November 13, 2014


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 and Freddie Merrill heard grinding gears, but before they could run, a truck pulled into the parking lot, flooding them with its headlights. Every rock on the ground stood out like it was a boulder in the glare and as it poured across the parking lot. Disappearing over the top of the hill, the dark abyss behind them looked like they would fall into a bottomless canyon if one of them tripped. The legs of the water towers stood out in stark relief, painting black stripes from where they stood to the stygian depths at the edge of the lot.

The truck ground to a halt.

“Tell me when it’s over,” Freddie said, grabbing Tommy’s arm in a vise grip.

“Ain’t nobody gonna kill us, stupid,” Tommy growled and shoved Freddie away.

“The Communists will kill us!”
“It’s not the Commies want us, it’s the Socialists! My mom and dad were Socialists!” The words were out of his mouth before he realized what he’d said. He’d have punched Freddie for making him say if the truck hadn’t stopped and the door opened.

“What are you two idiots doing up here?”

“Charlie?” Freddie and Tommy said together.

“Who else?”

Tommy stared at the bright headlights then said, “Is your dad with you?”

The older boy laughed and said, “Nah. He threw his back out and the milk had to get up here and he couldn’t hire anyone else to do it for him on account of how stingy he is, so it had to be me or make the milk into sour cream.” He paused, “Why, you planning on turning down my offer of a ride back home if he was sitting here with me?”

Both boys stammered and looked around until Tommy finally said, “Your dad hates my uncle. He’d let the Socialists kill us rather than help us.”

Charlie said, “Hang on  and let me park the truck, then we gotta talk.”

The FAIRLAINE CREAMRY truck pulled farther into the lot then took a wide turn until it was position right near the towers. Charlie turned it off then opened the door with a rusty creak. He dropped to the ground then strolled across the gravel lot. He stopped in front of the boys. Freddie said, “You’re bigger than I remember you.”

Charlie laughed and said, “That’s what a month of running the creamery all alone can do for you.”

“You’re alone?” Tommy said, “I thought you said your dad just threw his back out.”

“Yeah, about a  month ago. In fact,” he paused, “Right after you boys left was when it happened.” He paused again then added, “You didn’t like curse him, did you?”
“We’re not warlocks!” Freddie exclaimed.

“Or Socialists or Communists or nothing else! We’re just a couple boys headed home.”

“Oh, so adventuring got the better of you, huh?”

Tommy shrugged, “Well, we went to Canada...”

“You got up to Canada?”

“Yep,” Freddie said, “We got up to Thunder Bay and almost got caught by the Socialists in Duluth and then they followed us with the lady truck driver…”

“A lady truck driver?” Charlie exclaimed.

“Yeah,” Tommy said, “She could beat the crap out of all three of us!”

Charlie snorted, “I’d like to see that!”

“She was a WAC in the Pacific during the war.”

“She was just a nurse…”

“Nah,” said Freddie, “A mechanic.”
“A girl working on trucks…” Charlie started. From down the hill came the roar of a truck climbing the hill. Over the grinding of gears, they heard voices. Charlie said, “That doesn’t sound like it’s in English.”
Tommy said softly, “It’s not English. It’s Finnish. The Socialists found us…”

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