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Terrell Dempsey <[log in to unmask]>
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Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]>
Mon, 29 Jul 2002 08:01:20 -0500
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Dear Friends,  If you have the time take a look at today's Hannibal
Courier-Post (July 29, 2002).  This weekend a man fell out of a boat and is
presumed dead.  He had been drinking and playing on Jackson's Island. Law
enforcement officers and volunteers have been dragging the river looking for
his body.  The riverfront has been buzzing as ten big jon boats drag back
and forth.  The victim's name -- no kidding -- is Ed Branch. (It is not our
Ed.) The man's body is still out there with the catfish and carp and the
dragging continues today.
    I'm waiting for the cannon.
    Then there was a killing Saturday just two blocks from the little house
on Hill Street (and one block from Chez Dempsey!).  A 17-year-old fellow
from St. Louis was shot. I don't think a Bible was placed on his chest.
    The most interesting article is the commentary on the editorial page.
The editor cited Huck Finn in response to a group of racists who plastered
windshields of cars with fliers that said, "Wake up white America.  Stop
non-white immigration."  These deep thinkers called for a government of
"White People."
    Mary Lou Montgomery wrote of Huck:  "What this fictional character had
discovered - in a voice published by Sam Clemens in 1885 - was that despite
cultural concepts, pre-existing notions and prejudice, at the core, human
beings are the same.
    "This was a profound message for Clemens to pen, in a country where just
a quarter century prior "niggers" were considered material possessions
rather than human beings.  But he had the insight to see what some others
still fail to grasp:  It is not the color of the skin that marks character;
but rather the quality of the soul."
    You out-of-towners can read the entire articles at .
    Some things stay the same here in Hannibal.  People still play in the
river.  Sometimes they really get themselves drowned.  People still get
shot.  People like Pap Finn still hate non-white people and simmer with
resentment. Other things change.  The newspaper gets it. Several of you can
take credit for the evolving attitude about Sam Clemens and race. Attaboy
Shelley and Jocelyn!  Now if some of the other institutions in town will
come around...

    Terrell Dempsey