TWAINSPIRATION

“There was never yet an uninteresting life. Such a thing is an impossibility. Inside of the dullest exterior there is a drama, a comedy, and a tragedy.” — Mark Twain

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Moore’s story within a story intrigued the staff of the Mark Twain Boyhood Home & Museum. “We see him as a modern day Huck Finn – camping on islands, paddling down the river, making friends along the way,” said executive director Dr. Cindy Lovell. “Neal represents ‘everyman’ to us, and we’ve asked him to help tell our story.”

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MAY 23, 2010

Review Americana: The Getting There

By EMILY HAYES AND DANNY WILSON (Review Americana. Spring 2010. Volume 5, Issue 1)

A late February morning, and we are already neck-deep in Illinois, gray air and sky, in the middle of winter and the rest of our lives. Our destination is Hannibal, Missouri, a weekend writer’s workshop, but today is just as much about the journey, just as much about the sharp path that curves away from home. Today is just as much about back roads and by-ways, names we already know – Sangamon County, Petersburg, Atterbury – the bridge that carries us over the Mississippi River, the moment where prairie grass breaks into snow drifts on Cardiff Hill. Early in a new century, our tires kick up cinder and salt, and we turn an interstate trip into a seven-hour trek through our corner of a familiar and fading America.

All day long, we hear echoes from Edgar Lee Masters as we move through Spoon River country, among gravestones and winter wheat fields. We bump into Vachel Lindsay’s ghost on the outskirts of Springfield; he offers rhymes to be traded for bread. We are no strangers to Sandburg’s Illinois. Mark Twain whispers over the cracking of the frozen Mississippi, and the low hum of Thorton Wilder’s Our Townroots us to these places, ties us to land and water, houses and silos and barns.

That night, the play is palpable. We walk through local art galleries, we meet friends for dinner. Drunk on wine and moon, we listen as Cindy Lovell and Neal Moore mention a time capsule for the museum. Nearing the 100-year anniversary of Twain’s death, Our Town, Act I flashes over us. We remember Halley’s Comet coming to take Clemens away, and, in an instant, Hannibal is Grover’s Corners, New Hampshire.

Is there any culture or love of beauty in Grover’s Corners?

So – people a thousand years from now – this is the way we were in the provinces north of New York at the beginning of the twentieth century. – This is the way we were: in our growing up and in our marrying and in our living and in our dying.

Instead of newspapers or books or paintings, we seal away memory – an account of the night itself – the beauty of the light that pools under the street lamps on the walkway by the river, the camaraderie of good friends – our lives in the beginning of the twenty-first century.

After hours, we wind back to the museum. The train whistle moans at midnight, the ukulele sings Huck Finn Blues and Mississippi Tonight and someone paraphrases Joseph Campbell. There are some things that are still sacred, some things that are still spiritual. Cindy and Neal read from their manuscript, speak of bliss, and we float on a raft of Wilder’s words, while another snowfall covers Hill Street.

Oh, earth, you’re too wonderful for anybody to realize you.

Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it – every, every minute? … The saints and poets, maybe – they do some.

This tie to people and places is nothing new. We aren’t shocked when a weekend’s symphony of voices deepens our connection to Hannibal. Most days, we feel as though we’re on a road where we’re re-learning something we’ve known all along, something from another lifetime, perhaps. We’re getting there; we keep picking up pieces along the way. We meandered through Masters, Lindsay, and Sandburg to get to Campbell and Twain, to live life through the one-hundred-year-old lens of Wilder, but there is always more, another back road, another by-way, another journey. There is always another adventure, another experience loaded-down, heavy with poetry and art. And on the way home, we always smell our grandparents’ houses; we stare into the rearview mirror, we drive past other versions of ourselves, filled with wanderlust and the stuff of old dreams.

Huck Finn Blues performed by Danny Wilson & Emily Larson Hayes. Original lyrics by Danny Wilson & Emily Larson Hayes. Video by Neal Moore. Shot on location aboard the floating Huck Finn raft at the Mark Twain Boyhood Home & Museum in Hannibal, Missouri.

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APRIL 22, 2010

The Huffington Post: Marking Twain

Special op-ed to the Huffington Post

By Cindy Lovell

Had Samuel Langhorne Clemens, known to the world as Mark Twain, only authored Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, his historical and literary legacy would be secured.

April 21st marks the 100th anniversary of Twain’s death, and the whole world is taking note. In fact, November 30th will mark the 175th anniversary of his birth, making 2010 the “Year of Mark Twain” to devotees. Towns that have little or nothing to do with Twain are honoring his legacy with events, performances, readings, and more.

Why? How did this redheaded boy from Hannibal, Missouri become the most beloved and influential American author both at home and abroad, published in more than sixty languages? His major works continue to outsell those transient titles on the New York Times bestseller lists, and readers young and old make the pilgrimage to the boyhood home in Hannibal each year from all fifty states and sixty or seventy countries to experience the locale where the stories started.

Twain scholar Tom Quirk describes Twain’s laser beam accuracy in assessing human nature; Twain biographer Ron Powers pinpoints Twain’s uncanny ability to have found himself at the front and center of every major historical event of the day. Couple these two elements, infuse with Twain’s unique genius, and Twain was the right time, right place, right word guy. And he still is.

Consider a sampling of cultural literacy bestowed by Twain. Cartoonist Chuck Jones created “Wile E. Coyote” based on Twain’s first encounter with a “cayote” in Roughing It, arguably Twain’s best kept literary secret. The reader’s nostrils fill with the wretched stench of the creature Twain dubbed a “living, breathing allegory of Want.” When queried by a reporter as to the origin of the “New Deal,” FDR acknowledged Twain’s Connecticut Yankee as the source. Even Jimmy Buffett has written three songs based on Twain’s travelogue, Following the Equator, and nods frequently to Twain in his own literary endeavors.

Clemens’ father, John Marshall Clemens, once co-signed a loan for a friend. The friend defaulted, and the elder Clemens paid in full. Forced to rent out their home and board with Dr. Grant across the street, John Clemens died shortly thereafter, and eleven-year-old Sam was forced to leave school and earn his room and board as a printer’s apprentice. All these years later, Americans are still defaulting on loans and losing homes, although social safety nets are keeping more children fed, clothed and in school.

Twain declared that people arrive at their religion and politics “second-hand and without examination,” and proclaimed himself a Mugwump and anti-Imperialist. Those of all political persuasions quote and misquote him and claim him as a spokesman for their opposing views. Although there are no direct descendants of Sam Clemens, one could argue that there are descendants of the persona “Mark Twain,” such as satirists Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. Twain poked us with a sharp stick and made us squirm. He still does. That he makes us laugh in so doing may be his greatest legacy.

The year 2010 is rife with books and films and tributes focused on that redheaded boy. Fans are not merely celebrating, they are marking the year with reverence. The Hannibal museum is calling attention to their preservation efforts to restore and preserve eight important Twain sites, including Dr. Grant’s Drug Store, a building placed on Missouri Preservation’s Most Endangered Buildings list. The birthplace in Florida, Missouri is wondering how to pay for a new roof and reopen the shrine to the public. And the caretakers of the Hartford home are breathing a sigh of relief at having finally turned the financial corner in their efforts to maintain the lavish home Twain built with his wife, Livy, and where the couple raised three daughters.

These buildings are important historical relics. They allow visitors to time travel and whisper to their children, “There’s the window where Tom Sawyer would sneak out to go adventuring with Huck.” They are national treasures. And whether donors step forward to write badly needed checks or state budget committees find a few extra dollars to support not-for-profit preservation efforts, let there be no doubt: Twain’s legacy is secure. Priceless buildings may crumble and disappear, they may burn to the ground or be carried away by a tornado, but Twain’s gifts of nostalgic innocence and childhood, social conscience, and scathing satire both justify and assure his place in American culture for at least the next hundred years.

Still, donations are welcomed.

Cindy Lovell is the executive director of the Mark Twain Boyhood Home & Museum in Hannibal, Missouri and associate professor of education at Quincy University. She holds a B.A. and M.A. from Stetson University and a Ph.D. from the University of Iowa. Lovell has published two children’s novels, “Rachel Mason Hears the Sound” and “Not This Sunday” and is a contributing editor for the Mensa Research Journal. She is presently writing a two-volume encyclopedia titled “All Things Twain” for Greenwood Press and co-writing “Down the Mississippi: A Modern-day Huck on America’s River Road” with CNN citizen journalist Neal Moore.

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MARCH 8, 2010

Barry Hannah on Mark Twain

OXFORD, MISSISSIPPI

Michael Bible and David Swider @ Square Books

 

The first time I stopped through this fine southern town, I had the pleasure to interview Michael Bible and David Swider, co-editors of the literary journal, Kitty Snacks. The duo worked at Square Books and when I’d asked them what they read, they turned me on to Oxford-based writer Barry Hannah, taking me over to the Hannah section of the store, Bible lifting a copy of Airships and placing it directly into my hands. “This is my bible – this is what I live by – this is the greatest writer alive today”.

I bought the book immediately and found there was something magical and grand about reading it on the Square. I’d sneak a read between running around for interviews, often at the Square’s greasy spoon, Ajax, up at the bar, drinking Reb Ale. And the next thing I knew, I’d run into Swider a bit later on that same night and he’d tell me, with a big old grin, “You were reading Airships at Ajax.” Somebody had told him — my secret wasn’t a secret at all. I thought about it and realized you can’t keep something this grand to yourself. People just have to know. That, and the realization and acknowledgement was a compliment. The whole scenario made me feel special – as if I had managed to tap into greatness.

I’d take Airships on down the Mississippi as I simultaneously thought and pondered about Twain, quite busily paddling along the rest of Twain’s river run – on down to New Orleans.

Come my second entry back into Oxford, folks were again talking Hannah in the build up to the University of Mississippi’s Conference on the Book, which was set out to honor the man’s achievements. Hannah would pass away the very week of the conference, and the tribute went ahead, John Grisham, amongst others, coming down to pay homage and to remember.

There’s a big old black ribbon on the front door of Square Books and the town continues to mourn, just as the local paper, the Oxford Eagle, continues to print a special page titled “Barry Hannah: In His Own Words” – a place for folks to write in and to remember.

“Your style should be vivid and memorable,” wrote Hannah to Michael Bible, back when Bible was a student at Ole Miss. “Something from the loins, gut, heart and head that is strong even if it is soft. Tell a story naturally. See if you HAVE a voice that has not been trained out of you by other writers, teachers or even the favored classics of literature. Try being alone and honest very hard. Love your loneliness. Get close to your page. Just START TALKING, as Mark Twain did. He was the first natural voice, he WAS the first truly American writer.”

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DECEMBER 16, 2009

CNN.COM: A Modern-day Huck Finn

ATLANTA, GEORGIA (CNN.COM) –
iReporter Neal Moore left the northern source of the Mississippi River in July and ended his trip in New Orleans in December, traversing the Mighty Mississippi the whole way by canoe. His mission was not only to document his canoe journey but also report on and participate in positive and uplifting stories of American communities along the way. To view the CNN.com expedition interview CLICK HERE.

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SEPTEMBER 25, 2009

Quincy Herald Whig: Sleepover in Twain’s home a moment ‘citizen journalist’ will never forget

By ED HUSAR

QUINCY, ILL. (Quincy Herald Whig)

NEAL MOORE got a lot more than he expected when he landed his canoe in Hannibal, Mo., last weekend.

Moore is a “citizen journalist” paddling the length of the Mississippi River in search of stories about communities doing good things. He shares the tales on his blog (flashriversafari.com) and through periodic dispatches on CNN.

Upon arriving in Hannibal, Moore learned about a campaign to raise $10 million to help preserve eight buildings associated with Mark Twain, whose boyhood years in Hannibal inspired some of the greatest works in American literature, notably “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” and “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.”

As Moore was interviewing Hannibal residents for his story, Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum officials became enamored by this modern-day Huck’s quest for adventure and good news. So they made him an amazing offer.

Moore was invited to spend a night in Twain’s boyhood home on Hill Street. He’d be allowed to sleep in the room where Twain, then known as Samuel Clemens, bedded down from age 3 until he left Hannibal at 17.

Only one other person in the past century has been allowed to sleep in the home. In the late 1960s George Seybolt, CEO of the William Underwood Co., selected Hannibal for a new plant, known today as General Mills. Seybolt also had a lifelong affection for Twain and asked if he could spend a night in the boyhood home.

Approval was given, and Seybolt slept on a cornhusk-filled mattress. “The next morning he left a check in the amount of $500 on the pillow as a thank you to the museum,” said Henry Sweets, curator.

Now Moore was being invited to enjoy a similar sleepover. He jumped at the chance.

According to his blog, Moore was served a meal Monday evening in the home’s dining room, courtesy of the Garth Mansion. Then after bidding goodnight to “what felt like half the town” gathered outside the front door, Moore retreated upstairs to Twain’s bedroom.

Moore spent about an hour reading “Tom Sawyer” while soaking up the atmosphere.

“Reading ‘Tom Sawyer’ in the boyhood bedroom of Sam Clemens was just too great an experience to put into words,” Moore said in an e-mail interview. “I guess the one word that would describe it best would be ‘surreal.’ ”

At around midnight, he crept down the back stairs and wandered over to the nearby former home site of Tom Blankenship, the inspiration for Twain’s Huck Finn character.

“I brought my lantern to make it exciting,” Moore said. “And I was by myself — alone with my thoughts, which I shared via the camera of my laptop computer. For the first time the character of Huck became real for me.”

Later, back in Twain’s bedroom, Moore positioned his sleeping bag in the exact spot where Twain would have laid his head.
“I slept on the floor with the door open. The house was hot and stuffy — in a magical sort of way, bustling with antiquity, with history,” he said. “The sounds I heard were of the insects and birds of the night. The odd passing car. No cats. The trains and tow boats didn’t interfere with my sleep.”

Moore slept from about 1:30 to 6:30 a.m. Then, with his dream experience over, he climbed back into his canoe and started paddling to his next destination, St. Louis.

The adventure of a lifetime was tucked away safely in his heart.

To visit Ed’s story at the Quincy Herald Whig CLICK HERE

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SEPTEMBER 23, 2009

Hannibal Courier Post: ‘Huck’ departs Hannibal

By DANNY HENLEY

HANNIBAL, MO (Hannibal Courier-Post)

via AOL VIDEO (UK) — now on Youtube…

To visit Danny’s written piece from the Hannibal Courier-Post CLICK HERE

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SEPTEMBER 23, 2009

Hannibal Courier-Post: Clemens contribution

By DANNY HENLEY

HANNIBAL, MO (Hannibal Courier-Post)

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SEPTEMBER 23, 2009

Hannibal Courier-Post: Sleeping in Twain’s room

by DANNY HENLEY

HANNIBAL, MO (Hannibal Courier-Post)

via AOL VIDEO (UK) — Now on Youtube…

To visit Danny’s written piece from the Hannibal Courier-Post CLICK HERE

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SEPTEMBER 23, 2009

Twilight with Twain

HANNIBAL, MO

Couldn’t believe and still cannot believe the chance I was given to sleep over in the Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum. Many thanks to the Town of Hannibal — ‘America’s Hometown’ — along with all of the wonderful people I was able to meet. Here’s the full report of my rather magical Twilight with Twain.

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SEPTEMBER 21, 2009

Hannibal Courier-Post: Modern day ‘Huck’ sleeps in Twain’s bedroom

By DANNY HENLEY

HANNIBAL, MO (Hannibal Courier-Post)

Neal CourierThere are countless reasons for not getting a good night’s sleep. In Neal Moore’s case, excitement over where he was allowed to spend Monday night likely kept him from getting much shut eye. Moore, a citizen journalist with CNN, was given the rare opportunity to spend the night in Mark Twain’s Boyhood Home in downtown Hannibal.

“I’ll be shocked if he sleeps one wink. I’d be too excited,” said Dr. Cindy Lovell, executive director of the Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum, noting that Moore was going to bed down in the same room that a young Samuel Clemens had once called his own. “I don’t know if I could fall asleep in that room.”

Asked Monday afternoon if he thought he’d get much sleep, Moore wasn’t making any predictions.

“I’m not sure about that. I might actually try to sneak out and see what sites I can see around town, but we’ll see,” he said with a smile.

Since George Mahan purchased and saved the house from being demolished in 1912, only one other person has been allowed to spend the night in the boyhood home. According to museum curator Henry Sweets, George Seybolt, then-CEO of the William Underwood Company and a Mark Twain fan, slept there on a mattress filled with cornhusks in the late 1960s.

“It’s the dream of every boy and tomboy I guess you could say for the last 100 years. To have the chance to be the second person in 97 years is just a very humbling experience,” said Moore of spending the night in the boyhood home. “It’s the most exciting thing that’s ever happened to me I think by far in my life.”

Allowing Moore, who will be making his way down the Mississippi River via canoe over the next few months, to spend the night in the historic site was not a difficult decision.

“Where are we going to get a modern day Huckleberry Finn like this, doing what he’s doing, taking the citizen journalist approach?” asked Lovell. “You think of how Mark Twain started out as nobody famous. He was a regular reporter like everybody else, so the tie-ins are there with him (Moore) being a reporter and with him being on the river. It just felt right. He (Moore) is a really nice guy, really sincere and looking for positive which is so unusual in today’s world.”
One of the positive stories that Moore has been following during his brief stay in Hannibal is the museum’s “10 by 10” endowment fund-raiser campaign, which has as its goal raising $10 million by the end of 2010. To achieve that goal, one million Twain fans around the world are being asked to donate $10 each.

“He’s out there telling our story,” said Lovell. “It just kind of went together with what we’re trying to do involving grassroots people. He’s definitely a grassroots kind of person.”

The museum will officially launch the “10 by 10” campaign on Saturday, Oct. 10, when all $10 donors are invited to sign their name on the famous whitewashed fence. Moore will make a $10 donation and be among the first to sign the fence, according to Lovell.

Photo by Danny Henley. Go to the Hannibal Courier Post HERE

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SEPTEMBER 21, 2009

PRESS RELEASE: Modern Day “Huck” to Sleep in Mark Twain’s Boyhood Home Tonight!

Release: FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 

Date: September 21, 2009

Time: 7:00 pm

Location: Mark Twain Boyhood Home, 208 Hill St., Hannibal, MO 

Contact: Mark Twain Boyhood Home & Museum 

Ryan J. Murray, Marketing and Community Relations Manager 

120 North Main St. 

Hannibal, MO 63401 

Email: ryan.murray@marktwainmuseum.org 

Phone: (573) 221-9010, ext. 404; Cell: 573-228-1222 

Fax: (573) 221-5109 

Modern Day “Huck” to Sleep in Mark Twain’s Boyhood Home Tonight

Mark Twain died in 1910. His boyhood home was to be demolished in 1911. Benefactor George Mahan purchased and saved the house in 1912. And only one person has slept inside the home since that time. Until now.

Citizen journalist Neal Moore is traversing the Mississippi River by canoe searching for stories of communities that are coming together for a greater good. He recently came ashore in Sam Clemens’s Hannibal, also known as “America’s Hometown” where he learned of several community endeavors that were exactly what he was searching for. And tonight, his last in Hannibal, will be spent in Mark Twain’s Boyhood Home sleeping in the very room where young Sam Clemens famously slept.

“The only other person to sleep in the Boyhood Home was George Seybolt,” said curator Henry Sweets. In the late 1960s Seybolt was the CEO for the William Underwood Company and selected Hannibal as the location for a new plant, which we know today as General Mills. “Seybolt had a lifelong fondness for Mark Twain,” Sweets explained. “He inquired if it would be possible to spend a night sleeping in the Mark Twain Boyhood Home. The arrangements were made, and Seybolt slept on a mattress filled with cornhusks. The next morning he left a check in the amount of $500 on the pillow as a thank you to the Museum.”

Moore’s story within a story intrigued the staff of the museum properties. They invited him to spend a night in the home. “We see him as a modern day Huck Finn – camping on islands, paddling down the river, making friends along the way,” said executive director Dr. Cindy Lovell. “Neal represents ‘everyman’ to us, and we’ve asked him to help tell our story to the millions of Twain fans around the world.”

That story is an unusual endowment fundraiser, the “10 by 10” campaign to raise ten million dollars by the end of 2010. The Museum is seeking one million Twain fans from around the world to donate just $10 each. Lovell explained that in the present economic downturn, large donations are unlikely, so this grass roots fundraiser for readers of Twain was created. “Donors will be invited to sign their names on the famous whitewashed fence – sort of a symbolic whitewashing,” she said.

“Sam Clemens began his career as something of a citizen journalist contributing pieces when and where he could,” Lovell said. “Neal’s adventure resonated with us. Like Twain, he is a reporter. Like Huck, he is an adventurer. He symbolizes the spirit we are trying to preserve.” Moore will be the first person to sign the famous fence, representing readers from around the world that continue to make Twain one of the most revered writers of all time.

The year 2010 marks the 100th anniversary of Twain’s death, so the Museum is using the date to sound the alarm to Twain’s fans worldwide. “The Museum must establish this endowment to ensure operations and the preservation of the eight buildings that tell the story of Twain’s boyhood,” said Lovell. “We want to be sure these properties are around for future ‘Toms’ and ‘Hucks’ who come exploring.” Museum properties include the Becky Thatcher House and the Huck Finn House.

The Museum will officially launch the “10 by 10” on Saturday, October 10th, when all $10 donors are invited to sign their name on the famous whitewashed fence. Online donors can designate a proxy to sign for them. “We’re getting a headstart on 2010 through Neal’s visit,” Lovell explained. “And yes, he’ll be donating ten dollars.”

Further information is available at http://marktwainmuseum.org.

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SEPTEMBER 21, 2009

The Renaissance of America’s Hometown

HANNIBAL, MISSOURI

Like unto Samuel Clemen’s legendary protagonist, Tom Sawyer, Alex Addison, the present-day, barefoot ambassador of Hannibal, is all business. “I see [riding the economic downturn] not as a challenge but as a goal – it’s starting to click, [things locally are] going to be really good,” explained Alex, age 13, holding his own in a round-table interview with Mayor Roy Hark, Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Terry Sampson, and City Planner Jeff LaGarce.

Taking a day out of his busy schedule as Hannibal’s official “Tom”, Alex took me for a tour of ‘America’s Hometown’ with the polished grace of a professional politician. Together, we visited everybody from the local, modern-day judge, to the minister, to of course, the city’s old-school mayor.

As we talked about the building blocks of America – of what made America great – I learned that Twain’s literature, along with a now bustling Main Street, is making all the difference, at least locally here in ‘America’s Hometown’. There is a buzz in the air along Main Street, as shopkeepers brave the financial crisis in hopes of a year that for many is landing solidly in the black.

The trick, as far as I could see, was a love and rallying cry from business owners and citizens alike to preserve the downtown district. “Preservation doesn’t cost – it pays,” exhorted local resident and former PBS television personality, Bob Yapp.

After traveling the world as a foremost expert on home restoration, with his own show on both PBS and NPR, Mr. Yapp decided to settle for good here in Hannibal, describing himself as one of “Hannibal’s expats” who “are coming to Hannibal [with a love of Hannibal’s] architecture.”

But it isn’t just Mr. Yapp’s generation of eclectic friends, ranging from potter Steve Ayers to the next-door Bed and Breakfast innkeepers of the Dubach Inn, that are excited about restoring America’s architectural past. Yapp is busy mentoring and teaching at-risk youth from the local high school, many of which enjoy their time “on site” so much they plan to take up the trade. “I actually want to do exactly what Bob is doing,” explained one Hannibal High School student, going on to exhort, “when you’re here you actually get to do stuff and work on stuff that you actually want to do.”

Which could describe the new Mark Twain Boyhood & Museum Executive Director Cindy Lovell’s take on Hannibal to a tee, self-describing her time in this town as “being intoxicated with the history [of Twain] ever since stepping foot into Hannibal.” Dr. Lovell’s eyes glance around her as she walks these streets – observing the very homes and hills and river and buildings that directly inspired Hannibal’s favorite son – Mark Twain – with an all-knowing smile that one can’t help but find contagious. “I think Hannibal’s history is so linked to the past,” continued Dr. Lovell, “in the preservation of the past, the lessons we learn from the past. And we have to be vigilant.”

From the city officials I was most fortunate to meet, to the next generation of high school artisans, I believe that Hannibal, and through her example, America’s hometowns around the country, will continue to experience a re-birth of sorts as revitalization begins to hold sway. “Across the nation, small communities are reinventing themselves,” continued Mr. Yapp. “And they’re having a renaissance in the sense that… things change.”

Continuing that walk, Dr. Lovell looked up, gesturing to the top of Main Street. “Tom always has his eye on the future,” explained Dr. Lovell. “That’s why when you look at the statue of Tom and Huck, lording over Main Street from the base of Cardiff Hill, you will see Tom stepping into the future.”

“Not only do we have a good past,” explained young Alex Addison, “but I think it would be better to have a good past and a great future than a great past and an okay future.” A future that judging from the next generation of Hannibal, is most certainly going to be bright.

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SEPTEMBER 19, 2009

Hannibal Courier-Post: CNN Reporter: Hannibal is most certainly America’s Hometown

By DANNY HENLEY

HANNIBAL, MO (Hannibal Courier-Post)

NealHannibalIt is not uncommon for visitors to Hannibal to leave with tales to share. Neal Moore will be no different, only his stories may reach an international audience.

Moore, who describes himself as an unpaid “citizen journalist” for the Cable News Network (CNN), is wrapping up a brief visit after arriving via canoe earlier this week. Moore’s stop in Hannibal is part of a five-month trek down the Mississippi River, which he anticipates will end in early December when he reaches New Orleans. Moore admits that Hannibal is a destination he’s been looking forward to reaching for years.

“I’ve read about and dreamed about the Mississippi River, and of course Hannibal, Mo., my entire life,” he said.

Wherever Moore paddles ashore it’s with the objective of finding “straight, positive, American” stories.

“With these stories coming down the river, really the backdrop is the economy. But instead of going straight for that I’m highlighting different ways that communities are rallying together. Whether they’re rallying around fighting cancer or a living legacy of somebody like Mark Twain or like Charles Lindbergh in Little Falls, Minn., folks rally around a cause in these trying times. You find people stand up and help each other out and it’s inspiring, not only for the town itself, but for everyone who can actually see that story.”

In Hannibal, Moore has had no trouble coming up with stories to tell.

“There’s too many stories here. It’s the kind of town you could spend a lifetime in and you would never run out of stories. It’s obvious, you take one look at the town and citizenry and you can see these are real people. They have ups, they have downs and it’s very positive right now,” he said.

Moore’s impressions of Hannibal are varied.

“It’s a very eclectic community, rough and tumble. I’ve heard that expression a few times. You have to be rough and tumble in a port city like this going back to Sam Clemens’ time,” he said. “You have that aspect. You also have the artists and sort of the melting pot right here downtown with the reconstruction of downtown Hannibal with the excitement in the air, folks coming together and putting their best foot forward.”

Although a world traveler, Moore confesses that he was anxious to begin his trip down the middle of America.

“The biggest surprise is just really how wonderful a trip like this is,” he said. “I’ve been around the world several times, but really I’m more excited about this trip … this adventure than I have been about anything in my life. Part of it is the nature. Part of it is these small towns, these big cities and the challenge of the story as well and to chase these stories and find new stories, and really highlight America for myself and my own life, but also for an American audience and potential international audience via CNN.”

As much as Moore looked forward to the trip, he acknowledges it also represents a personal challenge.

“The whole idea for my trip is to take myself out of my comfort zone. By doing that you open yourself up to incredible things – good, bad, ugly and the positive as well, and that’s when you grow and you learn,” he said. “To actually come down for the very first time and touch it in this way via canoe, it’s a perfect mode of transport. It’s America at her finest and this town is most certainly America’s Hometown.”

Photo by Danny Henley. Visit the Hannibal Courier-Post HERE.

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MAY 15, 2009

Mission Statement:

I’ve been fascinated by the Mighty Mississip meets the idea of Middle America personified for quite some time. Just the idea that one can attempt to get to the heart of the story, to the heart of who we are: our triumphs and tribulations – a celebration of our freedom – in one setting, is as Huck Finn might say, mighty powerful. We’re knocking on the door of the Great Recession and yet this is the time when our country rises to the occasion, when we as the American people help each other out, when we stand strong. I want to try to capture this. I want to attempt to underscore the word “freedom” by canoeing down the entire length of the Mississippi River. Not necessarily as a catalysis for change but as an observer, as a mirror to what we’re doing right. I’m a fan of adventure, of Mark Twain, of Hemingway, of Dan Eldon, and of Eddy L. Harris. I’m a fan of America.

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