Sooter Hoople was a bachelor pastor. He was from southern Ohio where the hills roll from Interstate 70 south to the Ohio River. Every year he volunteered to be a counselor at the Christian Union Camp in Greenfield, Ohio. He did this for years and years. He was a counselor when I was a camper.
When I became a counselor, he was still a counselor. Long after I had moved on to marriage and ministry he was a counselor year after year.
He would return for a week in August for the annual assembly they called Christian Union Council, too. Grown-ups would invade the camp for a week for a combination of old-fashioned camp meeting and denominational convention. Christian Union Council was a humble affair but I loved it. We enjoyed common meals, Singing, spirited preaching, and fellowship with other Christians. There were other kids to play with. In the evening after the Vesper Service in the Tabernacle, they would open the Canteen and we would get a soft-drink and a snack and stand around in the cool evening and visit. Sooter Hoople and his brother Harry were always among the pastors and laymen that attended Council.
Sooter Hoople was a happy character who loved children. He always wore a smile. He was a small man. His hair was white the whole time I knew him. Late in the evening after lights-out when things got quiet Sooter Hoople would stroll down the isle between the rows of beds and play the harmonica to put the boys to sleep. He played an old Echo Harp, the big one. The sound carried up and down the rows of cots in the boys dorm and then tapered into silence. …Not really silence but the sound of crickets and summer nighttime.
We would lay in our bunks spent from the day. Cool would creep through the un-insulated walls. Fireflies would hover over the grass outside. The moon would rise and the dew would settle. One by one our breathing slowed with sleep.
Sometimes when I think about Sooter Hoople and his simple harmonica I pity children today who’s lives are so noisy with electronic gadgets, media, music and movies. I wonder if they ever stop and listen to crickets in the night or lay on the bank on a summer afternoon and listen to a stream running over rocks. I wonder if they have ever heard anyone play old hymns on a harmonica at bedtime.
Riverfront Character Inn
June 6, 2004