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 clips, click on the label to the right, scroll down to and click OLDER ENTRIES seven or eight times. The FIRST entry is on the bottom of the last page.
“Where you goin’ then?” Freddie Merrill asked.
“Home,” said Arnie Volz, truck driver and boyfriend of Edwina Olds, Lieutenant, WACS (ret.) – who was, until moments ago, Freddie’s fantasy woman.
“Where’s that?" asked Tommy Hastings.
“Minneapolis – around Loring Park,” he glanced at them. “You ever hear of it?”
The boys looked at each other, mouths hanging open. “Uh,” said Tommy.
“Uh,” said Freddie, who recovered quick enough to say, “Can’t say as we have.”
“Too bad. I was born and raised there.”
“Tell us about it,” said Tommy, picking up Freddie’s stupid act.
Arnie, who was a nice guy, make no mistake, started to talk and after that didn’t pay any real attention to the boys, regaling them instead with tales of his exploits in the Roaring Twenties when he grew up there as a child of the Prohibition. He didn’t need them, commenting on his own stories and laughing at them, too.
Tommy leaned over to Freddie and said, “Where’d you learn to lie so good?”
“Comes from me havin’ to say whatever it was Dad wanted to hear just so he’d stop beatin’ on me.”
Tommy nodded then said, “Why’d you do it, though. Maybe we could o’ rode with him all the way back home.”
“If that was where he was going.”
Freddie dug his elbow into Tommy’s ribs, “He’s a G-man, nitwit! You really think he’s goin’ to Minneapolis? If we ask to go with him, he’ll probably have to kill us before he gets there!”
“He’s not the mob!” Tommy hissed. Both boys glanced at Arnie, who was gesturing and talking still as if they were listening. “He doesn’t even seem smart enough to tie his own shoes.”
Freddie elbowed him again and Tommy shoved him against the door, “Stop it!”
Arnie didn’t notice as he was saying, “Oh, that reminds me of another story! You’re gonna love this one...” and kept talking as the boys shoved each other back and forth.
Finally, Tommy said, “Fine. We won’t talk about it anymore. We’re just gonna sit here until we get to Duluth. Then what?”
“Don’t look at me, I’m not the brains of this outfit.” He nodded to Arnie. “And neither is he.”
“Fine then. We go home the opposite way we got here. We go to the creamery, hitch a ride…”
"We don’t have to stay with the crazy farmer and shoot rats again, do we?”
“No. We won’t even talk to Charlie even if we see him.”
“Why would we do that? Charlie was cool,” Freddie said.
“OK, we’ll talk to Charlie, ask him for a ride back to wherever he lived...” Tommy said, shaking his head.
“Nah, that was the name of their dairy.” Freddie gave him a long look and opened his mouth. Tommy was pretty sure it was to agree, but Tommy said instead, “You’re probably right.”
Freddie closed his mouth, eyes going slightly wide. Finally he said, “What did you say?”
Tommy shrugged. “I didn’t see no sign for the town. Ever since we left the city, you been seeing stuff better than me.” He poked his friend’s bicep adding, “You probably saw what you saw and I didn’t. Maybe you’re even stronger than me.”
Tommy shrugged and said, “Or not. You can decide.”
Just then, Arnie leaned forward and stopped talking. “You boys know anyone in a big flatbed truck with a fence around the back – I think Ed called them Chevy One-and-a-half tons...” The truck was slowing down.
Freddie and Tommy screamed, “Don’t stop! Don’t stop!”
In surprise, Arnie hit the break and the Finns poured out of the truck that had pulled over to the side of the road.