National Geographic : 1956 Jul
Tom Sawyer's Town BY JERRY ALLEN M ARK TWAIN remembered it some seventy years ago as a "white town drowsing in the sunshine of a summer's morn ing." Last year Hannibal, Missouri, tucked away in the heart of the country, attracted more American travelers than Hawaii, a fourth as many as Europe. The high roads and the back roads brought 127,000 visitors. The white town that draws like a magnet lies off the beaten track. Scheduled airplanes do not land there, most boats pass it by, and few trains stop. A 1,000-mile trip by plane and train lay behind me when the conductor tapped my shoulder. "This is Hannibal." Lazily the train crept to a station near the center of town, easing to a halt. Three other passengers got off-a brisk salesman with new valises, a woman returning with St. Louis purchases, and a limping farmer with an injured spine. "Hi, Jeff! Your back any better?" "No, it ain't. Doctors can't seem to find out what's the trouble." Town's Leisurely Way of Life Reflects the Placid Mississippi The man called Jeff talked at length with an unhurried freight handler, detailing his hospital experience. The train stayed on, resting, while conductors and passengers stretched their legs. Supper-bound townsmen passed on Main Street and glanced with cas ual interest at the train that had settled on the tracks with the unconcern of a country dog. On the Mississippi a few feet away a down river towboat blinked its headlights in cheery salute as it headed toward New Orleans. The broad river shone in the spring moonlight, a still, unrippled highway, heavy with fresh rains. Smells of supper came from open kitchen windows, tantalizing smells, and the town in The Author Jerry Allen is the author of the biography, The Adventures of Mark Twain, published by Little, Brown & Company in 1954. In the course of her research for the book, she visited many of the places where Mark Twain lived. 121 Miss Allen, for several years a foreign correspond ent in London and Paris, holds degrees from the ... Fabled Playground of Their Youth University of Wisconsin and Columbia University.