Hannibal, Missouri
August, 2000

While we drive across the country, we often practice our spelling and math, talk about things we see, and often Cheryl reads aloud.  We have a great thirteen volume set of U.S. history books that we're working our way through; (what a great way to learn about the history of our country -- we actually go to the places that we read about).

Cheryl picks out classic stories for entertainment.  She started reading The Adventures of Tom Sawyer back when we left Wyoming.  I had planned to drive from Iowa to Illinois but Cheryl had pointed out that Hannibal Missouri, the author's hometown, was close by.
As we arrived in town, Cheryl was reading the last chapter of Tom Sawyer.

Hannibal is the home of Samuel Clemens.  Better known as Mark Twain, he grew up in this house along the Mississippi River. 

In the story of Tom Sawyer, Mark Twain used many people he knew as characters and places in Hannibal as settings.   As we saw and learned more about Hannibal and Mark Twain, the story seemed more like history rather than fiction. 

Although young Sam Clemens didn't witness a murder in the graveyard like Tom and Huck did in the story, he did have a startling experience as a boy.   He was out playing way past dark one night and rather than coming in late, waking his family and getting in trouble, he thought he'd sleep in his father's office across the street and sneak home early in the morning.  So Sam slipped into the back room and settled onto a cot.

Hannibal didn't have street lights then so the only light was that of the rising moon.  Laying there in the cot, Sam could barely see something piled on the floor.  He was tired and it was dark so he didn't get up to investigate.  However, as the moon continued to rise, the light showed further into the room.  Gradually Sam could see more of the pile of stuff.  For a moment he thought he saw a hand along side a mound of blankets.  His imagination ran wild, (just like Tom's).  He laid there looking at the pile on the floor in his dad's office until the moon rose further.  Then suddenly he realized what he was seeing; the face of a dead man laying on the floor.  He was in a state of total shock and panic.   He laid there for several moments and then sprung to his feet and fled through the window.  As he pulled himself through the window holding onto the sash, he didn't even take time to let go and ran home still holding part of the window.

As it turned out, his dad was the town's local lawyer and judge.  There had been a murder in town that evening and since there was no morgue, his dad had the body stored in the back room of his office until morning when it could go to the undertaker.
Much of the town looks just like it did when he grew up here.  We visited the Mark Twain's boyhood home, his dad's office, the Mark Twain Museum and a preserved druggist's store.

A few parts of town still have cobblestone roads.  Many of the building were built in the mid-1800's.  (We wonder what our insurance agent on the West Coast would say if we called him up and said we wanted insurance on a 150 year old wooden structure). 

A trip to Hannibal would not be complete without a visit to the Mark Twain Cave which happened to be located at the Mark Twain Cave RV Park where we were staying. 

We've been in several caves but this one was very different.  This cave is not filled with stalagmites and stalagmites.  The walls were made mostly of limestone layers and looked a little like gray styrofoam, similar to a 3-D styrofoam puzzle.

Passages go in many directions and often link together.  It's easy to see why the local kids enjoyed playing in the cave.  It was also about 50 degrees which felt much better than the sweltering 90 degrees and 98% humidity outside.  Several of the features of this cave are exactly as described in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.

Mitch walking down a passage
(Click picture for larger view)

Three names from Nov. 28, 1925
(Click picture for larger view)

Max and Mitch looking through a small opening
(Click picture for larger view)
There are thousands of old names and dates on the walls and roof of the cave.  Some are scratched into the rock but most are made from candle soot.  The candles were held to the roof to spell names or an entire area was blackened and then a stick used to scratch through the soot.  There is even a signature by Jesse James.  He made it when he used the cave for a hide out.

Gore/Lieberman Mississippi Campaign Tour
August, 2000
We sure hadn't planned on attending a political rally, but we seemed to be in the right place at the right time.  (It's not every day that you get to meet the next First Family). 
This is a picture of a young girl named Cathy that was determined to have a conversation with Vice President Gore.  She came up as Al was approaching and reached a hand through the crowd to grab the front railing.  Then, (in a polite but very political manner), pushed one shoulder to the rail.  Then, with a brief pause and a clever twist, she was up front and eye to eye with Al Gore. 
Cathy had a longer conversation with him than anyone else we saw, (and Al had some interesting facial expressions as they talked).  Afterwards, her dad asked her what they discussed and she wouldn't tell him.  I think someday we'll see "Vote for Cathy" banners.

The legendary "Lover's Leap" looking down on Hannibal and the beautiful Mississippi River.
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