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.
[Establish that Charlie’s dad’s place is right about HERE – or not too far.]
Edwina Olds, Lieutenant, WACS (ret.), “Ed” by choice, 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.”
Tommy Hastings let his head roll back. Freddie Merrill leaned to the window and said, “There’s got to be a gas station somewhere! If we run out of gas, we’ll never get home! Then the Communists will get us…”
Tommy and Ed said at the same moment, “Socialists.”
"I don’t care! They’re going to get us!”
“They’re not going to get us. We’ll do something.”
What? What are you going to do? You just said they could beat you up! Kill us! What are we going to do to get rid of them?” Freddie stood up in the cab, banging his head and subsided into cursing her, and Tommy, and Communists, and Socialists, and his father. Tommy knew that if he didn’t stop him, Freddie was gonna start crying – and then he’d stop talking altogether and sulk until they got back home.
Tommy punched Freddie.
In the side of the face because he couldn’t reach around to punch him in the nose.
Freddie’s head bounced off the window and he turned to take a punch at Tommy.
“Stop it!” Ed bellowed. It hurt Tommy’s ears it was so loud.
After a few seconds, Freddie said, “You really were a drill sergeant!”
“I wasn’t a drill sergeant, but I had to break up more than my fair share of unruly seamen fighting. If I didn’t someone else would have, and I was old enough to be some of their mothers, so most of the boys didn’t argue with me. They just broke it up and slunk off before I could assign them duty.”
“You’re not old!” Freddie protested.
“Thirty-four if I’m a day, son.”
“Wow...” Freddie sighed, deflated.
“Sorry to disappoint you, boy, but you’re sittin’ in a truck with a grandma driver. A wrinkled old woman...”
As the truck rumbled into the night, Tommy suddenly said, “Look!” a moment later, he shouted, “Stop, Ed! Stop!”
The truck slowed as Ed applied the brakes. She turned to Tommy, the scowl dark on her face in the green dashboard light, and said, “What in heaven’s name…”
“Back there! FAIRLAINE’S CREAMERY!” Freddie spun around, searching the darkness.
“What’s that?” Ed said, turning her gaze to the back window of the truck.
“We hitched a ride with them on our way up! They have a farm off down the road…”
“I doubt they’d have enough gas...”
“They transport milk! They have one big truck! We rode from here to Duluth in it!”
There was a long silence, then Ed settled down and with a huge grinding of gears, back the truck up slowly until the creamery sign with an arrow pointing right, shone bright in the headlights. She turned to Tommy, “You positive about this?”
“Well then, let’s see if we can fill-er-up!”