The kids thought this was just great, and had me do it again and again, and loud.

Then the door opened. And there stood another Sunday School teacher, an older man, dignified and upset. And there sat Geneva and I, with big smiles on our faces, making bomb sound effects for kids gathered around us, so loud that it was disturbing the other classes. It was impressed upon us afterwards that making big bomb sounds was perhaps not the best way to teach Sunday School. Geneva and I sort of pooed out after that, and someone took our place, which is good, because we found that teaching Sunday School wasn't really that fun after all.

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