Never the Twain Shall Meet

Many years ago, when I only had a Thomas Brothers Guide, I wandered off my smarter chosen route and decided to cross over the Sierras on the Sonora Pass Highway, CA.Hwy 108.
3650 feet above sea level I stopped to lunch and visit a quaint community called Twain Harte. Instead of 60 story skyscrapers, the first thing I noticed was Main Street has 60 story trees towering overhead. Amazing!
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATwain Harte is named for two American writers born within months of each other, both spent time in mining camps and met in San Francisco: Samuel Langhorne Clemens (Mark Twain) and Francis Brett Hart (Bret Harte).

Spending some time now in Eureka, where Bret Harte gained early fame for his writings on the Gunther Island Indian massacre, I’m remembering the little mountain town that has a cabin where Mark Twain and Bret Harte both stayed at different years in their life.
Bret Harte’s famous literary works were mainly two stories and one poem. The poem is a wonderful tribute to his idol, Charles Dickens, entitled “Dickens in Camp.” His two stories were “The Luck of Roaring Camp” and “The Outcast of Poker Flats.”  Poker Flats had many movies and music made from the book.

Mark Twain needs no words from me to describe his incredible career. Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn (Adventures of) were my two favorite books as a youngster and most critics have the highest praise for Twain’s writings.

“Mark Twain is the father of American Literature”—-William Faulkner
“All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain, Huckleberry Finn.”—Ernest Hemingway

Back to the Twain-Harte legacy: It seems Mark Twain didn’t think that highly of Harte’s writing. Writing in his autobiography four years after Harte’s death, Mark Twain characterized Harte and his writing as insincere. He criticized the miners’ dialect used by Harte, claiming it never existed outside of his imagination. Twain accused Harte of borrowing money from his friends with no intent to repay and of financially abandoning his wife and children. He referred repeatedly to Harte as “The Immortal Bilk.”
Nasty, huh?

I still admire Twain’s great writing skills and his masterfully spun tales. And, I love his numerous quotes that have kept his spirit alive over the decades.
Here are my favorites:

“Fleas can be taught anything that a Congressman can”
“I have been an author for 20 years and and ass for 55”
“There are two times in a man’s life when he should not speculate; when he can’t afford it, and when he can”
“Let us endeavor so to live that when we come to die, even the undertaker will be sorry”

BTW, Twain-Harte now has a 3 minute video on YouTube with a Mark Twain actor showcasing the community. If you have 3 extra minutes, click on the link:

About bakoheat

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4 Responses to Never the Twain Shall Meet

  1. Mary says:

    My father always felt that Bakersfield had the misfortune of never having a writer of the time end up in its streets. He loved both those writers, but felt the times were much more interesting here in the valley.

  2. fiddlrts says:

    I enjoy both Twain and Harte. Harte wrote quite a few stories, and I disagree with Twain’s assessment of them – although I agree with Twain’s hilarious take-down of James Fenimore Cooper, which you must read if you haven’t already.

    When my third child was an infant, we spent a couple days driving highway 49 from Auburn to Oakhurst, straight through the middle of Gold Country. Later, I took the kids back there, and drove through Twain Harte, and Strawberry, and all those towns on that highway. Also, enjoyed a Sarsaparilla in Columbia and a steam train ride in Jamestown. Just a great area. I need to plan a camping trip there with all the kids one of these days.

    • bakoheat says:

      Thanks for writing, Tim. Yes, it’s a great area….HOWEVER, they really don’t have 60 story trees in Twain-Harte as I wrote. I meant to say SIX-story trees. I’d like to see 60 story trees. Sunday we drove the “Avenue of the Giants” and that highway never grows old. Every time is a “stun” award.

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