Life on the Mississippi quite different as 30-year impressionist

The author’s son’s name is memorialized in brick at the Mark Twain Museum in Hannibal, Mo.

The river life is a good life. Mississippi River life is as good as it gets, and when you’re pretending to be Mark Twain, it gets even better, as you become the one and only unfettered monarch in America, no matter what anybody else says. And fun? As Huckleberry might like to say, “I reckon not.”

Though I have to caution you, should you ever embark upon this endeavor yourself, be aware that when you step outside your stateroom door aboard the Queen of the Mississippi, you will be buttonholed with a salvo of questions and comments. As an example, “I was outside the weightroom this morning and overheard your conversation. What exactly did you mean when you said, ‘I hope we don’t run aground on a bed of alligators?’”

Nobody ever received a nicer surprise than I did when we arrived in Hannibal yesterday, not even Mark Twain himself upon his triumphant return to Hannibal in 1902.

You see, 30 years ago, when I was just getting started as an impressionist of Mark Twain, and my son, Mac, was just getting started as McAvoy Layne III, I read in a Twain journal that Hannibal was about to build a Mark Twain Museum. They went on to say that if you were to send that project a little money they would put your name on a brick in front of the museum. Well, I did send them 50 cents but never heard back, so I was a little reluctant to even look when I arrived there yesterday. Though I did glance around, and, lo and behold, there was “McAVOY LAYNE III” in all his glory. Wow. Most of the other bricks were “in memory of,” but Mac’s was engraved in celebration of his recent arrival, and his dad’s hopes that he might like Mark Twain, too.

So I sent Mac a photograph of the brick with his name on it, and he wrote back, “What?!!! That’s amazing!!!”

When I walked into the gift shop of the Mark Twain Museum, the nice lady there greeted me with, “You need a pair of socks with your face on them.” Well, what’s a man supposed to say to that? I am now the proud owner of a pair of socks with Mark Twain’s face on them, which I shall gift to the president emeritus of our historical society when (if) I return to the Lake of the Sky.

There is one drawback to my idle butterfly life out here on the Mississippi: I do have to work every day. Yes, I have to hold forth in the Magnolia Lounge, and tell Twain stories from 4:45-5:30 when happy hour begins. Forty-five minutes of work a day never killed anybody yet, so I don’t guess it’s going to kill me.

Little did I realize when the Tahoe Queen sternwheeler burned up a few years ago, that I would have the privilege and honor of getting to know yet another queen, the Queen of the Mississippi. Yes, the river life is a good life.

McAvoy Layne is a 30-year impressionist of Mark Twain who can be reached at


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