I want to beat up Mark Twain

Author’s Note: This is the first of a long, random, scattershot series of my memories of life in the rural Midwest in the 1970s.
I grew up in Missouri in the 1970s. This is not so much an admission of guilt as it is a confession.
For those of you outside Missouri, you’re probably thinking, ‘Don’t they have a lot of cows in Missouri?’ Or, ‘I bet he grew up on a farm.’ Yes, there are a lot of cows in Missouri – you’re welcome – and yes, I was one of thousands of Missouri children who grew up on a farm that decade. During high school, I was also a member in good standing of the Future Farmers of America. I’m glad I got that off my chest.
The only problems I have with my home state – a lovely place filled with hills that gently rise and fall, and seemingly endless seas of corn and soybeans – are, 1) during the Civil War it let Kansas continue to exist, and 2) Mark Twain.
Since I was a child and began scratching funny stories onto college-ruled notebook paper (I never liked wide-ruled, it’s like writing graffiti, and narrow-ruled seems like I’m penning secret messages for the CIA), I’ve been angry at Mark Twain. Not for what he wrote but for what he represented – he was a humorist from Missouri and that’s what I wanted to be. He set the bar exceedingly high.
As I actually grew into a person who gets paid for writing things that make people laugh, those same people would say, “Hey, you’re from Missouri. I bet you’re a big fan of Mark Twain.” After they recover from a roundhouse kick to the face, I explain to them slowly – oh, so very slowly – that if Twain was alive I would roundhouse kick him to the face.
Well, I can’t actually do a roundhouse kick to any part of a human body. I keep Chuck Norris in my back pocket for just such an occasion. He’s surprisingly compact.
But Missouri – apart from the likes of cold-blooded murderer and thief Jesse James and serial killer Bob Berdella – has nicer people per capita than Mayfield, Ohio, Hooterville, and Mayberry, North Carolina, combined. Seriously. Everybody – even people in the larger cities – wave at you for no reason other than you looked like you needed someone to wave at you.
If you have car problems on a country road, within 15 minutes enough people with beer will have stopped to help. You’ll not only get the car fixed for free, you’ll be too drunk to drive it anywhere. Lost? People will actually say, “follow me,” and drive you where you need to go.
Yep, Missourians are that friendly. Well, unless you ask me or Chuck Norris about Mark Twain.
You can order Jason’s books at, contact him by e-mail at or by writing Jason Offutt, P.O. Box 501, Maryville, Mo.  64468.

You must be logged in to post a comment Login