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 speculation about 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 had to stay through the funeral, standing at the back of the church while Lt. Edwina Olds, Women’s Army Corp, retired stood up front with the six other people from her family.
Both boys knew that everyone saw them when they came in, but Ed had told them they couldn’t sit in the balcony. Mostly because the little church didn’t HAVE a balcony. Tommy had whispered to Freddie, “My church at home has a balcony. It’s way bigger than this little thing.”
Freddie elbowed him. They stood or sat or pretended to sing for the entire twenty minute service. When it was over, Tommy said, “Let’s go wait for her out at the truck.”
They headed for a little door toward the front of the church, trying to get past all the other people who were heading to the back. The pastor caught them as he walked past. He said sternly, “Not so fast boys. Where do you think you’re going. There’s the after service.”
Tommy looked at him and said, “I’m a Lutheran. I didn’t know nothing about an after service.”
Freddie nodded and said, “Me, too.”
The pastor grunted, scowled at them, then broke into a smile. “Sorry for teasing you boys. The after servicer here is that we eat. There’s tables full of food downstairs. Feel free to help yourselves.” He raised both eyebrows and headed downstairs. He paused before he disappeared and said, “You did, after all help Edwina get the body here.”
Tommy looked at Freddie, whose eyes grew bigger than the bottoms of cupcakes. The boys followed the pastor down the stairs.
An hour later, they were sated with hot dish, apple pie, mashed potatoes and gravy, baked chicken, Jello®, Tater Tot® hot dish, plus pickles, bread and cold tuna rings all washed down with an entire bottle of Coke for each boy. Ed had grabbed each boy by the upper arm, steering them out of the circle of elder women to many disappointed cluckings.
Outside, she laughed as loudly and harshly as any man and said, “You certainly charmed your ways into their hearts!”
“All we did was eat!” Freddie said, rubbing his stomach.
She threw her head back again, laughing at them. “Exactly!” She sobered quickly though as they made their way to the truck. “I still have to get these logs up to Thunder Bay by dawn tomorrow.” She glanced up at the sky. “Nearly noon by now, so we’re going to have to go right away.”
She jumped up into the truck, starting it right away. A huge cloud of blue and black diesel smoke blew up from the stack as she cranked the engine. The pastor came out to see her off. The boys hopped up into the cab with a bit of help from the man this time. Ed waved and called, “Later, Mattie!” She ground the gears and they were slowly off again.
Freddie, sitting next to Ed this time, leaned to Tommy and said, “I could never call our pastor by his first name.”
Ed must have heard him and threw her head back, laughing again, and said, “Why shouldn’t I? He’s my brother!”
“Your brother?” both boys said together.
“Sure, he’s got his job. I got mine. I grew up here. Why I like to work here!” She concentrated on her driving as they slowly built up speed until they were moving somewhere around forty-five miles an hour.
Tommy nudged Freddie and whispered for him to check the speedometer. Freddie leaned farther and farther over until Ed suddenly snapped, “You’re not falling asleep, are you, sonny?”
“No! No!” he paused. “Tommy wanted to know why we’re going so slow.”
Tommy elbowed him and they would have gotten into an argument except that Ed cursed abruptly.
“What?” Freddie cried.
“Some idiot in a little sports car is trying to pass us!” she exclaimed, cursed again. “He’s gonna try it now! Hang on in case I get the urge to run him off the road and into the forest!”
She didn’t, but once the little car had passed them, a gorgeous woman was standing in the seat, looking back at them. Tommy grabbed Freddie’s shirt and yanked him to the floor the second he recognized her. Freddie cussed then shouted, “What’s wrong with you, idiot!”
Tommy grabbed the back of his head and pulled his friend closer, “It’s Bonnie and Clyde! They followed us from Duluth!”