Drug Court, Nineteenth-Century Style

I recently starting reading Huckleberry Finn with my daughter.  I read it last as a high school junior, but I’m finding the humor every bit as pungent and timeless as I remembered it.  Here’s a wonderful passage from Chapter 5 that made me think of drug courts:

I borrowed three dollars from Judge Thatcher, and pap took it and got drunk, and went a-blowing around and cussing and whooping and carrying on; and he kept it up all over town, with a tin pan, till most midnight; then they jailed him, and next day they had him before court, and jailed him again for a week. . . .

When he got out the new judge said he was a-going to make a man of him. So he took him to his own house, and dressed him up clean and nice, and had him to breakfast and dinner and supper with the family, and was just old pie to him, so to speak. And after supper he talked to him about temperance and such things till the old man cried, and said he’d been a fool, and fooled away his life; but now he was a-going to turn over a new leaf and be a man nobody wouldn’t be ashamed of, and he hoped the judge would help him and not look down on him. The judge said he could hug him for them words; so he cried, and his wife she cried again; pap said he’d been a man that had always been misunderstood before, and the judge said he believed it. The old man said that what a man wanted that was down was sympathy, and the judge said it was so; so they cried again. And when it was bedtime the old man rose up and held out his hand, and says:

“Look at it, gentlemen and ladies all; take a-hold of it; shake it. There’s a hand that was the hand of a hog; but it ain’t so no more; it’s the hand of a man that’s started in on a new life, and’ll die before he’ll go back. You mark them words — don’t forget I said them. It’s a clean hand now; shake it — don’t be afeard.”

So they shook it, one after the other, all around, and cried. The judge’s wife she kissed it. Then the old man he signed a pledge — made his mark. The judge said it was the holiest time on record, or something like that. Then they tucked the old man into a beautiful room, which was the spare room, and in the night some time he got powerful thirsty and clumb out on to the porch-roof and slid down a stanchion and traded his new coat for a jug of forty-rod, and clumb back again and had a good old time; and towards daylight he crawled out again, drunk as a fiddler, and rolled off the porch and broke his left arm in two places, and was most froze to death when somebody found him after sun-up. And when they come to look at that spare room they had to take soundings before they could navigate it.

The judge he felt kind of sore. He said he reckoned a body could reform the old man with a shotgun, maybe, but he didn’t know no other way.

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One Response to “Drug Court, Nineteenth-Century Style”

  1. [...] daughter and I continue to enjoy reading Huck Finn. We’ve just gotten through the part in which Jim is imprisoned by Tom’s uncle [...]