"It is curious that physical courage should be so common in the world, and moral courage so rare."

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

College Buddies Re-Enact Huck and Jim's Mississippi Trek

Two intrepid students from the University of Northern Colorado have followed in the "footsteps" of the main characters in Mark Twain's most beloved novel, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

According to a story in the Colorado Springs Gazette, 20-year-old Nathan Oligmueller came up with the idea after falling in love with Twain and his book in high school. He convinced his friend and fellow Twain fan Dave Brandsma to help him build an elaborate raft out of plywood and steel, using 30 plastic fertilizer barrels for flotation.

"We decided this was something we wanted to do while we were still young: the Huck Finn adventure - an American dream kind of thing," Oligmueller told the Gazette via cell phone from his raft (an amenity Huck and Jim could never have dreamt of).

Oligmueller's father and another college friend initially joined the boys for the 930-mile voyage from Iowa to Louisiana, but bailed out early after encountering Iowa floods.

For a month, Oligmueller and Brandsma made their way down the Mississippi in emulation of Twain's heroes, smoking corn cob pipes and watching the sun set from the roof of their cabins. They stopped every few days for gas and supplies, also managing a brief layover in Clemens' hometown of Hannibal, Missouri. As for food, the adventurers have relied on the help of kind strangers along the way, who were happy to take the boys in just to hear their amazing story. One man even drove them to a hospital to treat Brandsma's swollen foot.

To read more about the journey, check out www.bearnakedrafting.com--a website Oligsmueller actually created while aboard the raft, using a laptop computer plugged into a solar generator! Upon checking the site myself, I discovered that the boys had made it to Louisiana, and are on their way back to Colorado. Once they get there, they plan to write a book about the whole thing.

I applaud these two fine gentlemen for their dedication, ingenuity and sense of adventure. It's one thing to fall in love with Twain and his work--but it's quite another to go out there and live it.

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