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The Vacation - Professor Pimbleton’s Yard Sale, Part Two


Part one ended with an introduction of the keynote speaker.

Many chairs were turned toward the main table at the north end of the room. “Ladies and gentlemen, distinguished guests, tonight we are gathered here to honor one of our national treasures. He has made us laugh and made us think about who we are. Please give a hearty round of applause to the number one American man of letters, Samuel Clemens, better known to us as Mark Twain.

The crowd stood and applauded as he approached the podium.

“Governor McClellan, the New England Society, Ladies and Gentlemen and of course, Delmonico’s thank you. The New England Society tried to get "Buffalo Bill" Cody, as the keynote speaker. And made reference that my speaking fees were too high. But he is on a ship filled with buffalo and Indians heading toward England tonight.

We are a long way from Hannibal. For those of you who aspire to write, building a desirable setting can be as strong an addition as is any character. A lot of water flowed over the steamboat paddles to get here this evening. That is true for me, and I am sure it is true for you. I have had many jobs along the way. Mining was back breaking work. Those were hard times. Life on the Mississippi was a relaxing time in my life. The river spoke to my soul. I was the pilot of something so much bigger than myself. There was power in my hands steering along the river; the trick was to stay in the middle of the current. There was contentment with going with the flow. Evenings spent on the Mississippi, watching the lights of the Boroughs and villages float by, opened up vistas for me, that may not have presented themselves otherwise. The Civil War interrupted that career. So, after a couple of weeks with the confederates, I headed west.”

He paused, dug out a cigar, struck a match, holding the flame close, releasing a plume of smoke.

“My brother Orion was out in Nevada, far from the war. So, I climbed on a stagecoach and began roughing it. Let me tell you the prairie is not the Mississippi. Those people, those pioneering spirits that set out by foot, wagon and coach were as hardy a bunch as any that came before them. I owe a great debt to my brother Orion, working for him, I found I really did not like callouses on my hands and a constant ache in my back. We were born to have printer’s ink in our blood, not miner’s dust in our lungs. Or Union bullets in our bellies for that matter. Nevada was a sanctuary.

I met a fellow there, in Virginia City, named Artemus Ward, you may have heard of him. He encouraged me to submit some stories to the New York publishers. One of those publishers accepted one of my stories about a frog of all things. You can say my reputation leapt onto the national scene after that.

A little taste for money developed after that. A man makes a little money, he begins to think he is smarter than he really is. So, I traveled further west after leaving Nevada with some notoriety. Leaving had nothing to do with the challenges to duels I received by the husbands of the Sanitary Ball ladies. A valuable lesson was learned. Not everyone has as keen a sense of humor as myself. The Gold Hill Evening News blasted me for my actions. As my time with the Territorial Enterprise came to an end, my writing had reached a new level. I had arrived in Nevada as Samuel Clemens and left as Mark Twain.

Just a few years later, I met my first liberal. Her name Olivia Langdon and I tell you it took some doing for me to convince her to marry me. Let me tell you, it is those years in Hartford, Connecticut, that were the most pleasant years. We summered at Quarry Farm in Elmira, New York. Two well regarded American characters were created during those contented years. Both Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn were born and raised right here in the North. Oh, that is a secret, don’t say you heard it here.

There is a little Huck Finn in all of us. Do you dream of running away like Huck Finn and coasting down the river on a raft without a care? Or wearing a straw hat to block the sun and announcing that you are carefree and full of mischief? Some ladies took exception to Huck and Jim, as they floated down the river naked, on the raft. Their feet dangled in the water, and they spoke of all kinds of things. They lit their pipes as the raft floated along wherever the current chose to take them. On the raft they shared an equality, not found on the land.

That Tom Sawyer he represents the rebellious heart in all of us. Who amongst us does not want to talk the neighbor into painting our fence? Or resist with all our will to escape the grasp of Aunt Polly and the chores and the fitting into a society with only small places for our souls to play. That Tom, he struggled to escape the grip of conformity. That is for sure. He did it with a beguiling smile and with the romance of adventure.

Princeton and Yale have given me honors. I have not heard from Harvard. No offense to the New England Society. As a young man, I was only sure of one thing. Well, two things; first I would not become a Baptist. The other thing that was clear, was that I did not want to work. I set my sights on writing. I was torn, become a writer or a Congressman. It was the company that I would keep that decided the issue, so I became a writer.

What was I saying? – Oh, money. Money and enterprise. I made so much money not working that it occurred to me that maybe there was something to this notion of working. I mean everybody was doing it. If writers and Congressmen could do so well without so much as lifting a finger, what level of fortune could a working man attain?

Right I was, all the gains made by not working, were soon lost by going legitimate. It took a good many years for me to get back on my feet from the experience of working. It took years, but I repaid every cent of the money people lost when my businesses failed. Today, again, I am not working, owe no one and will be served a fine meal here tonight at Delmonico’s. My hat is off to those that work, it is a terrible burden and one which people can be very proud.”

He paused, struck a match, held the flame close to his cigar and waved out the flame.


“The New England Society is kind to give me this honor. I see here in the audience, the elite of New York society. I see ladies and gentlemen of means. I even see that a few Congressmen have snuck in for a free meal. Those that arrived hoping to learn something important or profound will leave merely amused. A night's entertainment provided in a beautiful setting.

If Tom or Huck were able to join us here tonight, they would think we had gone and become civilized. They would think there were no log cabins in the woods to run off and escape. They could believe that there was no longer a place for a cob pipe smoked in the open by the night's fire. They could believe that there was no longer a need for a raft carried on the current of the river. They could believe there was no longer a need to dangle their bare feet in the water and they would know we were poorer for it.

If Aunt Polly were here with us tonight, she would be thinking, I am sure glad I do not have to clean up after this crowd.

Ladies and gentlemen, oh, and I see Professor Pimbleton in the audience, I'll be right over. To the rest of you, thank you and good-night.”

Part One can be found here

Tony Joe White - Rainy Night In Georgia (Boozoo Bajou's Georgia Dub)


mckbirdbks (author) from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on August 15, 2018:

Hello Shauna - Sorry, no part three. I am not sure Luara wants to come back, but I am sure that if she did, we would find a way for her. I am not quite sure, at this late date, why there is a part two at all. Thanks for visiting and making me think there should be more of these stories.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on August 15, 2018:

Is there a part three, Mike? I'm curious to learn how Laura gets back to the yard sale and perhaps go on other adventures based on which items she chooses. And how does she get back to her laptop in her time?

Nikki Khan from London on March 12, 2018:

Thanks Mike, Many Blessings.

mckbirdbks (author) from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on March 12, 2018:

Hello Nikki Khan - Thank you. Welcome to Hubpages. Wishing you an enjoyable experience here.

Nikki Khan from London on March 12, 2018:

You are a master of story telling, I must say Mike.

Loved the story as much as dialogues.

Brilliant story.

Can’t wait for next one.

mckbirdbks (author) from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on March 11, 2018:

Hello Audrey - 'The mine killed them' that explains it very well. Glad you liked this presentation. As for 'The Rainy Night in Georgia' it seems that each of us has a favorite version. When I went looking for music, I found that many artist recorded this particular song. Thank you for taking the time to visit today.

Audrey Hunt from Idyllwild Ca. on March 11, 2018:

Hi Mike. Wow...I just finished reading this and enjoyed it so very much!

I grew up hearing stories about the difficulty and danger of working in the coal mines. Both of my Grandfathers (whom I never met) were miners. The mine killed them.

Joe Cockers rendition of "Rainy Night in Georgia" is so heart-felt. So much "meat" in this song. Good choice.

Thanks my friend.

mckbirdbks (author) from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on March 11, 2018:

Hello Martie - Once you have done coal mining work, or worked in a forge, then you will consider writing as not labor. Sure there is stress and strain, but that back breaking helplessness is missing. As for smoking, the world brought it to excess, like so many other things. No, a speaker today would not be allowed to smoke before the audience.

Thanks for stopping by to take a look at this presentation.

Martie Coetser from South Africa on March 11, 2018:

Mark Twain was an extraordinary man with a vivid imagination. Wish I could regard writing as 'not working'. Of course, contemplating Twain's success, work was only an imaginary flight.

Imagine someone smoking while addressing an audience today?

Peg Cole from North Dallas, Texas on March 10, 2018:

Hello Mike, Unfortunately, the news was not good about Jim's brother. Thanks for your kind concern.

mckbirdbks (author) from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on March 10, 2018:

Hello Peg - Thank you. As writers gather here to sharpen their skills, one thing we have in common is the great writers of the past. Mark Twain is certainly one of those writers.

I hope you are receiving good news.

Peg Cole from North Dallas, Texas on March 10, 2018:

Delighted to find this fine release this Saturday morning with a much needed glimpse into the character and wit of a favorite writer. You've served us a slice of the philosophy of Mark Twain as well. Enjoyable.

mckbirdbks (author) from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on March 10, 2018:

Hello Bill - Thank you. Maybe I will try that foggy abyss next. You and Frank should not have all the fun.

mckbirdbks (author) from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on March 10, 2018:

Hello mar – So glad that the Conway Twitty brought your Mom back into your day. She may have more stories that Mark Twain himself. Recollections are so important.

I see the character Huck Finn left his mark on you as well. Nice that we are given that sense of wanderlust deep in our DNA.

Thanks for the weekend wishes. I don’t know what the future holds for these stories of mine.


mckbirdbks (author) from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on March 10, 2018:

Hello Gypsy – Thank you. I did listen to several versions of ‘Rainy Night in Georgia’ I even happened to find Ray Charles. Glad you were able to visit and enjoy the story and music selection. Life on the Mississippi must have been an experience to remember.

mckbirdbks (author) from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on March 10, 2018:

Hello Genna – Thank you. Very nice of you to say. Clemens had an interesting, though very sad life. So, glad Farhaven helped you build a story, and pleased that Mark Twain is part of your writing foundation. I did come across Henry Huttleston Rogers’ name as I was gathering facts to sprinkle through the story. He helped Clemens get back on his feet after a bankruptcy.

That schools are banning Mark Twain and Harper Lee just shows how twisted and misplaced the thinking regarding literature has become. Icons of literature should not be banned because they reflected the times. We cannot get passed our history by denying it. Scout Finch and Huck Finn would have been best of friends. Oh, want adventures those two would have together for our literary enjoyment.

Perhaps using Mark Twain as a character has enhanced this story into something larger than I had thought. A kernel of the story regarding Samuel Clemens popped into my head about a year ago. A family is standing on a Southern railroad platform in the early morning hours waiting for their train. Father, pregnant Mother, two boys and a girl. The title was (if I remember right) Night Train to Hannibal. The gist of the story would be all the adventures that happened on that train journey. The adventures became the family stories. And as the unborn child arrived on the scene, he heard all about that trip, over and over again and that laid the foundation for Sam Clemens to become a writer.

mckbirdbks (author) from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on March 10, 2018:

Hello Brian – You are right, Ragtime would have fit well. I did not think of that, but it was a natural. Thanks for the visit.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on March 10, 2018:

An enjoyable trip back in time, Mike! You are branching out and growing as a writer of considerable talent and depth.

mckbirdbks (author) from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on March 10, 2018:

Hello Verlie – Thank you. It can be tough to check in and be ahead of your guests. It makes you wonder what you did wrong. You are right everyone (most everyone) are living busy lives. I hope you had a good evening.

Maria Jordan from Jeffersonville PA on March 10, 2018:

Good morning, dear Mike,

I first read this delightful chapter last evening and got lost (obviously) in your song selection ... as Gypsy has pointed out, so many artists have performed this classic. I had beautiful memories of being with Mom on the porch listening to Conway Twitty's rendition.

I certainly have my share of Huck Finn in me. Thanks for allowing me to be part of this magical evening with Mark Twain.

To be continued...or at least I sure hope so.

Have a good weekend.

Hugs, mar

Gypsy Rose Lee from Daytona Beach, Florida on March 10, 2018:

Facinating. Could just visualize that time and the steamboats on the Mississippi. Interesing versions of that song on video I think my favortie has always been Ray Charles if I remember correctly.

Genna East from Massachusetts, USA on March 10, 2018:

This is one of your best, Mike. (Clemens spent time in Fairhaven, MA, the town (Farhaven) that was the inspiration in a couple of my stories. He was friends with Henry Huttleston Rogers, who helped pay for Helen Keller's education.) He wasn't a fan of New England winters, but loved the magical effects of an ice storm in the glimmers of sunlight that followed.

It breaks my heart that certain schools still seek to remove 'The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn' from their library shelves, along with 'To Kill a Mockingbird,' because they found the use of "racial slurs" offensive. (How does one explain that such ignorance can also be offensive?) "There is a little Huck Finn in all of us..." Oh, yes...as there is some Scout Finch as well.

You have captured Mark Twain and the consciousness and awareness behind his writing so well in this story, Mike. We can surmise that he would truly appreciate this -- and we don't doubt that he would be fan of your stories, with your unique sense of humor and style, and understanding of human nature without being overly sentimental. Well done. :-)

Brian Leekley from Bainbridge Island, Washington, USA on March 09, 2018:

Well crafted. I could imagine Clemens giving just such a speech. The fictional speech is educational; I learned a lot from it about Clemens's life. Regarding music, ragtime piano would fit the period.

Verlie Burroughs from Canada on March 09, 2018:

Wow, slow night at Delmonico’s eh Mike. I guess me and Becky get all the treats! I'm sure the place will fill up once people get home from their busy work week. But the waiting is the hardest thing once you press the old publish button. I have to tell you my notifications have been really slow or non existent on this site lately. Anyway, I'm pretty much done for the day. Hope it goes well. I'm excited for you :)

mckbirdbks (author) from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on March 09, 2018:

Hello Becky - You have such grand stories. It may just be that a man's reputation is much bigger than the man himself. There is evidence of that. Just attend a funeral.

Your grandmother and great grandfather sound like just the strong pioneers that Mark Twain gave praise to for their strength and perseverance.

Becky Katz from Hereford, AZ on March 09, 2018:

Great story. You did the 'voice' very well. I remember my grandmother telling about our family run-in with Mr. Clemens. He visited the family ranch in Stockton, I believe it was. That was the older family ranch, not the now family ranch. My grandmother told me that he thought he was so much funnier than the cowboys did. Some of them wanted to tar and feather him, but my great-grandfather and his brothers would not let them. He loved practical jokes and some of those cowboys had no sense of humor.

mckbirdbks (author) from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on March 09, 2018:

Hello Verlie - Thank you, this is high praise. I have been a Mark Twain fan for years. As a young reader I could not get enough of his wit, humor, and satire. So glad you were able to climb aboard the raft with us and drift down the peaceful river.

Verlie Burroughs from Canada on March 09, 2018:

Mike, This 'voice' just flows, like the mighty Mississippi. I believe this may be your 'masterpiece'. I am so moved, your portrayal is absolutely amazing, more than that. Needs publishing. I want this collection, please!

mckbirdbks (author) from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on March 09, 2018:

Hello Verlie - Thanks. It is more than a little nerve rattling to try and imitate a writing icon. Glad you enjoyed it. Yesterday, I thought of another skit, and after some debate with myself, decided to leave it out. Glad you like the music. It took a bit to find something that fit the mood of the piece. I should have listened to some banjo music also. You are appreciated.

Verlie Burroughs from Canada on March 09, 2018:

Oh, this is lovely! Thank you Mike, you've surpassed yourself! And my all time favorite song too...V. Did you mean Boroughs?

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