June 24, 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 reached North Shore Drive after crossing three intersections. There was traffic in Duluth – nothing like as much as in Minneapolis where they’d come from; but a sight more than the little towns they’d been passing through for the past ten days.

“You think left is north?” Freddie asked.

Tommy nodded. “Lake Superior is right here in front of us and we ain’t in Wisconsin, so left’s gotta be north.”

Freddie nodded as they turned the corner and plodded along. It was late morning and the sun still slanted across the rippling waters of Lake Superior. Freddis suddenly said, “I read about the lake.”

“Huh?” Tommy said, not turning back until a young woman dressed to the nines passed them by. Then he stopped and turned slowly, watching her pass in her knee-length, dark blue skirt, white gloved hands and round felt hat on her head. Freddie almost ran into him. Tommy shook his head like he was waking up from a dream and snapped, “Watch where you’re going!”

Freddie tossed a glance over his shoulder, smirked and said, “I ain’t the one stopped walkin’.”

Tommy turned around and started walking again, muttering, “Shut up.”

They kept on walking and it wasn’t long before the buildings got shorter and then gave way to blocks of row houses, not very different from the ones they lived in. Tommy said, “What about the lake?”


“You said you know something about Lake Superior. What about it?”

“It’s cold.”


“No, I mean really cold. Like it never gets hotter than like 40.”

“No way!” Tommy exclaimed.

“Yeah,” Freddie said, strutting. “It’s the third biggest lake in the whole world and the Indians called it Gitchee Gumee.”

“How do you know that?”

“Well, this guy wrote about it in like…a poem.”

“You read poems?” Tommy shouted.

“Hey! You don’t have to scream it!”

“You read poems?”

“Shut up. I do. But it’s about Indians! That’s how I knew what they called Lake Superior.”

As Tommy started to laugh, a car drove by in the street. His laugh caught in his throat and his eyes went wide. Freddie had been looking right at him and spun around.

His own breath caught in his throat as a sports coupe driven by a man both boys recognized rumbled past. They dove for cover in a doorway as a pretty woman turned to look in their direction.

With his mouth right by Freddie’s ear, Tommy breathed, “The mobsters!”

Image: http://www.duluthnewstribune.com/media/story/jpg/2010/02/11/nemhcs2422b282duluthcurlingclub.jpg

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