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.
They drove for what seemed like forever.
Freddie Merrill said, his words a bit slurred from lack of sleep, “Why ain’t ‘ey followin’ us?”
“We’re in a foreign country,” Edwina Olds, Lieutenant, WACS (ret.) said from her position, holding the huge steering wheel of the logging truck riding empty to Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada. She yawned and both of the boys riding on the bench seat of the truck would have been terrified if their eyes had been open. She wasn’t supposed to be tired. She was supposed to be a rock.
She might have fallen asleep if Tommy Hastings hadn’t said, “We ain’t in ‘nother country. ‘s jus’ Canada.” He laughed uproariously, waking both Ed and Freddie with a start.
Ed cleared her throat, shook her head hard and said, “Thanks for waking me up by saying something so stupid I couldn’t possibly have remained asleep.”
“What?” Tommy said, his head jerking up.
Ed shook her head and said, “Son, I fought in the war and I fought with Australians, New Zealanders, men from the Republic of China, Brits, Philippinos, Netherlanders, Mexicans, the French, Latinos, and Canada. All of us are part of the United Nations now. Nations. Like Canada. Like us. It’s a completely different country up here. Nothing like the US of A. They never did declare war on Germany – for moral purposes.”
“What’d they ever do, then?”
“What?” Freddie said.
“They ran the radios! The Canadians were the best danged radio operators in the whole Pacific theater!” said Ed.
“So they didn’t actually fight?” Tommy said.
Ed snorted, “I wouldn’t call what you did back at the American-Canadian Border exactly fighting...” she began.
Tommy exclaimed, “Hey! We’re just kids!”
“No disrespect, son, but you boys did what you could do. The Canadians did what they could do with a much, much smaller population. 'Course some of them fought! But being radiomen don’t make ‘em cowards no way, no how. Just like you tricking that silly youngster back there into thinking this here truck was empty don’t make neither of you cowards.”
Tommy sat back the same time Freddie did. Tommy nudged Freddie, who elbowed him back and from then on, despite how tired they were, the boys alternated between horseplay and listening to Edwina Olds, Lieutenant, WACS (ret.) as she told the wild, crazy stories she’d lived and heard while she fought the war in the Pacific from New Guinea.
Freddie asked, “Is New Guinea where they get guinea pigs from?”
She laughed, “No, guinea pigs are from South America.”
The conversation was interrupted as the truck ground its way around a curve. Barely making its way into the summer sky, the sun lit a city still full of lights.
Freddie said, “Where are we?”
Ed said, “Welcome boys, to Thunder Bay, Ontario – in the foreign country of Canada. And good-bye boys, it’s been quite an adventure.”