He has red hair, goes barefoot and wants to float away from his troubles.
Huckleberry Finn, drawn from the memory and imagination of Mark Twain, is my all-time favorite literary character. The first time I read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was in third grade. Much of the symbolism was lost on me, but the story captivated. Growing up playing on Mozingo Creek that ran through our family farm, I could just imagine hopping on a raft and floating away without a care in the world. I even fashioned a Halloween costume that year as Huck. (I was a bit of nerd, yes.)
The second time I read the book was in high school, where any symbolism I may have missed the first time was analyzed in meticulous detail. The third time through was in a book club with co-workers. While they debated the themes of racism, cultural pressure and political motives, I peered out at the Missouri River and wondered if it would be possible to construct a seaworthy raft of logs.
Last summer, a friend and I decided we would float away from the stress of life and headed east on Highway 36 to Hannibal, Mo. We got to see the house where Mark Twain grew up and the nearby home of the real-life boy who inspired Huck Finn.
Near the end of our day in Hannibal, we sat down to the riverfront and gazed across the Mississippi River to Illinois. A massive barge chugged upstream and behind us, a train rolled by, its whistle echoing off the bluffs. It was 2011, but the river seemed to flow with a timeless current where a steamboat captain sounded the whistle, barefoot boys ran through a cave and Mrs. Clemons called young Sam home for supper.