January 7, 2016


Band Shell in park at Milaca Minnesota, 1940This 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.

Edwina Olds, Lieutenant, WACS (ret.), “Ed” by choice, reached across Tommy Hastings and patted Freddie Merrill’s knee, “If it weren’t for Arnie, I’d take you up on your offer, son.” She sighed, “But you know how truck drivers and cops are.”

“I don’t know!” Freddie exclaimed.

“Rock solid, son. Rock solid through and through.”

Freddie sighed, closed his eyes and pretended to sleep. As they drove on into the night, his fake sleep turned real; and Tommy wasn’t far behind. Ed smiled at the boys fondly and whispered, “But I sure hope I have some boys like you two someday.”


It was still dark when they woke up, but as Tommy looked around blearily, he said, “Where are we?”

The truck was slowing, Ed down-shifting as they approached an intersection. “Milaca.”

Freddie groaned, stretched his arms, elbowing Tommy’s ear. “Ouch! Watch where you’re poking that thing! Like you got a bayonet for a elbow!”

“Sorry,” he muttered, not meaning anything by it.

Tommy elbowed him back. Freddie twisted sideways, his hands going for Tommy’s neck.

“Stop,” Ed said suddenly, her voice soft – but cracking like a whip of a lion tamer. Both boys froze in mid-motion.

“What’s wrong?” Tommy whispered.

Ed turned to them, and by the green light from the dashboard, she looked like the Bride of Frankenstein. Both boys shrank away from her. The tractor trailer drifted into the tiny town. Four lights lit the main street, backlighting for just a second, a round shadow. Freddie began, “What’s that…”

Ed’s hand lashed out. Cupped over his mouth, her fingers exerted such pressure that they squeezed his jaw closed and pressed him against the back of the trailer window. The glass groaned.

So did Freddie.

She released him and his slid down the seat and into the well. Tommy did the same as she geared the truck up slowly, passing the island of light in an otherwise inky darkness. The drove for what seemed like an hour before she said, “You can get up now.”

His voice weird, Freddie managed to say, “I can’t. My jaw’s broken. In six places.”

“It’s not broken,” said Ed. “If it was, you wouldn’t be able to talk at all and you’d be screaming in pain.” She paused, “I know. I’ve broken the jaws of several men. And arms. A couple of legs and at least one neck.” She paused again, then added, “Besides, you can still move – even if I had accidently broken it. Which I didn’t.”


“The Socialists were there. Waiting for you.”

“You could have protected us!” said Tommy.
Ed snorted. “I’m strong boys, but not that strong. Certainly not strong enough to take on fifteen armed men by myself.”

“You got us!” Freddie exclaimed.

Ed barked, cleared her throat then said, “I do, and we could probably take them all on.” She jerked her chin to one side, “But we now have a bigger problem.”

Both boys said together, “What?”

“We’re running out of gas,” she gestured through the windshield, “And there’s not a gas station within miles.” She paused, “And the tank is almost empty.”

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