I don't contribute very often to this group, and I am not the Twain scholar
most of you are, but I feel a deep sorrow at the news of Dr. Hill's passing.
I was a young struggling radio writer, producer, director of a weekly
syndicated radio program called MasterControl when Ham's publisher sent me a
copy of "Mark Twain: God's Fool" in the mid-70's. I flew to Chicago,
rented a car and drove in the worst driving rainstorm I have ever
experienced to record an interview with Ham. He spent the entire evening
with me asking sophomoric questions like the true "Twaineophyte" I was. He
answered questions about other scholars' works as well as his own without
hesitating or trying to put the emphasis on his own works. The finished
edited interview was run with music from "The Apple Tree" (?) and commentary
on Hamlin's opinion expressed in "God's Fool." I don't remember the exact
figures, but that one program received a huge response from our listening
audience and was re-run at listener request at least once a year for
probably the next three years.
Kevin's description of Ham as a generous, modest man with gentle humor only
touches the surface. He took me in, offered me dry clothes (I declined),
warm drink (I accepted), and provided fond memories which have made me a
Twain fan if not scholar for the past nearly 30 years. We spoke only a few
times since that rainy night. When I would call him, tracking him down
both in College Station and in New Mexico, it took very little reminding
before he would chuckle at what he described as "something of a very, wet,
bewildered looking puppy."
I will miss the comfort of having a waiting ear and patient for my
"academic question of the decade."
Well, thanks for notifying us of this sad news. And thanks for letting me
reflect and express my sadness.
Arlington, TX 76011