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Reply To: Tangents and Train Trips


Hello R³ and Stephen,

So very sorry to go on these tangents in the Quotes database, Stephen.  I don’t know how I did it, but will be mindful next time.

R³, my very first thoughts on R³:  1. I thought  of a book I found many years ago in a book store called Double Day. It was a book of Mark Twain’s stories and essays, titled: “Mark Twain and the Three R’S: Race, Religion, Revolution – And Related Matters. Hardcover – October 1, 1973”

So, at first I thought you had named yourself after that book, the one edited by Maxwell Geismer, who was Mark Twain’s biographer as well. Later, it came to me that you were one of the prolific writers on the Mythic Saloon. And now I know who you are. Thank you for the suspense. Thank you also for sharing Atlas Shrugged trailer and Arlo Guthrie’s song. No, unfortunately, I have not read Ayn Rand.

On trains, I can think of a few great writers, one being Mark Twain, and the other being Edith Nesbit (children’s books, especially, The Railway Children). Mark Twain described Indian Railway Stations and the condition of the third class compartments in “Following the Equator, Volume 2” . Here is a passage on the Indian Trains (nothing like my experience) but of course a masterpiece description.

“January 30. What a spectacle the railway station was, at train-time! It was a very large station, yet when we arrived it seemed as if the whole world was present–half of it inside, the other half outside, and both halves, bearing mountainous head-loads of bedding and other freight, trying simultaneously to pass each other, in opposing floods, in one narrow door. These opposing floods were patient, gentle, long-suffering natives, with whites scattered among them at rare intervals; and wherever a white man’s native servant appeared, that native seemed to have put aside his natural gentleness for the time and invested himself with the white man’s privilege of making a way for himself by promptly shoving all intervening black things out of it. In these exhibitions of authority Satan was scandalous. He was probably a Thug in one of his former incarnations.”

The rest of this gem can be found above.

“The Indian trains are manned by natives exclusively. The Indian stations except very large and important ones–are manned entirely by natives, and so are the posts and telegraphs. The rank and file of the police are natives. All these people are pleasant and accommodating. One day I left an express train to lounge about in that perennially ravishing show, the ebb and flow and whirl of gaudy natives, that is always surging up and down the spacious platform of a great Indian station; and I lost myself in the ecstasy of it, and when I turned, the train was moving swiftly away. I was going to sit down and wait for another train, as I would have done at home; I had no thought of any other course. But a native official, who had a green flag in his hand, saw me, and said politely:

“Don’t you belong in the train, sir?”

“Yes.” I said.

He waved his flag, and the train came back! And he put me aboard with as much ceremony as if I had been the General Superintendent. They are kindly people, the natives”

Please read this (if you have not read Twain’s Indian Train Journeys), because after this one, we can discuss Twain’s 1868 story “Cannibalism in the Cars,”  where he recounted a chilling tale he claimed to have heard from a United States congressman who had once been trapped onboard with 24 colleagues.”