July 30, 2015


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.  ?zZ

Tommy Hastings said, “Geez, I don’t know how I’d have made it to Canada and back without a friend.”

Freddie Merrill nodded. “I’d’a died of fright by now like a hundred times if I’d had to go there alone.”

They both nodded and went back out to the room. Nilson’s mom walked out and said, “Where’s Nils?” They all turned to the door when they heard a harsh scream...

Tommy was out first, followed by Nils’ mother. Freddie stopped at the door as the other two charged into the darkness. He turned back to the kitchen, rummaged in the drawers until he found the biggest knife he could find. He strode out after them. When he reached the beach where the boat was, there was a group of men with flashlights, shining them on Tommy and Nils’ mother.

Nils was on the ground, curled around his middle, moaning. At least he wasn’t dead. Freddie stepped into the light, holding the knife up and shouted, “Get back or I stab the next person who tried to hurt us!”

Tommy spun around, face in the sudden dark, the flashlights behind him. “What are you doing!”

“Saving us from these guys! I’m tired of them chasing us! I’m tired of being afraid!” He looked into the lights and screamed, “Stop it!”

There was a dark rumble, then a shot rang out. Tommy and Freddie screamed and dropped to the ground. Nils’ mother raised her arm in the air, a gun in one hand and said, “Get off my property or I start shooting bodies.”

A voice accented with what the boys had come to recognize as a Finnish accent said, “You wouldn’t dare, woman!”

Another shot rang out and Nils’ mother said, “You punched my son. I have no husband to take care of me, so I take care of myself. Now you can rush me, but I have Smith and Wesson .38 that I learned to use and I can plug the bottom out of any tin can I throw into the air – three times – before it hits the ground. I also fought off a charging black bear sow.”

“You wouldn’t…” a woman’s voice said.

This time Nils’ mom put a bullet into the ground, then added, “Now get off my property. The second you are, I’m calling the police and because I used to date the chief, he’ll bring all of his deputies will be here in about five minutes. So I’m suggesting you leave for your Socialist hidey hole in Duluth now before they get here.” There was movement and she added again, “I also know you’re staying at the Five Pine resort, so get out of the cabins. And make sure you forfeit your fees.”

“You can’t…” a third voice shouted. This time, a bullet hit the trunk of a tree in the darkness. There was a scramble as the Socialists fled. She turned to Freddie, who was still holding the knife up like he was going to carve down the Socialists, and said, “That was incredibly brave, young man. Wish Nils had more friends like you.” Now that the flashlights were fleeing into the woods, the streetlight lamp outside over the dirt parking lot of the resort showed her face. “You and your friend are welcome to stay here any time you’d like.” With a nod, she added, “We’ll get you out of here and on the road in the morning. Now I’ve got a phone call to make. Would you see to Nils, then?”

Tommy was still staring at Freddie as he nodded. Freddie was kneeling beside Nils who was struggling to breathe. He was up on his hands and knees and Freddie patted his back then lifted the other boy’s arm, put it over his shoulders and stood. The two of them walked slowly past Tommy. He watched as they went into the cabin then followed after them.
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