July 12, 2013

SHORT LONG JOURNEY NORTH #51: July 21, 1946

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.

 Edwina Olds, Lieutenant, WACS (ret.) drove.

Tommy Hastings and Freddie Merrill, hearts pounding slower and slower, sat next to her as endless pines rode by. The weak yellow headlights barely made enough light to see the road twenty feet ahead.

Tommy said suddenly, “What if a cow or something steps out?”

Ed laughed loud, startling Freddie, who’d managed to fall asleep leaning against the door even with the bumps. Ed said, “More likely to see a moose or a black bear on the road this far north.”

“What would you do?”

“Run it over.”

“What?” Tommy exclaimed. Freddie jerked in his sleep but didn’t wake up.

Ed snorted a very unlady-like snort and said, “I learned a long time ago – mostly from hearing tales, mind you – that a tractor trailer fully loaded with logs isn’t gonna be slowed down by a measly old moose or bear. If’n I try to turn to avoid the animal, I lose control of the tractor and next thing you know, I have logs rammed into my back and I’m a little footnote in the Highway Patrol’s statistics book. If’n I slam on the brakes – same thing. So I’m officially supposed to run down anything that gets in my way.”

Tommy felt sick for a few minutes. He told himself it was because he was hungry. He managed, “How many animals have you had to…um…run down?”

She laughed again, “I run down a squirrel once.”

“That’s all?”

“Yep. So you can relax, son.”

Oddly, Tommy did relax. He was dozing a moment later and had fallen fast asleep a moment after that.

He woke up when the truck slowed down. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothin’s wrong. We’re at the Canadian border. Gotta stop at Customs.”

“What’s that?”

We’re going into Canada. It’s a different country.”

 Freddie sat up next to Tommy and said, “Canada’s not a different country. We fought with them in the Pacific!”

Ed snorted again as she downshifted the tractor. “Nevertheless, they’re a foreign country and we have to stop and tell them what we’re bringing into their country.” She downshifted again a few more times before they pulled up alongside a white house with a wide, uncovered porch. A man dressed in black pants and a black shirt came out of the house and walked up to Ed’s side of the tractor.

Tommy heard a voice say, “You Edwina Olds?”

She said, “I am. What’s the problem, officer?”

“Would you step down out of your truck, Ma’am?”

Ed hesitated then pulled the door handle as she said, “I been through here a hundred times in the last ten months, Sir. They know me…”

“Things are changing, Ma’am. Now would you step down out of your truck?”

“Very well,” she said and as she leaned back, she said, “Down on the floor boys. As far over by the passenger’s door as you can.” The boys scrambled as she said out loud to the Canadian border guard, “Man! I’m stiff. Been driving since yesterday and hardly got out once.”

As Tommy scrambled to push himself to the far side of the truck’s cab, he glanced through the windshield. Stepping out on to the porch was the shadow of the Anoka Witch…
 

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