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New Richmond students learn about Mark Twain

In an effort to expose students to who Mark Twain was as a person, New Richmond Middle School hosted Dave Ehlert, a Mark Twain impersonator, on Thursday, March 21.

"Many pieces of contemporary literature and film reference the writing of Mark Twain. Without knowledge of him and at least some of his works, students are at a disadvantage to fully appreciate what they read," said Linda Reuvers, sixth grade teacher.

Ehlert's presentation is part of The Mark Twain School Program, based in Branson, Mo.

Ehlert discussed the boyhood years, career and works of Mark Twain. He started the presentation by telling the students about several of Twain's mantras, so that they could get an idea of who he was as a person.

Those mantras included:

• Always obey your parents ... when they're present.

• Never do wrong ... unless no one is looking.

• Never sass your elders ... unless they sass you first.

Twain, born Samuel Langhorne Clemens, was a mischievous child and, as an adult, enjoyed sharing the stories of his youth.

Twain's true passion was to become a riverboat pilot, Ehlert said. He accomplished that goal and worked as a pilot for two years before losing his job during the Civil War. He worked many odd jobs throughout his life before landing a job as a newspaperman, where he adopted the pen name, Mark Twain. He decided on Mark Twain because of his passion for river boats, Ehlert explained. Mark Twain is the expression for a measured river depth of two fathoms, the depth needed to pass a riverboat.

Teacher Linda Reuvers said the presentation was well received by students.

In preparation for the presentation, the middle school students explored the colloquial speech and dialect in the first three chapters of "Tom Sawyer." Twain's first published short story, "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County," was also read by the students.

"Without a doubt, students will again encounter Mark Twain in their high school and college classes," Reuvers said. "Hopefully, they will have a sense of familiarity with him to approach his writing with more confidence than students that have not had this experience."

Jackie Grumish
Jackie Grumish has been a reporter with the New Richmond News since 2008. She holds degrees in journalism and fine art from Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, Ill. Before coming to New Richmond, Jackie worked as the city government reporter at a daily newspaper in Aberdeen, S.D. 
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