Master CraftsMon

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Tom Sawyer Is a Major Inspiration for This Show

Master CraftsMon - Aired Monday, November 28, 2005 at about 11pm CST

I read you some pages from the Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain on my show. Here is the text. I will be referring to this reading quite a few times, so you should get used to it.

In this segment of book, Tom has been assigned the task of whitewashing the front fence by his Aunt Polly.

Tom realized that his friends would come tripping along on all sorts of delicious expeditions, and they would make a world of fun of him for having to work--the very thought of it burnt him like fire. He got out his worldly wealth and examined it--bits of toys, marbles, and trash; enough to buy an exchange of work, maybe, but not half enough to buy so much as half an hour of pure freedom. So he returned his straitened means to his pocket, and gave up the idea of trying to buy the boys. At this dark and hopeless moment an inspiration burst upon him! Nothing less than a great, magnificent inspiration.

He took up his brush and went tranquilly to work. Ben Rogers hove in sight presently--the very boy, of all boys, whose ridicule he had been dreading. Ben's gait was the hop - skip - and - jump... proof enough that his heart was light and his anticipations high. He was eating an apple, and giving a long, melodious whoop, at intervals, followed by a deep- toned ding-dong-dong, ding-dong-dong, for he was personating a steamboat. As he drew near, he slackened speed, took the middle of the street, leaned far over to starboard and rounded to ponderously and with laborious pomp and circumstance-for he was personating the Big Missouri, and considered him- self to be drawing nine feet of water. He was boat, and captain, and engine-bells combined, so he had to imagine himself standing on his own hurricane-deck giving the orders and executing them:

"Stop her, sir! Ting-a-ling-ling!" The headway ran almost out and he drew up slowly toward the side-walk.

"Ship up to back! Ting-a-ling-ling!" His arms straightened and stiffened down his sides.

"Set her back on the stabboard! Ting-a-ling-ling! Chow! ch-chow-wow! Chow!" His right hand, meantime, describing stately circles... for it was representing a forty-foot wheel.

"Let her go back on the labboard! Ting-a-ling- ling! Chow-ch-chow-chow!" The left hand began to describe circles.

"Stop the stabboard! Ting-a-ling-ling! Stop the labboard! Come ahead on the stabboard! Stop her! Let your outside turn over slow! Ting-a- ling-ling! Chow-ow-ow! Get out that head-line! Lively now! Come-out with your spring-line- what're you about there! Take a turn round that stump with the bight of it! Stand by that stage, now... let her go! Done with the engines, sir! Ting-a-ling-ling! Sh't! s'h't! sh't!" (trying the gauge-cocks) .

Tom went on whitewashing... paid no attention to the steamboat. Ben stared a moment and then said: "Hi-yi! You're up a stump, ain't you!"

No answer. Tom surveyed his last touch with the eye of an artist, then he gave his brush another gentle sweep and surveyed the result, as before. Ben ranged up alongside of him. Tom's mouth watered for the apple, but he stuck to his work.

Ben said: "Hello, old chap, you got to work, hey?"

Tom wheeled suddenly and said: "Why, it's you, Ben! I warn't noticing."

"Say.. I'm going in a-swimming, I am. Don't you wish you could? But of course you'd druther work... wouldn't you? Course you would!"

Tom contemplated the boy a bit, and said: "What do you call work?"

"Why, ain't that work?"

Tom resumed his whitewashing, and answered carelessly: "Well, maybe it is, and maybe it ain't. All I know, is, it suits Tom Sawyer."

"Oh come, now, you don't mean to let on that you like it?"

The brush continued to move. "Like it? Well, I don't see why I oughtn't to like it. Does a boy get a chance to whitewash a fence every day?"

That put the thing in a new light. Ben stopped nibbling his apple. Tom swept his brush daintily back and forth-stepped back to note the effect... added a touch here and there... criticized the effect again... Ben watching every move and getting more and more interested, more and more absorbed.

Presently he said: "Say, Tom, let me whitewash a little."

Tom considered, was about to consent; but he altered his mind: "No... no... I reckon it wouldn't hardly do, Ben. You see, Aunt Polly's awful particular about this fence... right here on the street, you know... but if it was the back fence I wouldn't mind and she wouldn't. Yes, she's awful particular about this fence; it's got to be done very careful; I reckon there ain't one boy in a thousand, maybe two thousand, that can do it the way it's got to be done."

"No... is that so? Oh come, now... lemme just try. Only just a little... I'd let you, if you was me, Tom."

"Ben, I'd like to, honest injun; but Aunt Polly... well, Jim wanted to do it, but she wouldn't let him; Sid wanted to do it, and she wouldn't let Sid. Now don't you see how I'm fixed? If you was to tackle this fence and anything was to happen to it"

"Oh, shucks, I'll be just as careful. Now lemme try. Say... I'll give you the core of my apple."

"Well, here... No, Ben, now don't. I'm afeard..."

"I'll give you all of it!"

Tom gave up the brush with reluctance in his face, but alacrity in his heart. And while the late steamer Big Missouri worked and sweated in the sun, the retired artist sat on a barrel in the shade close by, dangled his legs, munched his apple, and planned the slaughter of more innocents. There was no lack of material; boys happened along every little while; they came to jeer, but remained to whitewash. By the time Ben was fagged out, Tom had traded the next chance to Billy Fisher for a kite, in good repair; and when he played out, Johnny Miller bought in for a dead rat and a string to swing it with... and so on, and so on, hour after hour. And when the middle of the afternoon came, from being a poor poverty-stricken boy in the morning, Tom was literally rolling in wealth. He had beside the things before mentioned, twelve marbles, part of a jews'-harp, a piece of blue bottle-glass to look through, a spool cannon, a key that wouldn't unlock anything, a fragment of chalk, a glass stopper of a decanter, a tin soldier, a couple of tadpoles, six fire-crackers, a kitten with only one eye, a brass door-knob, a dog-collar... but no dog, the handle of a knife, four pieces of orange-peel, and a dilapidated old window-sash.

He had had a nice, good, idle time all the while... plenty of company... and the fence had three of whitewash on it! If he hadn't run out of whitewash, he would have bankrupted every boy in the village.

The boy mused awhile over the substantial change which had taken place in his worldly circumstances, then wended toward headquarters to report

TOM presented himself before Aunt Polly, who was sitting by an open window in a pleasant rear- ward apartment, which was bed-room, breakfast- room, dining-room, and library, combined. The balmy summer air, the restful quiet, the odor of the flowers, and the drowsing murmur of the bees had had their effect, and she was nodding over her knit- ting-for she had no company but the cat, and it was asleep in her lap. Her spectacles were propped up on her gray head for safety. She had thought that of course Tom had deserted long ago, and she wondered at seeing him place himself in her power again in this intrepid way. He said: "Mayn't I go and play now, aunt?"

"What, a'ready? How much have you done!"

"It's all done, aunt."

"Tom, don't lie to me... I can't bear it."

"I ain't, aunt; it is all done."

Aunt Polly placed small trust in such evidence. She went out to see for herself; and she would have been content to find twenty per cent. of Tom 's statement true. When she found the entire fence whitewashed, and not only whitewashed but elaborately coated and recoated, and even a streak added to the ground, her astonishment was almost unspeakable.

She said: "Well, I never! There's no getting round it, you can work when you're a mind to, Tom." And then she diluted the compliment by adding, "But it's powerful seldom you're a mind to, I'm bound to say. Well, go 'long and play; but mind you get back some time in a week, or I'll tan you."

Tom said to himself that it was not such a hollow world, after all. He had discovered a great law of human action... without knowing it... namely, that in order to make a man or a boy covet a thing, it is only necessary to make the thing difficult to attain. If he had been a great and wise philosopher, like the writer of this book, he would now have comprehended that Work consists of whatever a body is obliged to do, and that Play consists of whatever a body is not obliged to do. And this would help him to understand why constructing artificial flowers or performing on a treadmill is work, while rolling ten-pins or climbing Mont Blanc is only amusement. There are wealthy gentlemen in England who drive four-horse passenger-coaches twenty or thirty miles on a daily line, in the summer, because the privilege costs them considerable money; but if they were offered wages for the service, that would turn it into work and they would resign.

Now you might ask, "What have these few pages from The Adventures of Tom Sawyer have to do with much of anything?" The answer is that I will be asking you to help me in my projects. I will throw out an idea, we will debate the means of achieving the goals of the project, THENNN we shall attempt to apply them in the real world. Unlike Tom Sawyer, I am telling you up front that I expect you to do some work. I expect you to fund some of the costs of the project. I expect you to be part of the solution, not a part of the problem. In short, I am asking you to volunteer.

Tom tricked people into helping him. I am honorable about it by saying that I want your help and I expect you to pay for the privilege. If you don't want to be involved, then I surely cannot force you to be, because I am just a voice from the velvet black coming to you from the darkest night. I cannot make you do much of anything. I can only make my case and ask for your help.

Just as a matter of interest... Do you know how I changed the above quote, so that it flowed correctly for a radio program? Go get a copy of Tom Sawyer and check it out. The above segment is in the first two chapters. Mark Twain is always worth reading.


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