Good 'Ol Adventure Is Calling!
August 10, 2014
Recent family responsibilities have led me to spend a lot of time on the eastern side of Missouri, mostly in the Hannibal area. Many Midwesterners are aware that Samuel Clemens, or Mark Twain as he is commonly known, grew up in Hannibal (he was actually born in Florida, Missouri). If you get a chance to visit Hannibal, you will see how they capitalize on one of their favorite sons and his literary creations… with the Mark Twain Dinette, Pudd’nhead’s Antiques, Becky Thatcher’s Antiques, and even the oh-so-politically-incorrect Injun Joe’s Campground.
As I visited the tourist shops and browsed the museums, I was giddy. I love these kinds of things. I realize a lot of it is a bit silly, but I enjoy buying things I can’t get elsewhere, like artwork or antiques. I also love the jams, preserves, and apple butters you can buy from the little shops.
What I love most though is walking up to the edge of the Mississippi River. It is much wider than the Missouri River and seems to have a lot more activity on it. There are even islands in the river covered with tall trees. Who knows what or who might be living on those islands? I like to try and imagine the riverfront when there were no people there and no buildings. What it must have been like to establish a port there and try to open a business. I wish I could have seen it during Clemens’ time.
I’m a grown man, but I will admit that a childlike part of me comes out at those moments. I actually pretend I’m living back in the days of brick lined streets and that I can hear the clop-clop of horse hooves on the stones. I like to imagine I’m dressed in the clothes the men wore and that I have a hat to tip to every lady I see walk by. My mind wanders to the adventures I could have boarding a steam powered paddle boat to head on down the river as a thunderstorm rolls in and I have only my wits and companions to keep me alive. Oh the discoveries I could make! I love the novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and having learned some things from that book, I’d definitely stay away from any shady characters claiming to be French royalty.
Of course, I realize that none of it is true. There are also a lot of things not so good about the “good ol’ days,” but sometimes my heart aches knowing I will never experience that kind of life. There is a sadness in knowing that almost every inch of America has been traveled before me, that I will never make a great discovery. There is also the almost frightening fact that with GPS devices, infrared sensors, satellites with cameras and electronic ways to monitor automobiles, spending habits, and cell phone signals, it is virtually impossible to seek out adventure on my own without someone finding me.
Most industries have left Hannibal… the city is in a very depressed state these days, I’m sorry to say. Many of the old buildings still have signs painted on them from the turn of the 19th century, but they are crumbling. There is currently an effort to renovate many of the old historic homes and buildings, and I hope the effort is successful. I saw many of these buildings, and they are beautiful.
Oh to have seen Hannibal, or St. Joseph, or even my beloved Kansas City in the days when river travel was king.
As it is, I will take solace in the fact that there are so many books about life back then and many Internet resources where I can find recollections and drawings, paintings, and photos.
Enjoy your travels this summer, by plane, car, train, or even boat. Just make sure you stay away from shady characters claiming to be French royalty. For a little something off the beaten path, try Weird Missouri (note the statue on the cover...just south of Hannibal on 61 highway!)