My Harp Saved My Life

"My Harp Saved My Life"

by Linda Chapman

While at the Edinburgh Harp Festival in March 1994, the Sylvia Woods Harp Center Roving Reporter caught up with the protagonist of our story, Linda Chapman, who lives in Moscow, Idaho. Linda is a fine musician and singer as well as a very talented bead worker. In fact, her beadwork sales paid for her trip to Edinburgh. She attended the Harp Festival with her friends Marsha Ramey, Karen Ball, and Becky Riendeau. Here is her story.

I've been playing the harp since 1987. I bought my maple Dusty Strings FH-36B in November 1989. I also have a Pilgrim Progress lever harp and a Carnethy model lever harp by John Yule.

On that "fateful" day in 1989, I had just finished a lesson with Marsha Ramey in Lewiston (ID). From there, I went to a friend's house in Pullman (WA) for our regular Wednesday afternoon Spinners' Group. I had my FH-36B with me because I was going to play for a Weavers' Guild function after that. My friend's house is on a steep grade. I was driving my daughter's old '65 Chevy wagon, so I actually took the time to turn the wheels like we all learned to do when parking on a hill (I don't usually do this). I set the parking brake and got out to put the tailgate down.

I had just taken the harp out when the car started to roll backwards. I was still holding the harp and the tailgate hit me and knocked me and the harp down. I let go of the harp, grabbed the undercarriage of the car and hung on, expecting to be dragged all the way down the hill. I went about 30 feet and then stopped. I could hear someone screaming and I wondered who it was. Then I realized it was me! The only reason I had stopped moving was because the harp had jammed under one of the rear wheels and had turned the car in the road.

Harp and Car

A woman looked under the car and said, "are you okay?" A man grabbed a piece of wood and jammed it under the wheel to keep the car from moving. The woman went to my friend's house to get her. Everyone was gathering around the car and I said I just wanted to stay there for a few minutes to catch my breath and get oriented. The police were there by the time I crawled out. One of the officers offered to get my harp, but I of course said, "No, I'll get it. I know how to carry it." I put the harp in the car and they pushed it to the side of the road. I couldn't find my keys anywhere.

I thought I was okay, but my friend took me inside to get me cleaned up. When they took off my shirt, my car keys fell out of my clothes and I had a really bad case of road rash on my back. They insisted on taking me to the hospital to get checked out. We discovered then that I also had a fractured left ankle - I hadn't even realized it! I was on crutches for 6 weeks.

This all happened on Wednesday, as I said. I was scheduled to play at a coffee house with my teacher on that Friday. I called her to say I'd had an accident. She said "What'd you do, break your finger?" "No," I said. "I ran over myself." I played the gig anyway, using my Pilgrim harp.

It's amazing how well the Dusty Strings harp withstood the accident. When the strings broke the pillar came off the post at the base, so the pillar was loose. One foot had a corner sheared off, and the front "T" was cracked. That's it! I called Ray at Dusty Strings to see what could be done. He bought it back to repair and use as a rental, and my insurance paid to replace my harp with a brand new one!

The moral of this story is: If you're not going to buy a well-made harp, make sure you have good brakes!

This article was first printed in "The Harp Lover's News" Volume 2, Issue 1, 3rd Quarter, 1994, published by the Sylvia Woods Harp Center.

Drawing by Heidi Spiegel