The loss of Paul Harvey has left one of the greatest voids the broadcast journalism world has felt since Edward R. Murrow passed away. Harvey had a way of taking the high road while still maintaining a healthy sense of humor; these qualities are hard to find in today’s world of crass and uncultured commentators. Who can forget that infectious chuckle, the pregnant pauses, or the cheery “Good day!”
I spent a very large portion of my life listening to his morning News & Commentary broadcasts, and for many years I lived to hear “The Rest of the Story” each afternoon, first on WCHV in Charlottesville, then on an Orlando station whose call letters I can’t remember, and for another thirteen years on WGST in Atlanta. “The Rest of the Story” was written primarily by Paul Harvey Aurandt, Jr., who is the great man’s son and an enormously talented writer. For a time I possessed paperback books of all of these broadcasts; they disappeared in the fallout of my marriage’s dissolution and I mourn their loss more than most of the physical possessions that were taken from me.
Needless to say, I prowl the web at every opportunity in search of Paul Harvey material. Sprinkled across the ‘net are many treasures, including a brilliant recut of a Paul Harvey commercial for the Bose Acoustic Wave system where he appears to tout a certain bit of … paraphernalia. I’ve found audio clips, interviews, and transcripts. Occasionally, I’ll even run across an actual radio script.
Last night, I came upon this “lost” script. It was posted on a web site I will not link to, because that site’s author falsely claims to have written the piece himself, “in Paul Harvey’s style.” As if he could! This story is entirely Aurandt’s, and to my memory is complete and accurate. It’s also absolutely brilliant, one of the most memorable in the series, and I thought I’d share it. It may still be under copyright; if so, I am claiming fair use of this small part of a much larger collection which is, at any rate, currently out of print. The short, choppy paragraphs are out of place in formal writing, but match Harvey’s style in a way only his own son could manage.
You know what the news is. In a minute you’re going to hear The Rest of the Story.
His name was Walter Elias, a city boy by birth, the son of a building contractor.
Before Walter was five, his parents moved from Chicago to a farm near Marceline, Missouri. And it was there on the farm that Walter would have his first encounter with death.
Walter was only seven that particular lazy summer afternoon not much different from other afternoons. Dad was tending to farm chores; Mother was in the house. It was the perfect day for a young fellow to go exploring.
Now just beyond a grove of graceful willows was an apple orchard. There Walter could make-believe to his heart’s content: that he was lost, which he never was, or that he had captured a wild animal, which he never had.
But today was different. Directly in front of him, about thirty feet away, perched in the low-drooping branch of an apple tree and apparently sound asleep – was an owl.
The boy froze.
He remembered his father telling him that owls rested during the day so they could hunt by night. What a wonderful pet that funny little bird would make. If only Walter could approach it without awakening it, and snatch it from the tree.
With each step, the lad winced to hear dry leaves and twigs crackle beneath his feet. The owl did not stir.
Closer…and closer…and at last young Walter was standing under the limb just within range of his quarry.
Slowly he reached up with one hand and grabbed the bird by its legs. He had captured it!
But the owl, waking suddenly, came alive like no other animal Walter had ever seen! In a flurry of beating wings, wild eyes and frightened cries it struggled against the boy’s grasp. Walter, stunned, held on.
Now it’s difficult to imagine how what happened next, happened. Perhaps the response was sparked by gouging talons or by fear itself. But at some point the terrified boy, still clinging to the terrified bird, flung it to the ground – and stomped it to death.
When it was over, a disbelieving Walter gazed down at the broken heap of bronze feathers and blood. And he cried.
Walter ran from the orchard but later returned to bury the owl, the little pet he would never know. Each shovelful of earth from the shallow grave was moistened with tears of deep regret. And for months thereafter, the owl visited Walter’s dreams.
Ashamed, he would tell no one of the incident until many years later. By then, the world forgave him.
For that sad and lonely summer’s day in the early spring of Walter Elias brought with it an awakening of the meaning of life.
Walter never, ever again killed a living creature.
Although all the boyhood promises could not bring that one little owl back to life, through its death a whole world of animals came into being.
For it was then that a grieving seven-year-old boy attempting to atone for a thoughtless misdeed, first sought to possess the animals of the forest while allowing them to run free – by drawing them.
Now the boy too is gone, but his drawings live on in the incomparable, undying art of Walter Elias…Disney.
And now you know, The Rest of the Story.
And now you’ll excuse me. My eyes are leaking.