Lover's Leap
by Charles H. Keller
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Long, long ago a young Illini brave and a Fox maiden yearned to meet. They were drawn to each other by an irresistible attraction. Although separated by the mighty Mississippi River and kept apart by an over protective father who was the Chief of the Fox tribe on the Missouri side of the river, love would not be denied.

The strong, determined brave fought the fierce currents in his fragile canoe. Driven by his desire to make the Fox Chief's daughter his wife, he made his way across the mighty river and pulled his canoe on to the Missouri shore just south of Hannibal. Struggling through the heavy brush, he then encountered a shear cliff. Using every ounce of strength and endurance he possessed, the young man climbed the face of the mountain. Clinging to outcroppings getting footholds which were risky at best, he moved relentlessly upward toward his true love who waited at the top of the cliff.

Finally, he reached the summit and she rushed to meet him. They embraced as the gentle breeze caressed her face. Looking deeply into each other's eyes, they both knew their love was genuine and that they must be together forever.

Just as the young maiden turned her face upward to kiss the man who had struggled so to reach her, her father stepped from the brush behind them. Seeing them there angered him so that he pulled an arrow from his quiver and drew back the string of his bow determined to slay this intruder who was attempting to steal his only daughter.

Seeing her father in the position to attack, the maiden screamed and pulled her lover to her just as the arrow whizzed by, missing them by inches.

They looked into each other's eyes as the Chief pulled another arrow. With only minutes to make a decision, the two walked to the edge of the cliff and, with one last embrace and kiss... they jumped.

So the legend goes.

There are many endings to the story. One comical, with them jumping onto a freight train heading north, opening a trading post in Iowa and living happily ever after. Another philosophical, with their spirits transforming them into eagles and gliding to safety to spend eternity together. No matter what the truth is, standing atop "Lover's Leap" just south of Hannibal, Missouri today is a breathtaking experience. Let your imagination run wild if you visit Hannibal. Just a few minute drive from downtown, the steep drive up to "Lover's Leap" is a must-see.

Incredible views of the river and the tiny river city below will leave even the most cynical person wondering if there is any truth to the legend.

When I was there doing research for the travel piece on Hannibal for this month's issue, I saw an eagle soaring above and wondered if it was the offspring of the two lovers from the tale. But true or not, the story has survived for over a century. New, happy endings are invented occasionally to replace the original tragic one. But the lesson of the story is really that love conquers all. And isn't that what dreams are made of?

If you visit Hannibal, take the ride up to "Lover's Leap." If you let your imagination work, you may hear the wind whisper a new, even happier ending.