Friends of Tom Sawyer

Where were they when I needed them? I had extra brushes ready too…. Turned out I had to  paint the deck railing and spindles all by myself.

But for next time, I’ll be better prepared. I’ve refreshed my memory on how to get help with painting by reading part of chapter two of Tom Sawyer, by Samuel Clemens aka Mark Twain. He published this in 1876 and I’m sure Tom’s method would still work today.

Here is a short excerpt (there is much more that is interesting in the rest of the chapter, but I had to make the cut somewhere):

“Hello, old chap, you got to work, hey?”

Tom wheeled suddenly and said:

“Why, it’s you, Ben! I warn’t noticing.”

“Say – I’m going in a-swimming, I am. Don’t you wish you could? But of course you’d druther work – wouldn’t you? Course you would!”

Tom contemplated the boy a bit, and said:

“What do you call work?”

“Why, ain’t that work?”

Tom resumed his whitewashing, and answered carelessly:

“Well, maybe it is, and maybe it ain’t. All I know, is, it suits Tom Sawyer.”

“Oh come, now, you don’t mean to let on that you like it?”

The brush continued to move.

“Like it? Well, I don’t see why I oughtn’t to like it. Does a boy get a chance to whitewash a fence every day?”

That put the thing in a new light. Ben stopped nibbling his apple. Tom swept his brush daintily back and forth – stepped back to note the effect – added a touch here and there – criticised the effect again – Ben watching every move and getting more and more interested, more and more absorbed. Presently he said:

“Say, Tom, let me whitewash a little.”

Tom considered, was about to consent; but he altered his mind:

“No – no – I reckon it wouldn’t hardly do, Ben. You see, Aunt Polly’s awful particular about this fence – right here on the street, you know – but if it was the back fence I wouldn’t mind and she wouldn’t. Yes, she’s awful particular about this fence; it’s got to be done very careful; I reckon there ain’t one boy in a thousand, maybe two thousand, that can do it the way it’s got to be done.”

“No – is that so? Oh come, now – lemme, just try. Only just a little – I’d let you, if you was me, Tom.”

“Ben, I’d like to, but Aunt Polly – well, Jim wanted to do it, but she wouldn’t let him; Sid wanted to do it, and she wouldn’t let Sid. Now don’t you see how I’m fixed? If you was to tackle this fence and anything was to happen to it – ”

“Oh, shucks, I’ll be just as careful. Now lemme try. Say – I’ll give you the core of my apple.”

“Well, here – No, Ben, now don’t. I’m afeard – ”

“I’ll give you all of it!”

Tom gave up the brush with reluctance in his face, but alacrity in his heart. 

*****

And so it began, and before long, Tom had a string of boys begging him to let them have a turn. Wish I’d been as wily as Tom. Well … next time the deck railing needs work, I’ll invite my friends over while I’m painting.

34 thoughts on “Friends of Tom Sawyer

    1. wordsfromanneli Post author

      I wish we had gone for all spindles right from the start. I had this misguided idea that the glass would improve the view, but all it did was kill birds. It’s no problem seeing past the spindles.

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  1. Pat

    One of my favorite books since I was a kid. Not sure how many times I’ve read it. You really should have a rail painting party. The gin and tonics could be the reward for completion. 🙂

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        1. wordsfromanneli Post author

          Thanks, Lori. Did you notice how yellow the grass is? It’s very dry here. Too much grass to water. It would be a real waste. Funny how the weeds keep growing when the grass doesn’t.
          And yes, wouldn’t it have been great to talk writing with Clemens!?

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    1. wordsfromanneli Post author

      Haha. I’m not for hire! I’m a wreck after doing this one. Up on the toes, bend at the waist, hang over the top of the railing, reach underneath to do the top of the railing cap as if painting my own chin (which I did once or twice when I slipped. It was either that or stand on the ladder – not my favourite thing to do. But you should try it. It’s so much fun. Just disregard what I said before.

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  2. Hans Susser

    Great paint-job, superb view, extraordinary novel 🙂
    I read “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer ” in Germany, in German, when I was 8 years old.
    60 years later, it is still, in my mind, the best adventure story of all times!
    Cheers !

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    1. wordsfromanneli Post author

      It’s probably the one most people identified with because we’ve all been in that work situation and thought, “Wouldn’t it be nice to have someone else do this for me?” and how smart of Tom to exploit his buddies and come out smelling like a rose.

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  3. Ursula

    I also remember this passage still today, I smiled then and I still have to smile while reading it. Great book! And I love your railing, you did a professional job. And I know how hard painting fences etc. can be, most of us homeowners went through this several times. But next time you know how to get someone else to do the job!

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      1. whitefeatherfloating

        Believe me, I know how much work can go into doing something like that! I stripped and refinished an old desk many years ago; a lot of sanding for me (by hand!) Your hard work has paid off in the beauty of the railing, though! Yes, Tom Sawyer is wonderful. However, I could never get into Huckleberry Finn! 😉

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  4. reocochran

    A lovely colored stain and I am admiring your hard work, Anneli. This was a wonderful idea to share one of the most interesting men in American history: Mark Twain or Samuel Clemens. This was a fun chapter in Tom Sawyer’s many acts of trickery. I always liked his affection for Becky Thatcher and the cave chapter. Of course, the most meaningful scenes are with Huck and Jim. 📖

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