Wyoming Territory. 1860.

January 9th, 2011

Pie Tuckerman sidled up to the banker Baxter Willens and pointed to the fancy young writer who came out from Missouri: “That’s Sam Clemens.”

“Oh, that’s him, with the parted hair? The boy who’s got everybody in an uproar.”

“I should say. Why I watched him pass his cheroot to Mister Mangles, the baggage-carrier, who took about four long draws and wetted it up so bad it fell apart. Sam takes it back and sticks it in his mouth without even wipin’ it down. Old Mangle’s six shade’s blacker than a lump a anthracite and Clemens sucks on that soggy roll of tobacco like it’s an icicle in the steamin’ jungle.”

Clemens stepped up on the porch and said to the banker, “I’d like to take out a small loan. Need to purchase a writing desk. See I’m writing a –“

Banker Willens cut him off. “You’re the nigger-lovin boy that come out from Missouri, aren’t you?”

“Well, I guess you could put it that way. See, I’m writing a book about the west.”

“And you’re going to tell the world we used the word “nigger.”

“Yes,” Clemens said, “Think of it. A hundred, hundred-fifty years from now, when all the races get along in the world and there’s no name-calling, somebody’s going to pick up one of my books and learn we used the word “nigger.”

“You would do that? You don’t care at all about the good name of your people?”

“It’s not that I don’t care, but I guess I’m just so hungry for fame that I’d do anything to be remembered by posterity. Even offend the future citizens of this great nation. I’ll pay you 11 percent interest.”

The banker was not a totally unreasonable sort. He understood the need for recognition. But did he really want to be a party to this?

Clemens, for his part, realized he needed to play another card: “Besides, they can always take the word nigger out.”

Willens winked at the young writer. “Sixteen percent.”

“Done.”

One Response to “Wyoming Territory. 1860.”

  1. Steven Russon Says:

    I love this, Fred. Speaks to the genius of Twain, the lack of integrity of bankers, and the caprice of history all in a few lines.

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