Chapter 4. The Boys' Ambition. When I was a boy, there was but one permanent ambition among my comrades in our village footnote (1. Hannibal, Missouri) on the west bank of the Mississippi River. That was, to be a steamboatman. We had transient ambitions of other sorts, but they were only transient. When a circus came and went, it left us all burning to become clowns; the first negro minstrel.