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Mark Twain Postcard

Anne Bach and Jonathan Young explore Hannibal, Missouri
and live to tell the story

Anne Bach at the Wheel

In this account, your faithful narrator and the fair Anne fearlessly reconnoiter the wilds of the Midwest. We were smart enough to get there before the bad weather. Our presentations for the St. Louis Friends of Jung stirred up some lively discussion. The meetings took place in a beautiful chapel at Washington University.

Prowling around town, we visited the homes and haunts of local creative spirits like Scott Joplin, T.S. Eliot, and William Burroughs. The high point is the The Glass Menagerie apartment. It's nicer than the grim flat in the play. Tennessee Williams took some poetic license to enhance the drama. We took a picture of the fire escape out back that figured in the story. Later, we paid our respects at the local cemetery. His pink granite headstone reads, "The violets in the mountains have broken the rocks."

Tennesse Williams Poet

Heading up the Mississippi, we arrived at the jewel of the trip, Mark Twain's fabled childhood home in Hannibal, Missouri. I have long wanted to see where Tom Sawyer's adventures unfolded. The Clemens house, along with those of neighbors who inspired Huck Finn and Becky Thatcher are all preserved. Two museums thoroughly document the great writer's life. A private tour of the cave Tom and Becky got lost in was a fine adventure, as was visiting the whitewashed fence. Hannibal is still a small town on a very large river.

Had to explore the new Lincoln Center in Springfield, Illinois. What struck me was the smallness of the cabin where young Abe read by the light of the fire. He was maybe a foot away from sleeping family members as he pursued his studies.

Jonathan Young at the whitewashed fence from Huckleberry Finn, Hannibal, Missouri

We pressed on to Chicago to make a joint presentation at a conference. Anne has been involved with the National Association for Poetry Therapy for decades. As always, it was a gathering of true seekers and inspired artists. The annual event is something of a homecoming for us. It is good to have a tribe.

Saved a few days to look around and enjoy the wind. We made sure to see the homes of Carl Sandburg and Frank Lloyd Wright. The best was Hemingway's birth home museum in Oak Park. On previous expeditions, we toured his homes in Key West and Cuba, so this made it a trifecta.

On our last day, we headed out to Wheaton College to see the center honoring their most famous alumnus, Billy Graham. My father played a key role in the early campaigns that brought Graham to fame. It was moving to watch films of those events. The exhibits included photos of places where I had conversations with the great preacher. Those chats had a big influence on me. Checking out the museum was a last minute idea, but I was surprised at how poignant it was to revisit my evangelical roots.

Jonathan Young and Anne Bach, Abe Lincoln's Cabin

In hindsight, the whole trip was a celebration of personal exemplars. We are shaped by the stories we read and hear in childhood. Mostly, my heroes have been great storytellers. Returning to home on the left coast, we miss the lightening displays and billowing clouds, but the weather is gentle in Santa Barbara, and the cats are happy to see us.