Walking to Missouri | Page 47 | Newberry

Walking to Missouri

So I want to pass along a word or two in honor of LENT. That’s Limited Edition Narratives of Travel. You thought I was going to make some reference to this season of religious holidays, but I will not even mention them.

I’ve given that up for Lent.

Anyhoo, I get all kinds of personal travel narratives. Last week, I found a book on Australia which the owner took along to Australia, and filled every blank page with a description of the voyage. I kind of liked that, but I liked even better a travel book in which the previous owner had just made a sort of list in a stream-of-consciousness style, with where they were going, what they were taking, what they wanted to see, and what they wanted to do. I cannot QUITE make out the last line, because part of it is crossed out, but if it says what I think it does, I am sorry they didn’t keep a journal so I could find out whether they accomplished that, and how. And with whom.

But the kind of Limited Edition Narrative of Travel that has some actual commercial value is the kind written by people who made a significant trip (significant to them, at least) and wanted to let other people know about it. So they wrote it up, and had it printed and bound for presentation to their friends or employees. I have had a leatherbound book of a car trip out west in the 1920s which was illustrated by pasting in photographs taken along the way, and I have had a tale of a fishing trip to South America which was mimeographed and put in a plastic ring binder.

These trips generally involve some exotic locale (I’ve had three or four by different people who made the trip to China when that was considered a dangerous venture) and an exotic activity (fire-walking makes a good story; shopping generally does not, unless you’re buying platypus puppies or uncut emeralds or something.) Quite a lot of these were contemporary with Emily Kimbrough’s bestselling travel books, in which the adventures were both fun and funny. A lot of writers of LENT proved conclusively that they were not Emily Kimbrough. (I’m still not sure of the intent of the section in the fishing trip book where the author explains “how to put waders on a girl”. Am I supposed to laugh or wink and nudge?)

The strangest one I’ve had come in lately was mimeographed in 1949, and saddle-stapled. This was actually the second edition, which is unfortunately the edition without the map. What’s interesting is that he did not write it as a souvenir for friends, but as a resume for prospective employers. He wanted the personnel directors to know he’d been around, and done things.

This resume runs to 40 pages, and under his work experience, he includes four pages about his trip to Guadalcanal as a sniper, and then eight pages on his travels through Burma with Merrill’s Marauders. I would say he satisfies the requirements for Exotic Location AND Exotic Activity. I wonder if he got the job. 

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