Celebrating my Mother’s 91st birthday today, I thought of my Father who died at only 69-years old. He was a writer just like my Mother, except she could spell. Through the years he made his living in various ways, but his passion was traveling, photographing his travels, and writing about his travels afterwards. His first self-published book was a travel log of the Upper Mississippi. His next book on the Lower Mississippi he printed twice, the second time my Mother proofread it. I loved traveling with him down the Mississippi, from its source in Minnesota to New Orleans. In Hannibal, Missouri, my Father took pictures of me dressed as Tom Sawyer for his book.
I loved running around Mark Twain’s hometown, imagining myself as Huck Finn with a corncob pipe, or Tom Sawyer with a bamboo fishing pole, while my Father took my picture. We rented a boat to take us out to the famous Jackson’s Island, where Huck and Tom played pirates. I insisted that he leave me alone on the island for a full hour, so I could run free without adult supervision, just like in the story. As soon as my Father left with the boat, I instantly realized two things. First, the island was infested with a multitude of bloodthirsty mosquitoes in biblical proportions, and second there was no way off, and no place to hide. If Eternal Heaven can be experienced in a transcendent moment, I experienced Eternal Hell in that hour on Jackson’s Island.
In 1969 I grew my hair long like a hippie. My Father loudly mourned the loss of me as his ideal model for his book. I guess Huck Finn didn’t have long hair in his imagination.