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.
Tommy Hastings jerked his chin uphill toward the creamery and said, “Let’s go before they catch up to us.” Freddie Merrill and Tommy started up the hill just as a truck came roaring down the street. It was dark. The city was near silent except from a banging shriek of metal on metal drifting up from dumping and resetting from the ore docks on the Lake. The boys scrambled into the shadows and knelt down on the concrete sideway in the dark.
The truck slowed down…
Tommy breathed, “Don’t breathe.”
Freddie leaned close as they watched the angry Finns pause under a harshly burning street lamp. There were muttered words, a few of them pointed uphill and they got into a brief argument. There was shoving and after most of the men sided against two, they pounded on the roof. The truck roared away, continuing on into town. “Is that it?” Freddie whispered, blowing in Tommy’s ear.
Tommy fell forward, exclaiming, “What are doing! That tickles like crazy!”
Freddie straightened up, spun around, and started walking uphill. “Let’s go before they come back.”
Tommy chased after him, “What’s wrong, Fred.
“Nothin’. Let’s get up there before they come back.”
“I didn’t mean anything by that!”
They climbed in silence the rest of the way up the hill turning into a wide gravel lot. Two huge metal towers with the words LAND-O-LAKES stood to one side. The lot was abandoned. Freddie walked away from Tommy and sat down on the block of concrete holding up the tower, his back turned. Tommy stopped, staring at the other boy’s back. A cold wind blew across the lake, freezing cold even in the middle of summer. He walked over and sat down at the opposite corner. Sandburs had grown between the concrete and the parking lot, poking him in the ankle. But he didn’t want to move; he didn’t dare move. They sat together, looking down on the few lights in the city. The wind blew. From behind them, something flapped against a wall or roof.Finally Freddie said, “You didn’t want me here all along.”
Tommy wanted to punch his best friend. Instead he said, “You’re my best friend. Why wouldn’t I…”
“It’s always been about your mom.”
Tommy thought about it, then said, “I guess. I seen the picture my whole life. Ma never talked about it and Dad just got mad if I asked. Dad said it was from Duluth. I took it out of the frame one time while they were gone. It had some writing on the back, but I couldn’t tell anything that it said except ‘Duluth’.”“I get it. You never wanted me to come with.”
“I couldn’t have done it alone, though.”
He slid across the concrete, finally pulling the burr from his ankle. “I could’a gone without you.”
There was a long silence until Freddie said, “You’d be dead by now, that’s for sure.”Tommy moved slower. They sat not-quite-touching until Tommy said, “Don’t ever breathe on my neck like that again.”
“I was scared. Sorry.”
“Don’t worry about it.”
They heard a grinding gear, but before they could run, a truck pulled into the parking lot, flooding them with its headlights.