“Hannibal, Missouri, where my boyhood was spent…” (Garrison Keillor, Jimmy Buffett, Clint East
NARRATOR: When Sam was almost four years old, his folks, who just couldn’t make a go of it in Florida, Missouri, moved the family a short distance to a village nestled on the west bank of the Mississippi River - Hannibal, Missouri.
HUCK: “Well, when Tom and me got to the edge of the hill-top we looked away down into the village and could see three or four lights twinkling, where there was sick folks, maybe; and the stars over us was sparkling ever so fine; and down by the village was the river, a whole mile broad, and awful still and grand. We went down the hill and found Jo Harper and Ben Rogers, and two or three more of the boys, hid in the old tanyard. So we unhitched a skiff and pulled down the river two mile and a half, to the big scar on the hillside, and went ashore.”
NARRATOR: His father was the Justice of the Peace and attempted several business endeavors, yet the family continued to experience financial hardship. This didn’t seem to hamper young Sam, who found mischief and excitement in his surroundings… the cave, the steamboats, the wide, muddy river, uninhabited islands, the woods on Holliday’s Hill. Hannibal offered plenty of playground for its children, rich or poor, and would later become the setting for Sam’s most beloved books.
TWAIN: “In the small town of Hannibal, Missouri, when I was a boy everybody was poor but didn’t know it; and everybody was comfortable and did know it…” (Autobiography)
HUCK: “Well, the woman fell to talking about how hard times was, and how poor they had to live, and how the rats was as free as if they owned the place, and so forth and so on… She was right about the rats…”
TWAIN: “Once a day a cheap, gaudy packet arrived upward from St. Louis, and another downward from Keokuk. Before these events, the day was glorious with expectancy; after them, the day was a dead and empty thing. Not only the boys, but the whole village, felt this. After all these years I can picture that old time to myself now, just as it was then: the white town drowsing in the sunshine of a summer's morning; the streets empty, or pretty nearly so; one or two clerks sitting in front of the Water Street stores, with their splint-bottomed chairs tilted back against the wall, chins on breasts, hats slouched over their faces, asleep -- with shingle-shavings enough around to show what broke them down; a sow and a litter of pigs loafing along the sidewalk, doing a good business in watermelon rinds and seeds; two or three lonely little freight piles scattered about the 'levee;' a pile of 'skids' on the slope of the stone-paved wharf, and the fragrant town drunkard asleep in the shadow of them; two or three wood flats at the head of the wharf, but nobody to listen to the peaceful lapping of the wavelets against them; the great Mississippi, the majestic, the magnificent Mississippi, rolling its mile-wide tide along, shining in the sun…” (Autobiography)
HUCK: “We had mountains on the Missouri shore and heavy timber on the Illinois side, and the channel was down the Missouri shore at that place, so we warn't afraid of anybody running across us. We laid there all day, and watched the rafts and steamboats spin down the Missouri shore, and up-bound steamboats fight the big river in the middle.”
NARRATOR: Sam cherished the summers he spent back at his Uncle John’s farm in Florida, Missouri, where he looked up to Uncle Dan’l – an affectionate friend and ally, and one of Uncle John’s slaves. Uncle Dan’l would later provide the inspiration and model for the character, Jim, the runaway slave and friend of Huckleberry Finn.
HUCK: “Sometimes we'd have that whole river all to ourselves for the longest time. Yonder was the banks and the islands, across the water; and maybe a spark -- which was a candle in a cabin window; and sometimes on the water you could see a spark or two -- on a raft or a scow, you know; and maybe you could hear a fiddle or a song coming over from