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The Helena Arkansas Daily World - Helena, AR
  • Random Thoughts on Mark Twain

  • My memory is a little foggy as to just when I was introduced to the writings of Mark Twain but I vividly recall who talked me into reading “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.” I think I can safely assume that this occurred around the fifth or sixth grade because that was about the last time we got to select the book that we wanted to read for a book report.
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  • My memory is a little foggy as to just when I was introduced to the writings of Mark Twain but I vividly recall who talked me into reading “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.” I think I can safely assume that this occurred around the fifth or sixth grade because that was about the last time we got to select the book that we wanted to read for a book report.
    Up to this point, my reading had been rather limited to biographies of famous Americans and scores of sports novels such as “Rose Bowl Hero.” I recall that his particular book report was a big one and was going to count as a large portion of our grade. Dad starting talking up “Tom Sawyer.”
    He told me that he read it as a boy, probably younger than I was at the time. Dad said it inspired him to pretend that he was rafting down the Mighty Mississippi. He would later partially fulfill that dream by working on a barge on the river with his stepfather.
    Now, you’ve got to remember that those were the days before television westerns – TV for that matter. What else did they have to do in the 1920s but pretend they were traversing the river? I recall asking myself.
    “Tom Sawyer” was a tough sell for Dad but I eventually followed his advice and tried it. He told me that I could pick something else if I just couldn’t get into it. I began to read it and I couldn’t put it down. I read it during free time at school and I came home and read it after school. I even passed on some of those westerns to start another chapter.
    Finally, I completed it. It was the first book report that practically wrote itself. I also found myself more at ease in front of the class telling them about the adventure of Tom and his friends. I also understood why Dad pictured himself cruising up and down the Mississippi on a homemade raft.
    It wasn’t until a few years later that I read “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.” It seems like it was much more difficult reading with underlining adult themes and situations.
    Over the years I have read accounts of Twain’s life including quite a bit glorified fiction that sometimes made him seem to be a bigger-than-life character such as “Paul Bunyan” rather than a real life person. While Twain experienced a lot of success during his lifetime, he also suffered more than his share of personal tragedy that included losing several members of his immediate family over a relatively short period of time – including his beloved wife and his youngest daughter.
    Page 2 of 2 - I was re-introduced to Mr. Twain Monday evening through an outstanding one-man performance by Branson, Mo. performer, Dave Ehlert. With the exception of munching on chips and dip and sipping a soft drink, the setting must have been quite similar to those who attended one of Twain’s performances more than 100 years ago. Twain, you might say, was the Bill Cosby of his day, offering his homespun philosophy on everything from family life to politics.
    Here are a few tidbits of humor and words of wisdom from Mr. Twain:
    “Suppose you were an idiot, and suppose you were a member of Congress; but I repeat myself.”
    “Kindness is the language, which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.”
    “A person who won’t read has no advantage over one who can’t read.”
    I don’t like the term “bucket list,” however one of those things I plan to do after retirement is to go back and re-read some of the great books, novels and short stories that I was required read during my school days. That list will include Mr. Twain’s “Tom Sawyer” and “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.” Maybe, I can become a kid again and meet my dad imaginary rafting down The Mighty Mississippi.

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