November 12, 2015

JOURNEY TO THE PORTRAIT’S SECRET #79: July 30, 1946 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 trudged in silence under the blazing summer sun until Tommy finally said, “The last week of school, I told Earl I had heat stroke to see if I could stay home sick.”

Freddie barked a laugh just as a cool breeze dribbled from the north, along the road and slid up their backs. Both boys sighed and trudged a few more feet until they stopped.

The breeze carried the deep-throated rumble of the diesel engine of a big rig.

Tommy said, “It can’t be the Socialists. They just passed us by.”

Freddie said, “Maybe they took a back road over and they’re checking the road again.” Tommy shot him a startled look, then frowned. Freddie shrugged and said, “They ain’t stupid.”

“I don’t think they want to look for us that bad if all they have to do…”

“Here it comes!” cried Freddie. Edging toward the ditch, he said, “Do we duck or stick out a thumb?”

Tommy held his breath, looked at the sun then said, “Stick out your thumb!” as he did exactly that.

Freddie did the same. At first the truck continued to barrel toward them. Then all of a sudden the gears ground and the squeal of the air brakes blanketed the countryside, probably scaring every wild animal into hiding for a twenty mile radius. When the truck finally came to a rest, a woman’s face poked through the window. “Well bust my britches, if it ain’t the hikin’ boys from Canada!”

Tommy and Freddie shouted in unison, “Ed!”

Edwina Olds, Lieutenant, WACS (ret.) shouted, “Pile on in, boys! I’m headed for Minneapolis.”

They ran around the front of the semi. Ed yanked on the air horn, startling the boys into hysterical laughter that kept on as they climbed into the cab. Ed grinned, punched each boy in the shoulder and said, “So you finally decided to head on back home?” She busied herself with getting the logging truck back up to traveling speed.

Tommy and Freddie looked at each other, then Tommy turned to her and blurted, “The Socialists are on their way to kill my mom and steal a portrait!”

Ed didn’t react at all, upshifting once more and then goosing the engine until they were rumbling along fairly smoothly. She glanced at them then said, “Remember what I said when I dropped you off in Thunder Bay?” They looked at each other. Ed grunted, then said, “‘It’s been a fine trip and the two of you’se have made an otherwise boring drive one of uncommon adventure.’”

“I remember that,” said Tommy.

“Yeah, well, it seems that we’ve got a little more ‘uncommon adventure’ still ahead of us.”

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