May 26, 2011


This series is a little bit biographical and a little bit imaginary about my dad and a road trip he took in the summer of 1946, when he turned fifteen. He and a friend hitchhiked from Loring Park to Duluth, into Canada and back again. He was gone from home for a month. I was astonished and fascinated by the tale. So I added some things I've always wondered about and this series is the result. To read earlier SHORT LONG JOURNEY NORTH, click on the label to the right. The FIRST entry is on the bottom.

Tommy Hastings and Freddie Merrill stared after Charlie and Mr. Fairlaine as they disappeared into the LAND-O-LAKES shed.

Freddie said, “Now what do we do?”

Tommy sighed, looked at the shed and then back out to the street. “I guess we go back down to Lake Superior.”

“What then?”

“We find the place Ma worked. Maybe somebody’ll remember her. Maybe some of my cousins are around or something.”

Freddie looked at him and said, “That’s your plan?”

Tommy shrugged, not looking at Freddie, and said, “I guess. Unless you got a better one.”

“I wasn’t the one that started us on this crazy trip.”

“You coulda stayed back in Minneapolis. I didn’t tell you to come.”

“I couldn’t of stayed!”

“Yeah, you could. I didn’t make you do nothing.”

Both boys fell silent. Then Tommy said, “I’m going down to the lake. If you want, come with. If you don’t want to, don’t. See if I care.” Tommy started walking then when he reached the sidewalk, turned downhill, heading down into Duluth.

Freddie shouted after him, “If you leave me here, I’m just gonna go back home!”

Tommy turned and shouted, “Fine then! I didn’t want you here anyway!”

“Fine then! I didn’t want to be here!”

“Yeah? You wanted to be back home with your drunken old man!”

Freddie roared and raced across the gravel lot. Tommy lit out downhill, running with all his might. Freddie was smaller and faster, though Tommy’d whooped him more than a few times when it came to a fistfight.

But Freddie was fast.

He was also mad.

The boys ran, neither one taunting now. Pretty soon, neither one was paying any attention to their fight…they were trying to slow down the headlong dive they’d taken into the city. At first, Tommy tried to simply stop but almost ran into a lamppost, barely swerving out of the way.

Freddie leaped over a cat that ran in front of him and he cried, “Bad luck!”

By the time they finally stopped, both boys stood in an alley, their backs to the wall of a hardware store, panting, shaking and gulping air. Finally, Tommy managed, “Come with me?”

Freddie nodded, “Yup.”

Several more minutes passed before they stood straight and peeked around the corner. Freddie said, “Any farther and we’d a ended up jumpin’ in the lake.”

“Probably bounce off a ore boat.”

“And get chopped up by the propeller.”

“Yup,” Tommy said then stepped out of the alley. “Mr. Fairlaine said we should go up to North Shore Drive, right?”

“Yup,” said Freddie. “But where’s that?”

“Figure it’s gotta be north,” Tommy said. Freddie nodded. “So that means we go left.”

“What street do we turn on?”

“I reckon it’ll be the one closest to Superior.”

Freddie nodded and stepped out beside Tommy, waiting. Finally Tommy nodded and set off down the sidewalk – both of the boys walking much slower than before.


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