National Geographic : 1956 Jul
140 National Geographic Photographer Willard R. Culver With the Mile-wide Mississippi as a Back Yard, Growing Up Is Fun in Hannibal Fresh-caught catfish will soon sizzle over a campfire for the midday banquet on Jackson's Island. with a rod and reel was barely three, but everybody's hopes were high-as high as those of Huck Finn who, fishing off Jackson's Island with a skinned rabbit for bait, caught a catfish as big as a man. It was six-foot-two and weighed 200 pounds-"as big a fish as was ever catched in the Mississippi, I reckon." Today's fish are a little smaller than that, though the yarns have not noticeably shrunk. A fair-sized catfish caught off Jackson's Is land by anybody but Huck Finn weighs 30 pounds and is three-feet-four-as big as a boy. The world's record blue cat taken by rod and reel weighed 94 pounds, 8 ounces. But a fish that can growl, hum, or mew and travel across damp ground-as scientists say some species of catfish can do-lends itself to such tales as Mark Twain's, tales that lin ger still in the town he knew. For, almost more than any other, Hannibal is suited to "the contemplative man's recre ation," and its anglers still sound like the boy who 70 years ago meandered through the pages of Huckleberry Finn. "We catched fish and talked, and we took a swim now and then to keep off sleepiness. It was kind of solemn, drifting down the big, still river, laying on our backs looking up at the stars, and we didn't ever feel like talking loud, and it warn't often that we laughed..." Town Still a Paradise for Boys On any fair day in this Izaak Walton town worms wiggle on hooks that hang in creeks, in branches, and in the big, still river itself. And the talk that is heard isn't loud. In every country where Mark Twain is read -a circle of books that stretches around the globe-Hannibal is known in its dress of fic tion under the many names its author gave it. Yet it was just a village on the Mississippi like many others until Mark Twain made it known as a paradise for boys. Today it is that still.