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The unsinkables

In the manner of modern-day Huck Finns, 13 boys (ranging in age from 11 to 14) traveled down the Mississippi by raft this summer—from Minneapolis to New Orleans. Sponsored by The Volunteers of America, the youngsters assembled a 33-by-16-foot platform, floated it on 40 oil drums, added a canvas shelter and dubbed the craft The Unsinkable. Before the boys and their counselors cast off, two outboard motors were hooked onto the raft's stern, and—although Huck doubtless would have sneered—all hands donned life jackets.

Along the way, the youngsters stopped at Hannibal, Mo. (Mark Twain's boyhood home) and visited such historic river towns as Memphis, Vicksburg and Natchez. They met no desperadoes, but they did share an adventure: one 13-year-old successfully underwent an emergency appendectomy. After a month and some 1,700 miles of water, the boys arrived in New Orleans. Piped up Eddie Caton, 13, a youngster Huck would have cottoned to: "I'd do it again in a minute."