Monday, February 09, 2009

My spouse and I signed up for a Baylor continuing education course on Mark Twain. It’s a very short course consisting of four 1 ½ hours lectures. We attended the first lecture last week and it was terrific. I took a course on Mark Twain in college and have had a life long love for this guy and his works. We have visited just about every place he lived including; Hartford Conn., Hannibal Mo., Virginia City, Neveda and most important of all Quarry Farm in Elmira, NY.

The first lecture in our mini-course was all about Quarry Farm. This is the only place he could write in peace and quiet. It was a farm in rural NY owned by his wife’s family. Even though Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer were all about life on the Mississippi, those characters, along with many others, were born on Quarry Farm in the mind of Mark Twain. He did his writing in a little octagon shaped house overlooking the river at Quarry farm. The place reminded him of his home in Hannibal, Missouri.

Our reading assignment for the next lecture is from “Roughing It.” We read that book, in my course, when I was in Baylor and I am reading from my old book that has many great passages underlined with margin notes. It’s about his trip on stagecoach from Missouri to Nevada then to California. It’s almost like a diary describing the events of the trip. One of my favorite chapters is the one describing the coyote. Twain says the coyote looks like a skeleton wrapped in skin but he can outrun and outsmart just about everything else, especially a dog who thinks he can catch him.

Of the people who have lived on the planet, other than Jesus, the one I would like most to have dinner and a conversation with would be Mark Twain. Mark Twain hated hypocrisy. He would have a field day today with our CEOs, politicians, bankers and ministers. I might be too intimidated to speak in his presence but I’m sure he would quickly put me at ease.

The closest I can come to the great man today is to sit on my back porch surrounded by his books. The first thing one sees when entering our home is a large bust of Twain in the entrance hall and a replica of the octagonal house at Quarry Farm. I pick up the paper and am reminded of all the things he loved to attack with his great gift of words and the use of satire, namely the government, politicians and all other forms of hypocrisy.


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