August 23, 2012


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.

Freddie Merrill tried to crawl under the seat, shouting, “They’re gonna kill us!”

Tommy Hastings tried to pull him out, shouting, “They can’t see us!”

Edwina Olds, Lieutenant, WACS (ret.) hit the brakes of the logging truck, setting them so hard that the entire rig bounced along the road running north from Two Harbors to Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada like it was driving on rubber marbles! Neither boy had heard the words she used come out of any girl or woman in their neighborhood since they were born. Once the truck stopped moving, she turned a fierce, angry glare on them and shouted, “What in God’s gracious name are the two of you doin’?”

The boys cowered in the corner. Freddie said, “Ma…ma…ma…ma…”

Tommy said, “The mobsters! They want to kill us!”

Her anger drained, giving way to a look of total confusion. “What?”

Freddie found his tongue and Tommy started in, giving her the tale of their journey from Loring Park to just-north-of-Two Harbors.

Edwina’s head swung back and forth between them like she was watching a tiny ping-pong match. When they’d both run down and were both so red they looked like they’d been sunburned, she said, “Well I’ll be a son-of-a-gun!” She stared at them a moment long, the burst out laughing. Dragging them back on to the seat, she started the logging truck with some difficulty.

Tommy managed to get the door open and, blushing like he’d be caught with his drawers down in the middle of the Aquatennial Parade, tried to jump out. Edwina grabbed his belt and hauled him back in. He was still holding onto the door handle, so the door dragged shut, too. “Oh, come on back, Thomas! I ain’t laughing at you!”

“Then who you laughing at?” he shouted back.

“I’m laughing at both you boys, now calm down and let’s get back on the road and I’ll help you figure out what to do with the mobsters.”

Both boys stared at her, blinking. “You mean you believe us?” Freddie asked, his thirteen-year-old voice picking that moment crack into soprano. But even that couldn’t distract him.

“Course I believe you. You’re coming from Duluth. The place is lousy with union busters,  socialists, commies, Nazis, Japs and draft dodgers. Why not mobsters, too?”

“The two people in the car are mobsters, Ed!” Tommy cried. “We saw them at the socialist meeting at the Mansion on Lake Superior!”

Ed scowled and said, “What were you doing at a socialist meeting? Kinda young to be into politics,” he scowl deepened and her lips thinned. She added a moment later, “Then again, the Hitler Youth was all kids, too.”

Eddie’s eyes widened in horror as he cried, “It wasn’t me! Tommy’s mom and dad met at that big mansion on the lake and he wanted to see if anyone knew them. The next thing we knew, we were with a bunch of crazy people who were talking funny!”

Tommy shoved Freddie and said, “My mom and dad weren’t socialists!”

“I didn’t say they were!” Freddie shoved back.

Ed bellowed, “Both of youse shut up or I’ll throw you out on the road right now and you can fight that brown bear for the moose coming out of the forest!”

Both boys turned to see a moose meander from one side of the road and a small black bear wander out of the other side. With a scream, they grabbed hold of each other.

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