Naïve is as stun does

Ed Smith
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"Stupid" is not an adjective with which most of us could avoid being tagged with for very long.

The brightest and the best among us are guilty of the most incredibly stupid acts at some point in our lives. Some of us - not mentioning any names here - at several points along the way.

The news today carries the story of a young fellow Upalong who was killed while being towed behind a van on a sled-mounted couch. Evidently, he is not alone in the pursuit of this pleasure because the activity is known as "couch-surfing."

That term had another far less dangerous but just as descriptive meaning when I was a young man living in Halifax, but we won't go into details. I'm told it was far more fun - not that I'd know. I was a candidate for the ministry in those days and was as pure as the driven slush. Just as stupid, too.

Didn't deserve to die

The comments following that story from our mainland cousins - sometimes I hesitate to acknowledge that relationship - were laced with the "stupid" shot. Much of it seemed to suggest that anyone that stupid deserved what he got.

Gee whiz, I hope not. Because if that were true, many of us - definitely including me - would not be today breathing the lovely air of this beautiful province.

We Newfoundlanders and Labradorians have a much better word than stupid to describe the stupid little things we all do from time to time. Stupid, after all, sticks to us like flies to sticky paper long after the stupid event is past. It can even follow us for the rest of our lives.

"That George Perkins is some stupid. You know what he did 34 years ago when he was 22? He drank a dozen bottles of Haig Ale around supper time and then went off to church and said he got saved three times in the testimony meeting after the regular service that night.

"Thing is, that was Monday, not Sunday, and there was no church and no testimony meeting. When George sobered up and was told the embarrassing truth, he was absolutely delighted because he said that in that case his conversion didn't count and he could go back to his beloved Haig Ale."

In this province, we would not have called George stupid and had him wear that albatross around his neck for the rest of his life. We would have called him "stun," a far more kindly title in that it refers only to that one incident and doesn't amount to a permanent negative character trait.

Stun is for the moment; stupid is forever. Stun is for the incident; stupid for the person.

We don't mind sharing our better words and finer concepts with others less fortunate than we. We would have called that unfortunate young man stun, and we would not have said he deserved to die for it.

Illuminating idea

My clergyman father was a rather bright and, more importantly, very wise individual. There was nothing he couldn't do, including wiring the United Church in Moreton's Harbour for electric lights entirely on his own back in the '40s and rebuilding a six-cylinder engine for a 1956 Chevy and building a boat or a house.

And he treated people with kindness and wisdom and with the unconditional caring which he said God reserved for us.

However, there was one celebrated time when he fell rather short of the "bright and wise" accolades with which I have always painted him.

It was the fall of the year in the small community where my father was stationed. The fishery was not good that year and money was scarce in the church as well as in homes.

Father decided we had to find another way to raise money and perhaps the morale of the parishioners as well.

In those days, we had one movie come to the old Orange Hall per week. These were of the old western genre, starring Johnny Mack Brown or Lash LeRou or Hopalong Cassidy (his real name was William Boyd). They were mostly attended by teenagers and young people. Adults and older people never attended those movies.

My father decided he could tap into this market and raise money for his congregation. All he had to do was find a movie that would appeal to the older crowd, something they could enjoy and feel good about.

Accordingly, he looked for a catalogue of available movies from the distributor in St. John's and searched for a suitable film to show his people. And he found it. It was, he thought, a really appropriate movie for Thanksgiving, seeing as how it had to do with harvest and all.

More than that, it starred Alan Ladd, whom my father had seen in "Shane" when he was in Toronto doing special theology courses one summer and had slipped away to see a movie.

My father loved movies ever since he had seen Jeanette McDonald and Nelson Eddy in "Indian Love Call," the Hollywood romanticized story of a Canadian Mountie and his Indian lover.

I remember him going around the house and singing "Rose Marie," the best-known song from that show. The memory is so strong I still do it.

Uplifting show

"Wild Harvest" was a big hit among the young crowd, whom their parents dragged along to see it because they thought the kids should see something uplifting rather than the old westerns we loved so much.

Unfortunately for father, "Wild Harvest" had nothing to do with Thanksgiving or vegetables.

Everyone's first clue to this was when Alan and his female lead had, for that day, a highly steamy scene inside a tent. We saw only their shadows on the tent wall, but only a child brought up in a convent would not have known what they were doing.

Poor father. He wasn't kicked out of his pulpit, but it was the only time he ever brought in a movie to raise money for the congregation. It wasn't exactly stupid or even stun.

Just somewhat naïve.

Ed Smith is an author who lives in Springdale. His email address is

Organizations: United Church, Wild Harvest

Geographic location: Halifax, Moreton, St. John's Toronto Hollywood Springdale

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