Ooooops, Steve. You're opening a can of worms and I'm sure I will regret
even this short reply. I remember being in Elmira four years ago and
someone was telling me how it really was possible for a slave to take Jim's
proposed route... I argued uselessly for a few minutes then gave up. The
fellow wasn't really interested in history, he was in love with Twain. You
are absolutely right. Of course the idea is ridiculous. People from Northern
Missouri skedaddled straight to Iowa or into Illinois and kept right on
going. The route in HF would have been suicide.
But wasn't the river an absolutely lovely plot device? I've just come
in from taking Moriko Takashima and her husband by pontoon boat from
Hannibal to Louisiana, Missouri and back again. (They've been touring the
country since Elmira, which I unfortunately missed.) I wish you had seen the
sunset on the Mississippi with us and watched the stars come out from the
blackness of the river between Hannibal and Louisiana. The river is still
terribly powerful -- and just think what it must have been like 145 years
ago before the Corps of Engineers began ditchifying it!
MT was certainly no chronicler of the URR. But then HF is a work of
fiction. Your point certainly isn't the only Historical problem with HF.
How many slaves do you think ran away with little white boys? We boring
historians chronicle life as it is and was. Great artists like Twain give
us life as it could be and make us think. Don't let this point hang you up.